Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Proceed carefully, generally, about reasons for breakup
London: My former future mother-in-law (the engagement didn't work out) has been keeping in contact with me through e-mail. She's a nice lady, and I wanted to maintain a friendship with her. She has been asking why we broke off the engagement.
The truth is that her son cheated on me multiple times with the same woman — who claims to have been pregnant by him at one point — and lied about it until I had undeniable proof. It is clear he has told his mother a different story and made it seem like I was too rigid or something.
It's fine if his mom doesn't know all the details, but it doesn't seem fair that she should think I'm the bad guy or that my ex expects me to support his lie. Since she's asking me directly, can I tell her what really happened?
Carolyn: Think of it this way: She has presumably gotten an answer to the same question from her son. Her asking you now means she, on some level, doesn't buy his answer. And she's reaching out to you, so whatever her son said about you either wasn't bad or wasn't credible.
I would suggest you take that approach. Tell her it feels strange to tell the son's business to the mom, then ask her — did he not give her an explanation? See how she responds.
I actually don't think you should spell it out for her — it's between you and your ex, after all, and it really isn't even her place to be asking — but also don't take it so far that you start sounding coy. I just think it's fair to ask her to lay her cards on the table before you decide what to do with yours.
If you're satisfied that she has a legitimate interest in knowing the truth, then consider saying just, "He hurt me very badly, and I hope he's honest with you about that."
As you grieve relationship's end, try to make new memories
Va.: I recently broke up with my live-in boyfriend of three years. I have been through break-ups before, but this has really hit me hard. I still live in the same condo (I own it), and I find it harder and harder to stay there. I cannot sell it in this market, so I am really struggling to get it together.
Carolyn: I'm sorry. If it helps, people have been finding ways to live with their ghosts since well before there was such a thing as a real estate market.
Since one of your problems is grief, and another is the physical setting, combine the two to find, if not a complete solution, then at least some relief. Work through your grief by updating your apartment — paint, rearrange furniture, reroute foot traffic. Make the familiar unfamiliar. Start hosting a new set of memories.
Making big changes on a small budget forces creative thinking, and that forces your brain to work on something other than reliving your past three years. If you have some good old friends or even some encouraging new ones, find friendly ways to include them.
Time is going to do the most work to help you through this grief, but a project can make that time go faster and in a happier direction.