Relationship in Crisis…What Can I Do?

Reader’s Question

Hello, I need some advice on what to do right now. My boyfriend and I have been together for about a year and half. We have pretty much lived together since before we were even official. I love him with all my heart and he loves me the same and I don’t doubt that at all. We both came directly out of other relationships into ours, my relationship was about a year and a half and his was about 2 years. He let me lean on him when I was going through a rough time with my break up. He became my best friend and still is. We went to high school together, but didn’t run with the same groups plus he was a year behind me. I am 22 and he is 21. He has had a history of girls cheating on him and him just cheating on them to get them back. A month or two ago he started getting mad at me more and we started fighting more, I started nagging more because I didn’t know what was going on. He would get mad at me for some of his friends not liking me. He would get mad if I called him too much. He would get mad if I asked what he was doing or whom he was with. He’d stop answering the phone and wouldn’t come home until 4 or 5 in the morning even when he had to work the next day. He would say he fell asleep at his friend’s house or at his mom’s. I would get mad at him for not coming home and he would get mad at me saying I was controlling. This just kept getting worse and worse and of course I kept pushing him to tell me what was wrong. Like many guys he is not a big communicator. Finally I was so sick of him not answering the phone, I told him to call me right now or it was over… I told him he had two minutes. He just texted back he is busy and he loves me and will see me later. I said wrong answer, I’m done. He didn’t text back. So I freaked out and texted him saying I was sorry and I love him and nothing. Later he texted and said he would call me. He didn’t call. When he came home he seemed really really upset. I tried talking to him and asked him what he wanted to do. He said he didn’t know. We talked about something and I asked him if he would treat me better he said he would try. We hugged and he started crying (I have never seen him cry and I never thought I would). He left because he had to be somewhere and I was kind of excited about him finally letting me in (as far as communication goes, he doesn’t like to do it… at all). He said he would be home soon. I woke up about 3 am and he wasn’t there. I texted him and nothing. I called and nothing. He came home and said he fell asleep at his moms. I asked him if we were still together and he said he didn’t know. I asked him if he wanted to be together and he said maybe. So I stressed over this for a day, then brought it up, I asked why can’t we be together and he said because he needs some time to clear his head. I said why can’t you clear your head and be my boyfriend too. He said because then I will just call him all the time and try to control him. He said he doesn’t want to see other people or anything he just wants to think.

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He never came home that night after he left. It was time to go to work and I still couldn’t reach him, I called in sick to work. And finally around 8:30am he texted me and said he was with his friend nick. He said he slept on the couch. I told him I needed to talk to him in person and he got mad at me for not going to work. I was a wreck and I just wanted to talk to him, he said he would meet me later and we could talk and for me to go to work. I applied for some jobs because I couldn’t afford the house payment and my truck payment if we broke up on just my one job. Both of us have car payments, he couldn’t afford the car payment and insurance (the insurance is in my name it’s would probably be 400$ a month for his insurance) and a place to live with out me and I couldn’t afford the house and my truck without him. When we finally did talk I asked him if he felt stuck because of the house and everything, he said no. I asked him if we could be together and he can clear his head at the same time. We agreed to be together. Things were looking up for about a week. I tried my best to give him his space he didn’t come home and I texted him once. I asked him if he could just start sleeping at home all the time and we started talking. I told him I am really trying my best and he held me and said I am perfect and it’s all him. I of course think he has found someone else and I ask him. He says there is no one else and promises me that I’m the only one. I ask what’s wrong and he said he’s confused. I asked what he was confused about and he said he didn’t know. He started crying. He said I was a perfect girlfriend and I deserve to be treated better and that he loves me and cares about me. I asked him what was wrong and he said he needed space. So I keep trying to give him space and we are getting a long fine he is coming home earlier. Then he gets mad at me for asking him where he was going. So I said never mind and hung up. He texted right after I hung up that he loves me. So I am really upset because I don’t understand what’s going on and the only thing I can think of is that he is cheating on me. So my friend is home from college for Christmas so I go out with her and made a bad decision and had way too much to drink. I asked him why he acts like he doesn’t care about me if he does and he says because he is trying to avoid being tempted sexually. I said well what does showing you care have to do with sex and he said that we will talk about it later. Awhile later I asked him to pick me up and he does we go home and he said he was getting pissed off and that I know I shouldn’t drink. So I just stopped talking and went to sleep.

