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Lost purpose: What do I do now?
Jun 26, 1998

Dear Michael,

Thank you for your efforts on this site. My situation is as follows: AIDS diagnosis over 3 years ago with PCP and 19 t-cells. Over the course of that time, I married a great woman, was very sick and got better and then basically destroyed the relationship. She no longer could live with my poor attitude towards the relationship and we ended in divorce. I knew that our relationship was going in that direction but did nothing to stop the behavior that was causing our problems. I was "numb" to any feelings during the split and have now found myself finally "feeling" what I have lost and the guilt and sorrow associated with losing this part of my life. I am seeing a psychologist who specializes in AIDS and cancer patients for several months, and have been on Prozac for about a month now.

I don't know what I was thinking to let this happen. How could I have been so stupid?. She loved me unconditionally, took care of me and I just let it slip away. We still talk and I tell her how sorry I am and that I want to be the person she wants, but she doesn't believe that I will ever change and be the loving partner she deserves. I find myself feeling like there is nothing out there for me now and that I don't know where to turn. I've told my therapist all this, but he says that I must start to move on. I try but I can't seem to do it. I miss her and my old life so much.

What can I do? Will it ever get better? What do you suggest? Please be candid. Thanks.

G

Response from Mr. Shernoff

Throwing away a marriage through being negative and insensitive to a spouse is a major thing. You really violated and eventually destroyed the trust this woman had in you. She must be feeling terribly hurt, betrayed, angry and self-doubting about the choice she made in allowing herself to get involved with you. If you have not already done so, you must really ask her about her feelings and listen to her responses without becoming defensive. You must also apologize for having been so self centered and out of touch with the impact that your behaviors and attitudes were having on her.

Since the two of you are in touch you will have the opportunity to say these things to her. There is no way that simply because you NOW see the error of your ways that she should trust or believe you. Again, I think you must acknowledge this to her. The only place to begin is by trying to elicit from her the depths of her hurt and betrayal. From you description I am wondering if your behavior was rooted in a life long pattern of self destructive behavior or just in the fact that you had AIDS? Which ever it was, or more likely, the combination has to be examined in your own therapy.

If you really want to make a new beginning with this woman I'd ask her whether she felt is was possible for the two of you to explore just beginning to be friends again. If she is amenable then by seeing each other socially, visiting and talking you can spend time trying to find if there is any hope that her trust in you can be rebuilt. Since you did not treat her even as a valuable friend, this might be a place to start. I certainly would suggest that if she is agreeable to this that you do not start courting her or behaving in seductive ways. Keep sex and romance out of it for a long time. If she is willing to try and be your friend now that is a solid place to start reconnecting with her in a manner that can see if a mutually acceptable and emotionally safe relationship, even if it is as a friendship, can develop. If this does happen, from here, SLOWLY, and after a long time, you can broach the possibility of it becoming more than friendship with her. But you need to accept the fact that she may not want to be either your friend or your wife again after the way she has been treated by you.

Good luck. You have a difficult and painful process ahead of you. Yet it may also take the two of you in directions of intimacy, closeness and genuineness that have the potential to be a more solid foundation than you ever had before.

Michael Shernoff, MSW



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