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TherapistJen, LCSW, CPC
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 3523
Experience:  Licensed Clinical Social Worker
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My boyfriend and I are going through a very rough patch. Hes

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My boyfriend and I are going through a very rough patch. He's been emotionally distant for a few months and Ive been not wanting to talk about our issues because we always end up fighting. 4 weeks ago I had to move out of our shared apartment. Whenever we try to talk we start off by saying how much we still care about each other and dont want to hurt or hate each other but can never seem to talk. Right now, Im trying everything to be pleasant and re-connect with him but he still snaps at me if I show signs of emotion (he thinks Im too emotional and while I can be sometimes his reactions are what now makes me feel intense emotions when we talk because he acts like I shouldnt be emotional at all and says Im trying to control him with my emotions). We are planning to have 'the talk' when his big work commitment is done in about two weeks. So far we've had one week of this limbo stage of not talking but still trying to be friendly (we've had to see each other once or twice a week to sort out ending our lease and splitting our posessions) and while I want to wait for the talk to see what happens Im starting to think he's just pushing me away in the hopes Ill end it. Which is ironic since he's threatened to end it on a number of occasions (even 5-6 months ago before things were really bad) so I dont see why he'd hae to make me do it. The message that I take from this is that he's still confused and can't make the decision himself. I saw his new apartment when I helped him move some stuff and he has items that I've given to him in the course of our one year (but very serious) relationship in his house. That, to me, is not a sign of someone wanting to cut the other person out of their life. But I need advice for what I should do when we have this talk in 2 weeks, if he still says he doesn't know what to do. Part of me wants to sit him down and say if he's really not sure then to say what I want to do - which is to put in 110% and see if we can be caring, respectful and supportive of each other again. But I'm scared that he might agree but not actually behave any differently. My other option, I guess, is to tell him that I'd like to work on it but that he should call me when he's made a decision. I feel like I need to push him out of my life completely for him to realise how much I support him (even now he tells me all about his work and his family and friends, as if we were still in a healthy relationship). I dont want to make him suffer or jealous but this is hurting me so much. I certainly don't want to give him an ultimatum either, which is why I'd suggest what I'd like to do and for him to contact me when he's made a decision - so he has to make up his mind but I'm not outright saying it's me or he can go it alone. I'm so confused.
A friend of mine suggested that I try make him think of couples that he respects and thinks have good relationships and ask what he thinks they would do in this situation, re how he's treated me, how I've treated him, and how they might make it work I think this is a good idea but (bc I have a psych background) he takes it as "psych bullshit" and is not generally open to these sorts of ideas. I love him more than I've ever loved anyone and when we have good times we're great (he's said more than once that I'm the perfect girlfriend for him)... I just need him to make a choice for what he wants to do and then act on it. He's not prone to quick changes though (unlike me, and he's said he admires that about it). When we get to the talk, I just need to have some advice some for good ways to handle it and put the options out there in a way he'll see ... he'll lose me if he doesn't start acting like he wants to make this work. Any advice would really be greatly appreciated.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  TherapistJen replied 5 years ago.
Hi. It sounds like this rough patch is about styles and how they are bumping into one another now and causing this friction between the two of you. Your style is to express your emotions and his is to not be as expressive and to feel your way is too emotional. so it becomes about whether this difference in styles can come together so that both of you feel like you are getting what you need from the relationship. A break might be a good idea so that you can both re-group and figure out how to move forward either with each other or without. I don't think the ultimatum is the way to go here. I believe in letting him know how you feel about him and how you want things to work and you might have different styles in dealing with things but you are willing to compromise so that you can both feel good in the relationship and hope that he is willing to compromise as well.