The next day after work I asked him what does showing you care have to do with sex and he said what? I remind him about our conversation. I said I wish you could tell me what you want me to do because I don’t know. He said that half the time he is just sexually attracted to me. I said you are only attracted to me half the time and he said no I am only sexually attracted to you half the time. I said like you don’t love me half the time and he says no I love you all the time. I said well then you don’t like me and he says that he likes me he just gets annoyed. I suggest he just needs more space because we are spending too much time together. He said no that’s not it and that we have hardly been spending any time together. I am a logical person so I am trying to make sense of this. I said so you are attracted to me and you love me and you like me, but you are annoyed with me. I said is it because your friends don’t like me and he says buddah and nick like you. I said but what about the rest he said those people are impossible and he isn’t even sure if they like him and that I am perfect. I said is it because I gained weight, he said no he loves me and I am beautiful and perfect. I said is it because I nag you and he says that he can’t blame me because he is neglecting me. I said that he used to treat me really good and he says he knows. I said don’t I deserve to be treated better and he says yes and starts calling himself a bad person. He said he thinks he might have a problem because of his self-esteem, I said because you are too cocky. He said yes that he could be with any girl he wanted. I said well do you want to see other people and he says he’s not attracted to anyone but me. I said do I not deserve someone as pretty as him and he said I deserve the prettiest. He said that he knows how to make me happy and he wants to make me happy, but he gets annoyed and doesn’t do it. He doesn’t know why. He said I am perfect and he loves me and he wants to be with me, but he hates seeing me hurt and doesn’t know what to do. He says I deserve to be treated better and that he is a bad person. I try to tell him he isn’t a bad person and he is good at heart and maybe he is just getting the jitters because he has never been in this serious of a relationship. He says no. I said is it because we don’t have everything in common, he said that might be part of it and then said it would be boring to be with someone who was exactly the same and started listing things we both like. I said maybe it’s a subconscious thing because your parents are divorced. He said no. I said maybe it’s because you think you don’t deserve to be happy so you subconsciously try to find issues with your relationships to ruin them. He said no. I said well have you ever felt like this before and he said no and usually he’s the one in my position. I said well what would you do in my position and he said he didn’t know. I said this is very confusing and I don’t know what to do. He said see. I said I was glad that he told me what was going on. I said that if we do get through this our relationship would be so much better because we are communicating again. He hugged me and he said he doesn’t want to hurt me and he wants me to be happy. I told him I love him and I want him to be happy and I will understand whatever he decides.

I really am not sure what to do. In my eyes I think well if you love someone and think that highly of them and want to be with them then there shouldn’t be a problem. But then again I am not feeling what he is. Have you ever heard of this happening? I think we are both willing to work on this. I would appreciate any advice you have to offer.

Thank you so much in advance!

Psychologist’s Reply

Relationships change and mature over time…and so do the people in those relationships. As young adults, both of you are dealing with the relationship and being a young adult — making decisions about how you’re going to live, what are your priorities, what role friends will have in your life, etc. He’s getting his first taste of being an independent adult for example.

From your description, your boyfriend may have reached a level in the relationship where he’s unsure if he wants to proceed. The fact that he’s staying out late, even with friends and family, tells you he’s having second thoughts about the relationship and where it’s going. He may not be ready to fully commit due to his age of 21.

In your description, you on the other hand are look for more commitment and involvement. When you see his behavior, you are thrown into a panic that makes you demanding, nagging, questioning, and looking for answers — all of which he perceives as smothering and controlling him. In many relationships, when this situation surfaces couples take a break or relax the relationship a bit in order to reorganize. In your situation however, you and your boyfriend are financially entangled and connected, making changes in the relationship even more difficult.

There is no quick and easy fix for this situation. Right now, the love/support in the relationship has turned into “20 questions”. He won’t communicate if he’s flooded with questions. That’s not communicating, that’s being interrogated. You may need to make an agreement to place the relationship on probation for a short while — making financial arrangements to make sure everything is covered and paid, yet set aside specific evenings when he will be home. Right now, he probably perceives the home as being high-pressure so scheduled nights can be relaxing and low-demand. Making every contact an intense communication will only burn him out emotionally. Try to relax the situation and see what happens. While we don’t know what he’s thinking or feeling, we do know that increasing the emotional pressure or asking more questions probably will only make the situation worse.

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