How to get over insecurity about boyfriend's divorce?
October 28, 2012 9:03 AM   Subscribe

What can I do to stop insecurity from boyfriend's from seeing into our relationship? The divorce isn't final, and it's placing a strain on our relationship. I'm afraid that my anger/confusion/fear may sabotage the relationship.

I have been friends with my boyfriend for awhile now. When we first met, he was going through a separation but he and his ex got back together. They stayed together for a few months and eventually decided to divorce. There are no kids in the marriage. His ex now lives in another state a 2 1/2-3 days drive away. I am supposed to have dinner at his mother's in the following week, and I have also met his sister and we (sister and I) are attempting to form some sort of relationship (not a close one, but getting on friendlier terms). We spend a majority of our free time together, go to church together, and we have been out of town as well together.

The ex isn't jumping to sign the papers. I know that these things take time, but I am becoming insecure because I feel as though my boyfriend may not be ready to cut all ties with this girl. This morning I told him we needed to slow it down because I got mad about something on social media. They are still keeping up with each other I'm assuming via that route because she posted a comment that only a girlfriend/wife would post on one of his recent pictures. And my boyfriend left it up. This is why I feel like they are not out of each others live. Last I heard, the ex has a new man and my bf is confused as to why she will not sign. It's making me mistrust my bf and when I bring these things up, it often comes off as hurtful to him or I end up stressing him out.

I do want to be with him, I appreciate his friendship and kindness, and I have never been in an relationship where I truly felt that the other person selflessly cares about me. I don't want to loose him because I am having a hard time dealing with the divorce. I know that this is not about me, and that this is something that he has to work through, but I feel like my insecurity will eventually make him want to throw in the towel if I add to the stress of the situation. At the same time, I don't want to remain silent about how I feel. What say ye?
posted by lastcall17 to Human Relations (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
They are divorcing, this means they are not married to each other any more. There is no legal, moral or social obligation for them to be out of each other's lives resulting from the divorce. Has he made a commitment to you to completely cut her out? This would not generally be a reasonable thing for you to ask him to do. It is controlling and does not really send out a good signal about your future behaviour in the relationship.

A couple of things that didn't seem clear from your description.

Did he want the divorce or has it happened against his general wishes?

I have never been in an relationship where I truly felt that the other person selflessly cares about me

Are you saying you feel like this now or that you don't?
posted by biffa at 9:18 AM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: He wanted the divorced. He is the one who filed. He says she puts things on social media to be childish, yet he doesn't delete them. He didn't say that he would cut her off completely, and I have encouraged him to speak to her about the divorce if that's what he has to do to handle this situation.

I feel like this now. I really enjoy being around him and having him in my life.
posted by lastcall17 at 9:35 AM on October 28, 2012

The timeline for love and affectionate feelings don't usually match the paperwork timeline -- that is, rarely do people fall in love on the day they get married, and it's not uncommon to still have feelings on the day of divorce. In your case, your boyfriend is still married even, although processing the paperwork and presumably his feelings.

You don't name a state, but at least in Texas you don't need a signature to get a divorce. You file for a court date and the divorce will happen even if the other party does not show up. Nothing can force you to remain in a marriage. I know this because that's how my divorce went.

It's ok to tell him that you will be available for a serious relationship once he is single again.
posted by Houstonian at 9:36 AM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Divorce isn't often a neat and tidy transition. Some people move on very quickly with well defined new boundaries, others not so much. I think for your own sanity you should try to completely ignore their facebook exchanges for a while–whatever that requires. They are going through a transition and it's a phase that, though it won't last forever, might last as much as a year. She is already his 'ex', but the divorce isn't final and it is messy emotionally for the parties involved no matter who else they have in their lives. Protect yourself by stepping away from social media for a while.
posted by marimeko at 9:38 AM on October 28, 2012

He says she puts things on social media to be childish, yet he doesn't delete them.

