My SO and I had a big fight right before he lost someone in his family.
How can I support him? First, figure out if you can forgive him, says our elder.
How do I support my SO, who has faced a detrimental loss in his family, while still very hurt from our last argument? A little over two weeks ago, my SO was drunk, and was so belligerent, he was saying things he’s never said in the one-and-a-half years we’ve been together, towards me. He was obviously upset with his job earlier that day, and he took all of that frustration out on me. after the fact, he seemingly resisted talking it out, of course I know him well enough to know he’s not one to avoid conflict that involves finding resolution, but he was clearly embarrassed and he’s known of his family member’s declining health at the same time this took place, so he put defense mechanisms up that are never there, and when his loved one passed, he went just about silent/not wanting much to do with me. I sincerely understand that everybody grieves differently, and some need love from afar while they patch things together.
My dilemma is, it’s absolutely wrecking me that we have yet to clear the bad blood, that has my stomach and heart in knots, because I need to know what is going on between us, but being unable to ask/being the bad guy for bringing it up when he’s so obviously fragile from the death he’s facing. I’m at a complete loss – what do I do from here on out? I want to communicate with him, but it seems like he has been avoiding me, not only because he’s distraught, but because he is concerned I’m going to take the first opportunity to bring up our quarrel.
You have written into the Elder Wisdom Circle, Kay, because you would like an opinion, so I’ll give you mine. Before I do, however, you need to understand that I don’t know any of the players in your situation. The only information I have to go on is the letter you wrote. So, having said that, this is what I think.
When you call him your significant other (let’s call him Bob for convenience’s sake), I’m not entirely certain what you mean. It could mean you have been in an exclusive, committed, romantic relationship for a while, but living apart, or it could mean you are living together. To me, that particular status of your relationship is significant, but since I don’t know what it is, I will just give you my opinion in a generic way.
You actually do ask a direct question in your letter – How do you support Bob in his time of need? I suspect you are really interested in finding a way to discuss the argument you had with Bob in a way that can lead to resolution. I’m not sure you can ever do that. I think the significant question you need to ask yourself is, how important is this to you?
No one, and I do mean no one, likes to be accused of something they did not do. No one likes to be verbally abused. From reading your letter it seems like this happened to you. You wrote that the incident was about two weeks ago, and I certainly understand how you haven’t gotten over it yet, it’s still fresh. That makes perfect sense to me. But if you never get the vindication you seek from this incident, is it worth losing the relationship over it? I’ve been married for 45 years. From time to time, when we argue, things get said that absolutely shouldn’t get said… by each of us. It’s all part of being human. Does it hurt? You bet it does. But we have enough trust in each other to know that things happen when emotions get out of hand, and that happens to all of us from time to time.
What we are talking about here are feelings. Feelings have no reason or logic, they are feelings. One feels what they feel and that’s that. But humans do best when they are in balance between their head and their heart. Try for that balance. So, we try for that balance and overlook whatever it is possible for us to overlook, and we do this for the greater good of our relationship.
Bob, being human, crossed the line. Now it’s up to you to determine whether or not you can forgive him. I cannot make that choice for you, only you can. But I will say this (or rather Mahatma Gandhi said this): “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Consider it.
Lastly, to answer the question you actually did ask, I think you are correct, people do grieve in their own way. Bob is doing that. If you really want to support him, you need to figure out what he needs. If you’ve been together like you wrote, you should be able to figure that out. You wrote, “I want to communicate with him, but it seems like he has been avoiding me, not only because he’s distraught, but because he is concerned I’m going to take the first opportunity to bring up our quarrel.” I would guess that he feels this way because you actually did bring it up more often than he is comfortable with. I suggest if this is true, you are only generating more distance between you two. I suggest you figure out whether or not you can forgive Bob, with or without an apology from him, and if you think you can, don’t bring it up again. If you cannot, then I think you should reconsider your entire relationship.
I hope what I’ve written helps you, Kay, even if it’s only a little bit. I hope things work out for you. Feel free to write us back if you ever need advice in the future. Good luck.