Dear Dr. Frankie,
I fell totally in love with a married but confused woman who rocked my world and tipped my boat. We are both in our 50s and we met about a year ago. During our time together I learned some things about her marriage and the way her husband treated her that were really hard to hear. Her parents raised her to value material objects and financial security. She put everything she had into her marriage. Last year she told me that her marriage was over and she had already told her husband. I was really surprised to hear this. In August she told me she was filing for divorce. I learned the day after she filed for divorce she fell and broke her back. Shortly after her fall she severed ties with me. I have never been hurt like this before. The really disappointing thing is how much we opened up to each other.
I’m sorry that you are experiencing so much suffering. It sounds as if one source of your pain is your confusion why a woman who shares such a deep emotional connection with you, would choose to stay in her unhappy marriage. As difficult as it is to believe, your girlfriend’s vanishing act is probably not an indicator that she no longer loves you.
Breaking one’s back is a debilitating, crippling, life changing experience. An accident such as this one will cause anyone to run to immediate safety, comfort and familiarity. Despite her love and feelings for you, many might say it would not be wise for her to move forward with the divorce given her immediate need to focus on her health. Your girlfriend needed to put her health first. It sounds like she needs all the support from her family that she can get, secondary to breaking her back.
A divorce is one of the most devastating and traumatic life experiences anyone can go through. That, coupled with a broken back, is an overwhelmingly scary scenario. Your girlfriend probably made the decision to focus on her physical recovery and the comfort of family life, given her physical, emotional and probably financial dependence on her husband. If it helps, remind yourself that your girlfriend cared for you deeply and it sounds like you shared an emotional connection that was lacking in her marriage. Unfortunately for both of you, uncontrollable circumstances developed; divorce and pursuing a deeper relationship with you was probably too overwhelming.
Your girlfriend’s decision to stay in her marriage for comfort is a common one. Many people aren’t happy in their marriages but they continue to remain in them because of fear and the terrifying unknown—even without the additional burden of a serious health condition. You never know what the future may hold, but for now you will need to find a way to move on with your life. Though it is a cliché, it is most often true: time will eventually dull your pain.
Your decision to write a letter to your girlfriend’s husband wasn’t necessarily a terrible one. However, it may have had the opposite effect of what you were hoping for, and served only to push your girlfriend farther away from you. But have compassion for yourself and remember that people do erratic and uncharacteristic things when emotions are involved.