This might mean two things. Firstly, that he understands that she is hurting and doesn't wish to be cruel. This is not necessarily a bad thing in a partner for you. Secondly, leaving them up is passive, it implies to his ex that he isn't bothered by the posting and thus potentially discourages further posting. Taking them down requires action and potentially indicates he has been impacted by the posting, encouraging more posting.
posted by biffa at 10:10 AM on October 28, 2012 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: @Houstonian I have been thinking about telling him to contact me once everything is said and done, but that's hard because I don't want to break up. I have been contemplating telling him I need space for a few days and tell him that I need to mull somethings over. I'm sure he's probably having second thoughts about me having dinner at his mother's, and I am as well to be honest.

@marimeko I told myself that I wouldn't go on his page anymore. We haven't talked about what happened in person though, only on the phone and through text. I think it may be a good idea to start defining some boundaries now.
posted by lastcall17 at 10:16 AM on October 28, 2012

Response by poster: @biffa, I didn't look at it like that. It's not like he went back and liked the comment. That may have been his way of trying to ignore it- by actually not acknowledging it. I jumped down his throat so quickly though, because I was so hurt.
posted by lastcall17 at 10:22 AM on October 28, 2012

Mod note: OP, this is not a place for a back-and-forth discussion. Please just sit back and let people give answers rather than threadsitting.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:33 AM on October 28, 2012

My divorce took more than two years to be final. We still have financial ties, so there is still contact from time to time.

I don't currently have a fb account. When I have had things like that, no, I never used functions like outright blocking someone. To me, information about someone trying to contact me is a form of intelligence. If they still hurt, no, I would not want to delete something by them. It would acknowledge it in the worst possible way. Better to let sleeping dogs lie, especially while you still have to deal with them for a touchy thing like divorce.

During my divorce, I did not take the bait when my ex said uncharacteristically snippy things. I just let it go. I wanted the divorce. I was the initiator. He clearly was not as at peace with it as I was. I tried to respect the fact that he was hurting and couldn't entirely help it. Not commenting was the best way to let it die a natural death. Any response would have just kept the problem alive longer.

From what you have said, your bf is probably dealing with a similar dynamic. Divorce is hard, much harder than a break up. You swore to love each other until death took one of you and you entangled your lives and finances and identities. It is emotionally hard and logistically hard. Try to give him space to have maneuvering room to deal with this as diplomatically as possible.
posted by Michele in California at 11:14 AM on October 28, 2012

You seem very, very young and maybe not so experienced with this kind of situation, and I think a lot of the insecurity you are feeling is coming from that.

Divorces can take time, even when both parties have signed the papers and are ready to move on. You are in It sounds like your boyfriend's ex is not so sure she is ready to do that.

Add in to that that "getting divorced" is not just about the papers. Your husband sounds like he is still grieving for his lost marriage. That doesn't mean he wants to get back together with his wife, but rushing him to sign divorce papers is not going to magically make him stop grieving, either. You say you understand these things "take time", but do you understand the stages of grieving? Some think there are seven stages to grieving, others five, but the important thing to know about grief is that it is an entire process, and he has to go through it on his own timetable.

Also, you say your boyfriend is not "rushing to sign the papers". Do the divorce papers actually exist--have been drawn up, ready to go and he and his ex have not signed them--or has he waffled on doing that much? Because he may still not have emotionally accepted that his marriage is really over, no matter what his rational mind is telling him.

If you are going to make this work, you are going to have to be patient, and understanding, and also have some boundaries with your boyfriend that ensure your own emotional needs are being met. You can ask him about what kind of timetable he thinks is reasonable, for example, and decide if you are willing to wait that long. You can discuss what kind of communication he feels he will continue to have with his ex-wife, if any, once the divorce is final, too.

If you feel like that is more effort than you are wililng to invest in this man and this relationship, that's okay, too.
posted by misha at 2:33 PM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

These things take time, and if you are in this for the long haul, you should settle in and see how they go. If you are impatient, and act accordingly, you run the risk of injecting additional stress into a situation that is already stressful, and that typically won't go well. Best to either accept that it needs to happen on his timeline rather than yours, or tell him you look forward to dating him when his divorce is final.

