Jane found an apartment within two weeks for her and her son, but said she does not want to hear from me ever again, despite the fact that we both really love each other. I do not want to lose Jane and miss her terribly, but I believe I had no other choice. I do not see why Jane and I cannot continue to see each other; have dinners together; go to restaurants, clubs, plays, and movies; and take a couple of vacations together. I seriously believe that circumstances with my daughter and her fiancé will likely change, and that Jane and I could live together again then, whenever that is.
Unfortunately, because she was so angered by the choice I had to make, she continues to tell me that she never wants to see me again. I have told her of many older couples who, for various reasons—children, finances, personal habits—choose to live not together, but near enough to still have a vibrant relationship. Jane wants none of this “living apart together,” which has been the subject of many articles. I really don’t know what to do about this. I feel so alone and sad without her. Am I being unreasonable to expect Jane to see the benefits of our relationship despite not being able to live together with me for the next year or two?
Los Angeles, Calif.
You seem flummoxed by Jane’s reaction, and that might be because this is less about whether you’re being reasonable and more about the difficulty you’re having with perspective-taking—the practice of trying to understand someone else’s point of view.
In order to understand why Jane is feeling so angry (and beneath that, hurt, shocked, and betrayed), you’ll need to try to see your unilateral decision that she move out from her perspective. It’s only from a place of compassionate understanding that you’ll be able to communicate in a way that could potentially open her up to hearing from you. And if that door has indeed closed for good, the ability to cultivate compassionate understanding will be useful in any relationship that follows.
So let’s try some perspective-taking. So far, there hasn’t been a lot of effort on your part to understand why Jane is so angry. Instead you’ve been trying to argue with her anger, essentially telling her it’s not valid. After all, you say, there are many articles about couples who happily live apart—as if this has any relevance to a woman who, three years ago, told you that she would end the relationship if you didn’t live together. Think of it this way: Many articles feature couples who are happily polyamorous, but that doesn’t mean Jane—or you—wants to be polyamorous too.
One exercise to help you see things from Jane’s perspective is to imagine how she would tell this story if she were writing to me. It might go something like this:
About six years ago, I fell in love with a wonderful man, and I couldn’t believe how compatible we were. We immediately became a couple, and enjoyed doing so many things together. We wanted to be together forever, and this felt like an exciting new chapter in our lives.