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Old November 21st, 2011, 13:21
toulouse toulouse is offline
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Default A tentative request for advice

I'm in a bit of a quandary and don't know if I'm right to feel the way I do.

I've been with my partner 20 years; she split up with her former partner when their daughter was one because he had mental health issues. Her daughter was aged 5 when we got together and saw her real dad every second weekend until she was 14, when he tragically committed suicide. My stepdaughter left home around 5 years ago and seems very happy and well-adjusted, though it's hard to tell what effect her father's death had on her.

My wife's former partner made a lot of his own furniture (that I didn't find attractive). My wife had some tables, chairs and shelves that he'd made when I got together with her. When he passed away, a lot more of his furniture came into our house - items that took the place of things that I would have quite liked to buy with my wife. We have just moved into a very small house and I feel the presence of his furniture very strongly around me and it reminds me of his suicide (we found his body and arranged the funeral at which I spoke) and obviously of my wife's former partner, a man who did not particularly like me, and whom I did not particularly like in return.

I feel quite resentful and marginalised by the fact that so much of his stuff is in my life (apart from his daughter who I really cherish). My wife is upset at my feeling this way - she wants to keep the stuff to remember him, but if feels unhealthy to me that she would want to keep the stuff when she split up with him nearly 25 years ago, and he passed away nearly ten years ago. She is talking of putting it in storage if I don't want it in the house - I have told her not to rush into anything as I've just realised I feel like this, and it was not easy to express to her. It is highly unlikely that my stepdaughter will want the furniture, so it will remain in storage until our deaths, I imagine.

I feel my wife needs to explore the reason why she wants to hang on to these items, and let go (I don't simply want them removed from my life for my own satisfaction; I want us both to understand what issues there are around this. It feels like she's trying to hang on to a 'happy family' past that didn't exist - and being unable to recreate that with me, she's still hanging to material symbols of that imagined past, which makes me feel second-best). To me, it feels like she's stuck in an emotional place in the past: or am I just trying to justify my feelings of resentment?

Am I being unreasonable? Am I being selfish and lacking in compassion? Is my wife's grief (or whatever the feelings are) unhealthy?

If anybody has any thoughts to offer, I would be most grateful.

Last edited by toulouse : November 21st, 2011 at 13:37.
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Old November 27th, 2011, 21:56
Marjatta Marjatta is offline
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Hi toulouse,

My thoughts are that sometimes dilemmas like this occur between couples when they have deeper issues that haven't been resolved. The furniture, in this case, seems to really be symbolic to each of you, but in different ways perhaps.

Your wife might feel guilty for leaving her former partner because his condition wasn't his fault, but at the same time, she knew she couldn't live with him. And there's possibly the added sense of guilt that he committed suicide and that she could have somehow prevented it. If that's not the case, you'll only know why she wants to keep the furniture if she honestly tells you. But she may not even know why herself.

Are you secure in her love for you? If it weren't for the furniture, would everything be A-OK? My gut feeling (even though the furniture is not to your taste) is that a secure relationship wouldn't be so deeply affected by one partner's wish to hang onto memories of a lost love or honor the memory of that person by safeguarding their possessions. You would not feel threatened by it or that you were living in someone else's shadow if you had no doubt that you came first in her life to begin with.

My suggestion would be to forget about the furniture (and what it represents) for now, and shift your focus to the rest of the relationship - what's working and what's not working. Fall in love with each other all over again. Go on dates, weekend getaways ... rediscover the fun and joy you found in each other. You may both feel more comfortable with a mutual compromise on the furniture down the road if you feel like a solid "team."

I think we all have a emotional present and an emotional past and that the two can co-exist peacefully without one threatening the other. Making the emotional present as joyous, fun, and loving as possible can only make your bond stronger. Worrying about whether your spouse is stuck emotionally in the past can keep you focused there more than it does her and maybe even prevent you from fully enjoying the wonderful gift of each other that you now have.

Marjatta
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