Back and Forth

8 Sep

Letterbalm Man and Woman on TrapezeDear LetterBalm: Almost three years ago, after the woman I love was separating from her abusive husband, I left my wife to be with her. Since then, I’ve been there for her through some very rough times, including an order of protection against her husband, a contentious divorce and court appearances. During this time, I encouraged her to get into counseling, and I helped her see that she could be a strong and confident person. All along, she’s told me she loved me and wanted us to be together always. But recently, she’s sullen and argumentative. She picks fights, and we don’t see each other for days. She apologizes, but she’s crying a lot. Now she says she’s not sure we should continue to live together. She’s the woman I love beyond all measure. How can I convince her we’re right for each other?

–In Mid-Air

Ms. L.B. regrets to inform you that your situation has all the earmarks of one of the more regrettable dynamics in coupledom: The Transitional Lover. You seem to have assumed the role of the person who steps in after a bad breakup to help his or her partner see the light, gain confidence, take action, grow stronger, even become a better lover and parent. These are all good, even heroic, things to do for someone. But they are usually thankless tasks, because in most cases the individual leaves the transitional lover behind. It’s tragic when one member of the relationship loves more than the other, as seems to be true with you. It’s clear that your lover needs time and space – neither of you has had an opportunity to be on your own. You need to open an honest talk with your beloved. It will be painful for you – counseling will be helpful. You must know where you stand. She owes you the truth. You must determine how both of you view the future, mindful that you may have to be noble and step out of the picture:

Darling, I sense a deep change in our relationship. You seem to be pulling away from me. You’re angry and arguing with me more than you ever have before. You’re saying we should not live together. It’s as though you’re flailing around to avoid the truth – that, as much as I love you as I’ve loved no one else, we may have to part. The time has come for us to talk honestly about where we stand now and in the future. Please level with me because we owe each other the truth.

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