Consider this: he was married to this woman, and presumably committed to the relationship. He is going from that position of commitment to one of no commitment, which is a long road, as long as going from a new relationship to a fully committed one (perhaps even longer, because a marriage is something one goes into intending to stay that way for the rest of one's life, so reversing that is challenging no matter how much you might want to.)

Also, you want a relationship right now that you cannot have: this guy, minus his baggage. Since you cannot have that, think about whether you'd rather have a similar guy with no baggage, or this guy with his baggage, because those are your only choices.

One last thought: would you really rather he were the kind of guy who could flip a switch and go from committed husband to disinterested stranger in a short time? His patience with his ex may well be a sign that he is a thoughtful person who doesn't do rash things.
posted by davejay at 11:13 PM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

The ex isn't jumping to sign the papers.

Then don't jump into bed with him -- or into his family. Give divorced people lots and lots of space. I don't say this in judgment on him for starting another relationship before he's officially divorced -- I say it from my own experience of standing in his exact same place and being sadly aware of all the damage I caused to a lot of people because I hadn't unpacked my own bags.

I have never been in an relationship where I truly felt that the other person selflessly cares about me.

He doesn't. And he shouldn't have to at this point. He's got a lot of stuff going on that's going to take him time to deal with. You should clear your head and focus your attention selflessly (?) onto yourself to take care of whatever longing is leading your heart to a man who is not fully available to appreciate it.
posted by mibo at 6:24 AM on October 29, 2012

PS. Memail me if you want.
posted by mibo at 6:25 AM on October 29, 2012

Dating people on the rebound, who are still dealing with the detritus of a previous relationship, is very difficult.

Dating people in general is difficult and throwing an on-going divorce in the mix just makes forming a relationship that much more complex.

Your boyfriend still has a foot in his old relationship. If his soon-to-be-ex is posting stuff on social media, and he's reacting to it, then it's a problem. He is not able to devote 100% of himself to growing your relationship because he's still putting 50% of himself into his divorce. This is why you're insecure. You don't have his full attention.

Part of maturing is being able to identify when someone is truly available to you. Right now, your boyfriend isn't. Also, you need to consider, if you want a long term relationship with this man, he may not be emotionally ready for that. Divorce, especially where there's been a separation and an attempt at reconsiliation, is messy emotional businss. Building a new relationship on the ashes of a failed relationship does not usually bode well for the new relationship.

Here are some questions that you need to ask yourself about your boyfriend.

1. Does he still seem emotionally tied to his Ex? Not does he love her, but does he have emotions invested in her. If he spends even 5 minutes a day embroiled in a feeling about his ex, he's not yet ready to be emotionally available to you. These emotions can be anger, hurt, annoyance, or grief.

2. Does your boyfriend really understand what went wrong in his marriage? Has he learned from it? Why did his marriage fail? What did he do or not do that contributed to it? What is he doing now to keep it from happening in his new relationship. Simply blaming the other person isn't enough. Marriages are relationships and their failures are equal. If he can't articulate his contributions to the failure of his marriage, then he will probably continue to make similar mistakes in his future relationships.

3. Is he emotionally available to you 100%? He should share his feelings with you and he should be able to listen to you about what you feel. Do you mutually support each other, or is it a one-way street?

Based upon what you've said, I don't think he's ready for a new relationship yet. It seems to me that you levereaged your status as his friend to become his girlfriend, and through emotional exhaustion, he's chosen the path of least resistance.

I think you need to back off for a while. Both of you need a break from being in a relationship to truly understand what you need from your next partner.

Let him mourn the loss of his marriage, let him do an autopsy on it, so he can learn from it.

I think you need to understand why you wanted to be in a relationship with someone who is so clearly NOT ready to be in a relationship. Why would you settle for this, when you could have so much more?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:51 AM on October 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

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