Marrs Attacks: He comes with a ghost

As if love triangles are not complicated enough, the one I’m in now involves a party that isn’t there.

My new boyfriend is smart, handsome, amazingly loving and wonderful to be with. His husband took his own life less than a year ago. When I try to imagine the pain he must be feeling, I have to stop, because that kind of pain is too overwhelming even when it is borrowed.

Eric does very well not to show his hurt to me. I don’t know if it’s because he doesn’t want to scare me away, or because he’s working desperately to get through it, or because he has successfully gotten through it and wants to move on. He has done some counseling and read a book for those in his situation, but his internal world is a mystery to me, revealed only in changing tones of voice and varying degrees of talkativeness when tender thoughts arise.

Is it too early for Eric to date? What is the grace period on something like that? When we first met, he said he wanted to wait a year from the tragedy to begin seeing someone seriously. We are violating that now, at his bequest (with no complaints from me). I figured I would let him decide how he felt and just go along with that, making sure not to put any pressure on him. This was made relatively easy by my working on a cruise ship and only getting to see him once in a while in port and on vacation. However, absence does make the heart grow fonder, so while Eric and I can’t be accused of spending too much time together, our feelings are redoubling on themselves.

The hard part for me is this: I think Eric is still in love with his husband (or ex-husband, if that is how it’s said). He mentions feeling terrible guilt over his attraction to me, and I suspect that’s why. I expect him to always love this man, who suffered too much for one person, and I want him to. I’m just not sure in which capacity.

While there is a universally understood difference between loving someone and being in love with someone, I think there is a universally nebulous point at which we can differentiate the two. I wonder if I should flat-out ask him, but I don’t want to be blunt. I try not to bring up his husband in conversation because I don’t want to upset him or kill a good mood when I know good moods aren’t the norm for him these days. Eric is capable of talking on the subject in some ways without becoming quickly sad, but I don’t want to push him. He has told me I’m welcome to ask him anything I want, yet I don’t know if my prying is healthy for either of us. Even if Eric seemed cavalier divulging, I don’t know how I would process certain delicate information about their relationship and a person I never knew.

The flip side is that I wonder if he wants to share more with me than he is but is afraid, for my sake, to bring it up.

He comes with a ghost. I suppose that is what I have to accept for now about this man I’m so very fond of. We all come with a certain amount of baggage, and it seems wrong to me to hold a person’s baggage against him if it is the result of a misfortune he incurred. To be honest, “baggage” sounds harsh, but I guess that’s what it is since it’s something that happened in the past and is weighing on him today.

Of all the things that might weigh on you, though, I suppose a ghost ain’t so bad.

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