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Dear Mary: My partner told me her darkest secret, then cut all ties with me


"I feel bad that I committed to helping her and am totally at a loss as to what I should do"

"I feel bad that I committed to helping her and am totally at a loss as to what I should do"

"I feel bad that I committed to helping her and am totally at a loss as to what I should do"

The woman I was seeing for over 10 months stopped all contact and distanced herself from me after sharing a troubling family experience in her youth. We are both in our mid-40s and clicked from the very first connection, with as much normality as we could in dating through Covid-19 inter-county lockdown.

Both of us are separated, with young children; in the limited time together, we found and nurtured a very trusted connection like nothing either experienced before. When she told me of her childhood incident/experience, and asked for my help, I suggested that we pause our relationship and allow her to focus on this without any distractions. I tried to be respectful and supportive without influencing, because of my commitment to help her.

She said she had told no one else of this incident and I suggested she see a counsellor for professional and objective support, which she stopped after a few visits.

Since then, she started a full-on relationship with another person, and subsequently discovered he was two-timing her. When I last spoke with her about a month ago, she was starting to date someone else, which is three relationships in six months.

I felt that she needed space and no distractions to deal with the incident she shared with me and told her this. She said she never shared the details of this incident with anyone else, including her family, whom she is close to, and I just cannot figure out why she told me. I am tempted to reach out to some of her family (who I kind of know) to try to get the assistance she sought when she shared with me. But as she has never told them, I fear that this may make things worse for her.

I feel bad that I committed to helping her and am totally at a loss as to what I should do. I know it’s a deep scar for her, and now her cutting contact is preventing me from helping her.

I still care for her and am very upset that she burdened me with something for my help with, and is now doing everything possible to avoid dealing with this. It perplexes me that she will not tell me why she only told me at the time, and is now ignoring me for her friends, whom she did not trust and know nothing about this.

Am I wrong to be upset?

Any help or perspectives for me and possibly her (as I know she reads this paper) would be appreciated.

Mary replies: We have to go back to when — let’s call her Eileen — shared her troubling childhood experience with you. I don’t understand why you felt that pausing the relationship to allow her to focus on this was a good idea.

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If it were me, I would much rather that the very first person whom I trusted enough to share my secret with would be there for me 100pc while I worked through the memories.

But you, in effect, told her to get it sorted out and then you could resume the relationship, which was saying to her that you weren’t willing to be really involved. You were, however, right to suggest she seek professional help and it is a pity that she only attended for a few sessions. It may be that she found the memories too painful or she didn’t feel that she got on with that particular counsellor. Hopefully, in time, she will seek further counselling.

I get the sense that you would do anything to help Eileen and you still have very strong feelings for her. I suggest you contact her with a view to resuming the relationship.

Tell her that, on reflection, it wasn’t the best idea to set her free to deal with her traumatic experience alone, and that you would love to be back dating again. If she agrees to this, then don’t push her — when she is ready to broach the subject again, she will.

These things have to be dealt with very slowly, whereas you were rushing her to get it all sorted so that you could get on with your relationship. But life isn’t like that; you will have to be patient and understanding of her and when the time is right, and she trusts you again, she will take another step forward.

In the meantime, do not under any circumstances confide in one of her family members.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot St, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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