In the end it comes down to whether the different styles around communication, listening and caring can come together and if they can't how you want to proceed. The love is there....I can hear that. If he would be open to some short term counseling or working with a relationship coach then that could be a great way to go just to get through this space and allow for both of you to express how you feel and get the support you need. So, sit tight until your talk and then let him know how deeply you care for him and want things to work while both of you understand each one's perspective and needs a bit more.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thanks for your advice. Unfortuntaely, he's mentioned once before that he doesnt believe in compromise. He said this during a fight so I wouldnt put all my money on believeing it (he compromised in our initial dating phase, afterall, so has past behaviours that discount his statement). And he absolutely will not see a counsellor. A couple of months ago I asked him about this and he said definite no. He's from another culture so when I spoke to a friend of the same culture they said they could somewhat understand his point of view - that is was for married couples going through prolems, not people who are in an unmarried relationship. But, I feel like Im at that point where if a third person locked us in a room and forced us to work it out, to stay together or split, then Id be relieved because he's so stuck in worring and trying to figure out what he wants and if we can make it work (which is a decision I think he'll be unlikely to make until we've had the talk) that theres no action. And Im starting to get resentful that hes making me wait three weeks to talk about 'us'. To make me wait that long makes me think he might want to try make it work, afterall wouldnt we both be feeling like we're on our way to healing if we'd just broken up earlier? But he's a worrier and I have to wonder if he's just stuckin his worrying and not thinking about the extra hurt it's causing. Another friend suggested I ask him why he initially wanted to be with me and try to create a positive energy for a discussion (by invoking positive memories) but, again, I just don't see him doing it. I've done it myself, and I can remember th egood times. I've done a lot of self reflection and am willing and able to admit where I was wrong and insensitive but I'm not sure he'll do that. Whenever we've had a fight he's blamed both of our reactions on me - he takes no responsibility for how he behaves. For an amazing man who likes longterm relationships he's incredibly immature. He said he feels like a failure for us ending up like we are and I do too. When I let me guard down and talk to him heart to heart perhaps he'll feel better, but what do I do if he keeps blaming me for the things I've done wrong and not admitting his fault in any of it?
And today, we saw each other and had a disagreement. I can see I didn't handle it as well as I wanted to initially (he gave me something which I then asked if he was sure he wanted to give me and he replied "of course he doesn't feel good giving me that" and I managed to concisely say that he's probably going to feel a bad emotion whether he gives me the item or not and that he has to just be able to deal with that and that I have no expectations of him) but we seem to have resolved that issue by the time we parted ways this afternoon. I can see that part of the problem with me being emotional is that sometimes I express it in ways that try to elicit emotion from him (he can be very unempathetic and unsupportive so I think I tried to use semantics to make him feel that way when I was upset) but I think he also feels like he has to deal with my emotions. So, today was one step (for me) towards showing him that his emotions are his to deal with and mine are something I need to deal with. But, I think he just gets too overwhelmed by emotions and pushes them aside. Sometimes I feel like I'm dating a girl though I must say I can see now how he's acting like a man now. I know I can't change him, he has to (want to ) do it himself... it's just so frustrating to have him take it out on me all the time. And my family are now angry with him; I'm so upset I put them in middle by talking to them when I was upset - but then I realise I'm making excuses for his behaviour which upsets me, I thought I was past blaming myself for all of our problems. If I give him more time, I'm not sure whether it should be with us still as a couple or broken up (and he contact me when he wants to speak, and if he wants to make it work)?
Expert:  TherapistJen replied 5 years ago.
Hi. I wanted to let you know I have received your last response. I will be out of my office for the next two hours and will be able to give you a more detailed response then. I hope you can wait until then. I look forward to responding then and continuing our work together.
Expert:  TherapistJen replied 5 years ago.
Hi. Thanks so much for waiting to hear back from me. I am glad you clarified some things about the cultural differences as well because that could also play a role in how he relates and hides his emotions. If he comes from a culture where men don't really show or speak of their emotion it is going to be hard for you to get him to come around...this is how he has been raised. It may also be in his culture that men take the position of not being wrong. It is hard for you to always have to take responsibility but I am not sure he is willing to do that. I hear you when you say at the beginning of a relationship he was willing to compromise and that is quite common...things are very bright at the beginning of any relationship and we all do things and contort ourselves to please the other one, but over time and when comfort sets in, we fall back into our usual ways.
You feelings are all valid. so, where does that leave leaves you with the option to stay and wait around and see if he comes around when you talk or to walk away and focus on you and focus on finding someone where the fit might be a bit better in more ways.
Let me know your thoughts.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
thanks for your reply. My bf is latino so he actually has very strong emotional reactions but I feel like he may not always be able to deal with them constructively (Not that Im criticising because I have the same diffulty). While his father was not as emotionally available he has a very warm & loving family. I, on the other hand, had a loving family environment growing up but I did not experience it as warmly as he did so I am a bit emotionally stunted sometimes, and hence i get overwhelmed by my emotions. Im taking steps to deal with them better though. He's very stubborn and has very strong opinions so I think he finds it hard to see other people's perspective. 6 months ago we were getting better at identifying why we were upset and talking about it but that fell by the wayside as i had a v stressful work situation which he couldnt deal with (read: deal with me complaining about) and he became quick tempered at me at any emotion thereafter. He's often the one that wants to talk about things and I find it hard, though I have been trying. I feel him taking 3 weeks timeout is punishment for him not being able to talk before but when he talked often he'd just complain that he's depressed and Im not behaving well. And when i was behaving healthier it became that he was depressed because he didnt know why i couldnt be like this before. I feel like the enemy; and we dont work as a team anymore. I pray that when we talk we'll be able to 'get back on the same side' but Im scared that Ill go into that talk with optimism rather than a realistic opinion of what will happen. I dont want to force my opinion or values onto him but im not sure he's willing to be open to trying to see my perspective, even for the sake of moving forward. We've taken some small steps since I first moved out but I feel he's completely disconnected from me and don't see him trying to re-connect (except when he's talking to me about his work, family, etc)...we no longer even kiss goodbye. Do you think its possible to reconnect? And if so, would it be healthy to air out all my bad behaviour, as well as his, and try to come up with better ways of behaving with each other? For a solution-focussed, goal-oriented person, he's never been very good at coming up with solutions for problems and instead blames it on me (my behaviour, my emotions, our cultural differences, etc).I dont want to lose him but Im at a dead-end for working out ways we can reconnect and he can stop self-preserving and instead work on making us better. He's also very reactive to how I am so I thought if I am positive and supportive he'd soften up but I don't know that that's achieved anything.
