I (35M) was married to ‘Laura’ for 7 years. We have a son who is 10 now. She was the light of my life. When we were both 28 we found out she had a rare form of cancer. She passed away 5 months later. This crushed me and I was left drowning in my grief for a long time afterwards.
My son and I have been attending therapy weekly ever since. It’s been tough, but I feel like we’ve made a lot of progress. I didn’t feel up to another relationship for awhile. I’ve filled my time with hobbies, friends, and spending time with my son and family. Then, a little over a year ago I met ‘Kayla’ (33F) at a work event.
We share a hobby that’s pretty niche where I live so we had a great time chatting about it. Eventually we began to go out together. She’s great, but differing from my wife. I love her for who she is as an individual. I was hesitant at first, but after speaking with my therapist I decided to try for a committed relationship if we took it slow.
At first she was amazing. I told her about my past and that my son comes first even before our first official date. She was very compassionate and understanding about everything. After a few months of smooth sailing I decided to introduce her to my son and they got along great as well. For the first time after Laura’s death I could start to see a possible future with someone else.
Everything started to go downhill around 4 months ago. She seemed to be a bit more distant than usually so I sat down with here one night to ask her what was wrong. She teared up a bit and confessed that she felt I had been neglecting her lately. She then said that she feels like I’m using her as some replacement for my dead wife.
This came as a total shock. A part of me will always love Laura but I didn’t feel like I was ignoring Kayla or anything. I asked for some specific examples but she didn’t say much afterwards. I felt guilty that I had made her upset so I ended up apologizing and arranged for us to have a few more date nights and she seemed happy again.
Then a couple weeks later she had to go to a cousin's wedding. I couldn’t attend because of work but she was only gone for a day. When she got back I asked for some pictures but she just said there hadn’t been any of her. I thought it was a bit strange but didn’t pry.
Then, the next day a coworker of mine showed me one off of a private page on Facebook. I was shocked to see an expensive pair of my wife’s earrings on Kayla. In my sons room there is a small cupboard with pictures of him and his mom, letters from her, and some of her prized jewelry. I checked it as soon as I came home and the earrings were returned to the cupboard but in a different spot.
I confronted her and she got mad, yelling at me for assuming she’d be so careless as to lose or damage the earrings. I told her I was just hurt she’d go behind my back and take something with sentimental value, even if they were beautiful. She eventually broke down and apologized and after a serious talk about boundaries we moved on.
Things improved for awhile before her strange behavior started. It began with her changing her hair color to match my wife’s. My wife had naturally light blonde hair that a lot of women dye their hair to today so while I thought it was strange I wrote it off as a beauty choice.
Then, she began regularly straightening her hair. She has wavy hair and my wife’s hair was pin straight. She also started to change her clothes to be more like my wife’s (or at least the one she’s seen in pictures).
She also had her ears double pierced and got a cartilage piercing like my wife. This was all incredibly unnerving but she just said I was crazy. I’d ask my family and they said I was nuts too so I ignored it.
Then she brought up having my son call her “mama”. I said I wasn’t a huge fan of the idea but if my son wanted it I suppose it’d be fine. She went on a whole rant about how it was different because he called my wife “mommy” so it’s not like she’s stealing a title.
He said no and she was a bit cold to both of us for days. She seemed like a totally different woman than the one I fell in love. Everyone around me just said I was probably nervous since it’s my first relationship after Laura’s death.
The final straw was when she got a tattoo that was almost the exact same as my wife’s. It was in the same spot, same color, just with a slightly different design. That was my final straw.
I sat her down and confronted her a week ago with everything. At first she denied it all but then broke down into tears and said I never loved her. She said she felt that she had to live up to the memory of a ghost. This upset me because I had asked her before what I did specifically and she wouldn’t discuss it. Plus she was the one being weird and copying Laura.
She kept sobbing and saying I didn’t love her. I got so sick of it I yelled at her saying that if she felt so unloved we should just break up. I honestly do like her but I’ve seen how miserable she has been lately and I don’t think this relationship is good for her mental health. She got dead silent and just left and drove away. I was just so tired of everything.
Later that night she tried to end her life and barely survived. She has no living family so I was listed as her emergency contact. She wrote a long letter to me saying she loves me so much but obviously I don’t feel the same, and that maybe if she was dead too I’d love her even a fraction of how much I loved my dead wife. I’m distraught over this, she’s been so strange lately but before all of this I really did love her.
My mom and siblings keep on saying that I’m awful for pushing her to this point and that instead of ending it I should’ve doubled down in reassuring my love for her. They all got along great with her and had been hinting that they wanted us to get married so my son would have a mother again and possibly some siblings. I didn’t think I was the AH but my whole family is being cold to me and I have no idea what to do.
They’re saying I should go visit as soon as possible and support her with this to rekindle our relationship. I’m not sure if I want to do that. She’s so unhappy with my and seems obsessed over my dead wife.
I keep on thinking over this and wondering if I should’ve reassured her of my love again or broken up with her in a more tactful way. AITA? I'm sorry this is so long, my brains still scrambled from the whole thing and I’m rambling.
She seems disturbed and your family wants this woman around your son? Big no.
Uhhhh. It's about to get crazy. Get as far away as possible. NTA though.
Yep. NTA. Your son comes first, always. Before her AND your family. He might lose two mothers because she’s so unhinged. It’s not your responsibility.
Bringing a woman into your son’s life that is mentally unstable, is not better than not having a mother figure. If you are going to have any sort of healthy relationship, she needs to be happy first. Anyone worth being with will understand your son comes first and so should she. That means a mentally stable partner. If not, it’s not going to work.
NTA She is mentally unwell, and you are not a doctor. Only a doctor can help her. I'm so sorry this was your first experience dating after your loss. Your family has some sort of "Kids MUST be raised by a woman, so it's a widower's duty to remarry no matter what!" blinders on.