Are you thinking about an ex? Or wondering about someone new?
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I'm a divorced woman in my 60s who is dating a divorced man, also in his 60s. I believe my situation is very unique. My husband and I separated after more than a decade of marriage and divorced after another decade of living separately, when I finally realized he was not coming back. I never stopped loving him, and he also claimed he loved me but couldn't live with me. (We both hail from families of origin with dysfunctional marriages, and I suspect our mutual lack of healthy role models contributed to our significant problems.)
I also believed I could not make it on my own, so I became involved with someone else soon after the divorce was finalized. Three years later, my former husband passed away after a short illness, and I was completely devastated by his death. Almost 10 years have passed since then, and I still am heavily grieving. I'm still in the "new" relationship, but it has now become purely platonic, against the new partner's wishes. I don't really know why he has stayed with me, but I suppose I'm lucky that he has.
I have received extensive counseling about this, but I have not been able to resolve it. I don't know why I have become stuck and don't know how to move forward with my life, either with or without this person. He is completely devoted to me, and I don't want to be alone for the rest of my life. Do you have any advice for me?
– Confused on Cape
I was warned by a psychologist friend, after a loss, that it's possible to get "stuck" in grief. There was a study in 2008 that looked at grief, and how focusing on a late loved one can trigger pleasure points in the brain.
I think about this a lot. I know that feeling sad about a loss can become ritual behavior.
That's why I'm wondering about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Have you ever tried it?
Let me preface this by reminding you that I'm not a mental health professional. I do read a lot, and I am someone who can get stuck in an anxious thought for a really long time, over and over. CBT can be helpful for that kind of behavior. I have nothing against talk therapy (in fact, I love it), but I do believe that for a person who can't stop thinking about a thing, it makes even more space for ruminating. Please ask your doctor (or insurance people) about specialists. Read up on CBT and its strategies. From what I know, it gives you very specific tools to get your brain into a new routine.
As for your romantic relationship, I do think the two of you can try counseling – mainly to talk about separating, even temporarily. Your partner seems to be part of your grief. You've attached him to the story of your ex – the relationship you jumped into because you weren't making the best decisions. You don't want to be alone, but he seems to be a daily reminder of what you can't have. Give him the chance to find love. Maybe you'll discover it too.
Readers? Advice about how you've moved past grief? Should this "new" romantic relationship continue?