Expert:  TherapistJen replied 5 years ago.
I would stay absolutely positive in the talk and not dredge up too much. I think the focus can be on how much you care, how much you love and how much you want this to work and are willing to do your share. You most likely wont get him to see it all that night, but keeping your "stuff" in check over time can help the process. I do believe reconnection is possible that is why I think try and stay away from the heavy stuff for now. Hard to wait for the talk but you can use it as the time you have been for growth and self-refection.
You are already doing that and that is great. You are frustrated that you dont see that in him yet but he might be doing the same.
Please hang on and be positive and loving.
Let me know how it all goes. I am rooting for you. Be the wonderful woman you are!
TherapistJen and other Relationship Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  TherapistJen replied 5 years ago.
Checking in on you to see how you are doing. Hope you are okay.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Hi Jen,
Thanks for your message. I'm doing ok under the circumstances. We were out (separately) at a concert last night that i bought him tickets to for his christmas present. Its a band we both grew up listening to and he absolutely loves them. He didn't contact me to meet up but did send a message to me during the gig saying he was having a great time and hoped I was too. He put 'Xs' on the end of his message. Maybe he was thinking fondly of me because we used to listen to the music together a lot... I sent back a message just saying I was glad he was having a good time, and I was too. I'm glad we didn't meet up, it would had just been awkward. While I've been advised to keep lines of communication open I dont think we can see each other or talk until we have 'the talk' in a week. And in the next week I just hope he figures out what he wants. I realised that for the past few months he's had one foot in the relationship and one foot out the door, ready for when things got tough. Thats one thing I can now see I need to speak to him about, if we stay together it's 100% commited - in good and bad times.... so long as we both behave more respectfully and compassionately. Do you think someone, who in the past has held onto pain and resentment, can forgive another?
Expert:  TherapistJen replied 5 years ago.
You write beautifully and express yourself in a way that I can truly understand how you feel and what you want. I am glad you had a good time last night and were able to enjoy the concert even though you weren't there together. It was lovely that he sent you a text to let you know he was having a great time. It does sound like he was feeling warm and having fond memories. I absolutely do feel that one can forgive and move past pain and long as the desire to do so is there.

I think you are handling yourself wonderfully. Keep me posted. Wishing you all wonderful things and a Happy Easter.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Well, we just had the talk. I had a call from my boyfriend this morning asking if we could talk today. He wished me happy easter and sounded very positive. So he just came around and said he cant find himself, not while he's like this. He doesn't want to go back to what we had (the good times) and wants to stay away from relationships and love right now. I told him I'd like to make it work and bring back the respect and care that had been gone from our relationship for a while. He said he can't do it. So I said I'm not going to try convince him. He said he can't hate me and hopes I dont hate him for this. I told him i love him but I wont wait for him. And then I promptly asked him to leave (because he came to my house). Im really surprised he did this, he didn't sound like he was about to break it off when we spoke on the phone. And as much as it breaks my heart at least he's made a choice, I suppose. I know of people who have come back together after breaking up and I hope that happens to us but I'm trying not to bet on it happening so I don't get disappointed again. I thanked him for brekaing it off now and not waiting longer but god I hope he regrets his decision and feels the pain I'm feeling now.
Thanks so much for all your advice. You've been very supportive. I'll just try focus on me now I guess.
Expert:  TherapistJen replied 5 years ago.
I am so sorry to hear this, I know you were desirous of a different outcome. It is extremely painful but you have clarity now over the situation and what he is able to give, so yes it is time to grieve and begin your healing process so you can move on. It will be painful for sure but let yourself feel what you feel.

Come back anytime when you need some support. It has been my pleasure to support you.