Dear Patricia Marie,

My partner of three years is still in love with his girlfriend who died 5 years ago. He was only with her for a few months, but describes their time together as truly magical, until she died in a car accident. Although we have a lovely relationship, it saddens me that I doubt I will ever reach that height in his affections. I wanted to be the one truly special person in his life, as he is in mine, and it makes me feel second best, even though she is no longer around.

How can I stop thinking this way, as it is destructive and pointless, but still so upsetting for me. He has never had counselling for his loss as he says nothing can bring her back. Before he met me, he never spoke of her death to anyone, not even his family or close friends.

Please can you help me?

Patricia Marie says...

Losing someone close so suddenly can be utterly shocking, as there is no time to become accustomed to the space they ultimately leave in your heart and your life. This must have been very tragic for your partner, and I would draw comfort from the fact that he is able to confide his grief in you. Retaining love for his deceased girlfriend does not mean he cares less for you. Have you considered he may feel guilty that he couldn't have saved her. Focus on reassuring him that counselling could help him move on from his loss in a positive healthy manner, as no one should be expected to deal with such trauma by themselves.

Look at the positives - he sounds like someone who is trying to be honourable. He is showing he was committed to her, and is being honest, which is really important too. Be kind, try to imagine the pain he must have felt, losing her in this way, and let him know that you understand she meant a lot to him. Tell him that he doesn't need to forget her to embrace you.

Avoid comparing yourself to someone who is no longer here, and assuming you fall short. You could never take her place, just as she could never had been who you are, and have what you and your partner share. Acknowledging her memory is far healthier than trying to banish it, and could enrich your relationship. Nevertheless, if the thought that there was someone else he cared about that much before you met still bothers you, then perhaps you are the one not ready for the relationship. It is only you who is allowing the past to affect your present, and jeopardise your future happiness.