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Why did my girlfriend leave me when her ex overdosed?

From the U.S.:  I have been dating this girl for about 6 months. She’s been going through a divorce. He was abusive and a drug addict and that’s why she left. They were only married for less than a year before she decided she wanted a divorce.

He overdosed on drugs about a week ago. And since then she has been very distant and told me that she just wants to be friends. She said  but it’s messing with her head that she feels like she might have still been in love with.

She still wears the ring I gave her and she still wears the necklace I gave her. We were making plans  to get a place. I’m trying my best  to be her friend  but it’s very difficult to go backwards and not be able to kiss or hug someone that you love so. What’s the best way to get my  girlfriend back? Is this a normal reaction?

Your girlfriend has been through a shock. Even though she left her ex, she did love him once enough to marry him.  It is normal for her to need some space to come to closure about her marriage and to grieve the man. It would not be unusual for her to be going through thoughts about what she could have or should have done to help her ex. It’s unlikely that anything she might have done would have changed what happened. But people often do go through a period of self-reflection and sometimes even self-blame when there’s been a tragedy. Usually it just takes time for someone to get their bearings and to move on.

I think you should take it as a positive comment on your relationship with her that she is wearing jewelry you gave her. It may be the best way she can reassure you that her love for you haven’t changed; that she just needs to take a step back to sort out her very complicated feelings.

You’ve only known each other for 6 months. Your girlfriend hadn’t finished her divorce when this happened. She’s going to need time to heal from both the marriage and the death. What she needs from you now is loving support and no pressure. If she can’t seem to pull herself out of her grief after a few months, she might find it helpful to see a grief counselor You could even offer to go with her in order to learn how best to support her.

You have a lifetime ahead to be with her. Slow down. Put her needs ahead of yours for a while.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

from Ask the Therapist

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