My partner of 12 years died by suicide three days after apologizing to me for having lied about his relationship with his male friend. There had been some signs that something was going on, including making remarks about the film Brokeback Mountain and a moment where he got his friend to lick mayonnaise off his fingers in a seductive way.
When I asked him if there was there was anything going on with his friend he answered me with a sarcastic remark, but he never really answered me and refused to discuss the issue any further.
Shortly before my partner killed himself he sat me down and told me he had not been honest with me about his “friend,” but refused to clarify what he was talking about. For a week or so before he died he kept making remarks about how his adult sons and I would be ashamed of him and how we would be humiliated, but he wouldn’t say about what.
Now my partner has died, this “friend” hangs around all the time, and my partner’s sons from a previous relationship have grown close to him, they’ve even given him a place to stay and secured him a job. This man cannot meet my eye, nor do I want him to. I have recently learned from mutual friends that he has been telling people I treated my partner badly and that I am mentally unstable, among other things.
I feel like I can’t say anything against this man, as my partner’s sons defend him and protect him. I just want to confront him and make him reveal the truth, but I don’t want to change the children’s opinion of their father. He also makes sure he’s never alone when I am around.
Should I confront him or let it go? I am dealing with both grief from my partner’s suicide, but also his possible infidelity, so I don’t know what to do.
I’m very lost, confused and hurting.
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There Is Nothing To Do
Dr. MaryCatherine McDonald, Ph.D., is a trauma researcher, author and certified life coach.
Oh, Patty. What an enormous, stunning loss. I’m so sorry. And now you are left with questions about how he lived, in addition to all this crushing grief. Here’s the very short answer to your question: you don’t know what to do because there is nothing to do. The idea that there is something we should be doing is a trick played on us by the part of ourselves that does not want to submit to grief. That part of us is well-meaning, but it is wrong. What we do with grief is grieve.
Your mind is tricking you into believing that if you get the truth, this will somehow hurt less. When people die, they take our unanswered questions with them. We chase down answers to these questions and sometimes we get a sliver of truth, but often we find another unanswered question.
Grief is painful, but it is also very wise. Your grief is telling you that you cannot keep this “friend” in your life. Not because of what may or may not have happened, but because if he cannot look you in the eye, he cannot help you with your grief. The only people who get to be in your life right now are the ones who can.
Your partner was carrying some things that got too heavy to hold. He was operating under the tragic belief that the only way out was all the way out. One of the things that he was carrying might have been a secret about his sexuality. Another might have been infidelity. But here’s the thing: what he was carrying does not matter anymore. It is not yours to carry now. It is not yours to resolve. Your job—and one you certainly did not sign up for—is to grieve.
Find a Way To Safely Ask His Friend If He Can Confirm Your Suspicions
Frank Thewes, LCSW is a New Jersey-based therapist specializing in trauma and relationships.
I’m very sorry to hear about your loss. I hope you have the support and resources you need to deal with the grief, pain and confusion. My question to you would be why are you focusing on your deceased partner’s sexuality and his potential affair partner when your partner just died by suicide, leaving you to pick up the pieces and make sense of all this.
Are you focusing on your feelings about your partner’s death and finding support on that journey? It’s possible your partner was bisexual or gay, certainly. Would confirming that help you create context and avenues for dealing with the grief and trauma from his suicide? If that is the case, then find a way to safely ask his friend if he can confirm your suspicions. I don’t see you getting a lot of your needs met confronting him beyond that. It seems you and he both lost someone important when your partner died. You may have more in common here than you think.
If there is a safe and healthy way for you to get information from your partner’s friend, then you can make a good-faith attempt. If there isn’t, focus on meeting your own intense emotions of grief, pain, and confusion and trying to heal from the unimaginable circumstances you are experiencing. If you start there, you may find less of a need down the road to confront anyone.
The information provided here is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for advice concerning your specific situation. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.