Q. Last summer, I met my soul mate. From the beginning, he allowed me to be myself. He was always open about the traumatic experiences of his past and what he’s done to overcome them through therapy and rehab. I have never felt more safe and happy around someone. He validates my feelings, makes me laugh, and he does what he can to make my life easier.
When autumn came, he started acting differently. He blamed it on past trauma and stress, but it was more than that. In hindsight it should’ve been obvious that he was using drugs, but I wanted to trust him and took his word when he insisted he was sober.
His drug abuse rapidly escalated and he got into legal trouble. Now it’s been seven months of waiting for his next court date. He calls me daily from jail, we write letters to each other, and I’m still as in love with him as in the beginning. However, it is so hard for me to be physically apart from him. I get lonely without him because my family is toxic and I recently moved so I have no local friends. What can I do to make the temporary distance between myself and my fiance a little less unbearable?
A. You didn’t ask whether this is a healthy relationship, only how to deal with the temporary distance.
Still, I’d like to tell you that this is a good opportunity to make sure he’s not the only person in your life who brings you joy and emotional security. If you don’t live near friends, please visit them. Consider relocating to be closer.
Also, seek counseling for families and partners of those affected by addiction. That’s you right now. Much of this relationship has been about dealing with the aftermath of last fall. You shouldn’t commit to a life of this until you figure out what it means.
Doctors — a primary care physician — and public health departments should keep lists of places that can help, if you don’t already know what’s available or can’t find services online. You can also reach out to places where he’s found help in the past.
Basically, your letter makes it sound like everything you do is about him. Waiting. Writing. Loving. In a healthy relationship, a significant other shouldn’t be your everything, a person you orbit and think about all day. You should still have space for community, hobbies, and other close connections.
Use this time to get therapy, even if it’s in a group. Talk about what’s going on there, but also feel free to talk about your family.
Again, please visit friends. Consider how they spend their time and where they focus their energy. Think about how you feel when you’re around them — whether your life seems more balanced.
Isolation isn’t helping this. Find a way to be around others who make you feel safe.
You can do better than what you have now, but you have to believe you are worthy of it. Go to an Al-Anon meeting. They are free and will help open your eyes to what is happening.
It all made sense when you mentioned your toxic family. You glommed onto someone who gave you emotional validation, even though he lied to you, is now a criminal, and will have a tough life ahead of him with a record (not to mention addiction). You don’t have to settle for this just because there’s no one else telling you what you need to hear. I don’t often suggest therapy but this is a case where it could definitely help; your family issues are directly impacting the unhealthy choices you’re making.
You met him one year ago and seven of those months he’s been in jail. I hate to bring up math but this math is off. There is not enough here for you to have any kind of relationship.
I’ve walked 1,000 miles in these shoes. It’s a losing battle. Walk away while you still can. It won’t make you a bad person, it makes you a smarter one.
Send your own relationship and dating questions to email@example.com. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.