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Carolyn Hax: Beau’s inaction due to dad’s suicide

Washington Post

Hello Carolyn: Is there a limit to how long one must indulge their partner’s grieving period? 

My boyfriend’s father committed suicide several years ago. He is a great guy, but he has used the suicide as an excuse or justification for a lot of his own problems. Most recently, he agreed to an errand his grandmother asked of him without regard for our plans that day, and when I asked him about his reasoning, he said he wouldn’t have to help her so much if his father were still around. 

Help! I feel like a callous and coldhearted person when I think about bringing this up with him, but all of the aforementioned situations were actually due to his inaction, his speaking without thinking and his trouble with saying “no” respectively, not his father. I know that he is still very sad about his father, and I am willing to support him through that, but I feel like he is using the tragedy as a get-out-of-jail-free card to avoid having to deal with his own problems.

I really like him, but I need him to be able to recognize that his own actions are what’s causing him trouble, and not try to pawn them off with a plea for sympathy. Or am I just made of ice? – Anonymous

His inaction, his speaking without thinking and his trouble with saying no could all actually be due to his unresolved grief (or depression) from his father’s death. So, while your concern might be valid, what you see as a cause might actually be an effect.

Fortunately, it’s easier to bring compassion to an inquiry from the you’re-acting-injured angle than the you’re-injuring-others position. Compare the two: “I still hear a lot of grief in your words and decisions – understandably, but I also think it’s hurting you,” versus “I think you’re using your father’s suicide as a get-out-of-jail-free card.” I’d certainly prefer to hear the former.

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