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Steven Olsen
Steven Olsen, Counselor
Category: Relationship
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Experience:  More than 20 years of expertise in counseling, relationship resolution and family therapy.
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I have been going out with a man (Ill call him B) for 7 months,

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I have been going out with a man (I'll call him B) for 7 months, he has 2 teenage sons living with him 14/20 and works full time. His ex wife had an affair although things hadn't been going well for years and she moved out a year ago. I have a 3 year old and split up with my ex partner about a year ago too. There's about 100km distance between B and I so we see each other every weekend and once during the week when his son stays at his mums.

We went on vacation together for 2 short breaks abroad and B told me it was one of the best times of his life. He loves being with me but felt torn between being so happy with me, and so unhappy at home. His kids don't like where they live either, but can't move away due to school.

Over the past 4 weeks or so, B has been increasingly unhappy, until just over a week ago, he came over to mine and told me at 11pm that he didn't know if he could handle a relationship anymore, and things were just too much for him. He was finding it very difficult to look after the kids, work full time (his travel to work is at least an hour each way) as well as go to football (he coaches 3 times a week) and run a house full time on his own. He told me he felt things were crumbling around him. Add to this that his ex wife's sister had committed suicide 2 years ago and she was feeling sad. He'd also taken my photo off of his phone because he couldn't bare to look at it as he knew how upset I'd be. He said he'd been building himself up to tell me for the last few weeks and he felt awful. We lay in each others arms that night and cried on and off - both of us. He said he didn't want to end it but he needed the time at home with his kids until they got on an even keel and he needed to do things round the house too. He said we'd been too intense with each other, which we had done, and that hadn't helped things either. When he got up in the morning we'd only had about 1 hour sleep and we were both going to work. He said to me he would love to go to the concert that I'd bought tickets for in July and he'd pay me half the cost. Money is a bit of an issue with us too as we don't have a lot.

Over the course of the past week, I've since spoken to him again as he kept texting me as if nothing had happened. I eventually phoned him and said I didn't understand if I could still contact him as he said he wanted space. He clarified that he just needed some weekends at home and I could call or text whenever I wanted to. I said that's fine and no problem, he told me he still had feelings for me. I've since said I still love him and don't want to throw it all away.

A couple of days ago we spoke on the phone and he said he's been getting on with things, told me what he'd been doing round the house, and that his son was a bit better too. (I get on really well with his sons and he does with my daughter so no problems there - even had a cup of coffee with his ex at the house!) He said to me that it was good to hear my voice, I told him that I missed him a bit but was dealing with it, and he said he missed me a wee bit too.

He's text me every morning and evening without fail since I met him and still continues to do so. I seem to initiate it during the day though, although he does text me near enough straight back. I don't know whether to stop this? I feel helpless like I can't help him, and I sometimes wonder where I stand with him. It's an insecurity I have, even though I know he cares for me. Last night we were texting back and forth having a bit of a laugh, and today I ended up texting him telling him I thought he was a really good man. He text me back saying wow where did that come from? and thanks..and that he thought I was very considerate, good and thoughtful person too. I told him I'd been thinking of the things that life throws at us and that I have a lot of respect and admiration for him and wanted him to know I was on his side. He said thanks and it's not all as bad as it sounds (circumstances) and he knows I'm finding it tough now too. He said he had bags of respect and admiration for me too and I'm a wonderful person and mum. He said we are both a bit too hard on ourselves and we're both good people.

I am feeling like I have to just sit back and wait for him to say when he wants to see me (he did mention in 2 weeks, that was a week ago and I've not mentioned it yet.) I love him very much, never got on with anyone so well, but I am holding back telling him all this (he knew all this before) as I don't want to add any pressure to him. 3 weeks ago he was saying he wished we were married in a perfect world! The thing is it's not perfect and I would work really hard to get us together even if it takes years. I just don't know where to go from here really, I feel very scared about the future and terrified I will lose him. Please help!

Perhaps a male's perspective would help with this....


Your situation is one where you are in love with a man who is clearly overwhelmed and stressed. He comes to you of his own motivation and tells you that he wants to back things off a bit as things have been too intense. You, who are clearly very in love with him, feel torn; you know he is overwhelmed and stressed but yet this man is wonderful and you can't really deal with the thought that this relationship could be going in a direction such as this.


What to do? Do you back off Do you press forward?


Men are much less complex in many ways than women. We tend to be more simplistic in our views of complex emotions and circumstances and sometimes this drives the women in our lives overboard. Our reactions, if done by a woman, would mean something totally different than if a woman said or did them.


The good news. I believe that B is simply feeling too overwhelmed and pressured to deal with the complexities of a relationship. For a woman, that typically means in so many words that she is done with the relationship and is telling the man, we are done or lets just be friends.

Men, well...most of us are not this forward thinking. We tend to need space when our emotions get the best of us. This almost never means that the relationship is over, just that we need some space and time to ourselves. Usually it means that he needs some weeks to recover and recoup and to get himself into a plan. These plans need time to work out and as such often require no contact. Simply, men withdraw until they are ready to reengage and respond.


I think that is exactly what is going on here. B needs some time and he needs to see that you are totally willing to give it to him, and to not pressure him in any way. Some men do this, especially those who have been through bad relationships before as a test of character and expectation for the woman they are interested in. The way to pass the test is to keep in contact with him; text him, even call him once in a while but to do so with a focus on fun and lightness. I have a feeling that the world sits on B right now and one more serious thing would be too much. So, he created space.


He clearly has feelings for you. Otherwise he would have been far more blunt and purposeful in his actions. Instead he gently talked to you and showed genuine emotions with you. This is not common at all in males who are not "into" someone.


Give him space. But, in your contact with him, have fun with him. He needs this and in time, I strongly believe he will be back with you, fully. For now, this is a respite for him, a time to refocus.


I know you are scared, but I think you have little to worry about. The signs he is showing here are good ones and he seems a decent man. He likes you. That is clear. He is just has too much serious input in his life right now and needs a more casual approach. Stick with him, but let him set the pace. I see this working through. Steven


Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Hi Steven

Thank you for your reply; I nearly cried with relief when I read it! I know women and men think differently but to hear it from a male perspective is so much more reassuring. Every time I've spoken to him on the phone in the past week (3 times or so) I've asked him if things are ok with us and he's just said "ach yes" - not in a bad way, almost like, yeah we will be, and then changed the subject. He knows I've been upset although doesn't know the extent of me not eating for 2 or 3 days, not sleeping etc due to stressing. He's told me he feels torn between being with me and being at home, and wonders how we'd manage in the future and where would we live. He said he'd never ask me to move, although I told him I would if it meant us being together. He's also said that we wouldn't be in this position if we lived closer together as he could just pop round for a couple of hours and see me practically every night. I know he feels a lot of guilt as he doesn't think he's been a good enough father to his kids since he's been spending time with me. I've told him that's not true but he needs to figure it out for himself.

Should I steer clear of compliments too? I have said things like I understand what he's doing, and it's great he's getting on with the house, I'm proud of him for doing xyz etc, all the time avoiding speaking about "us" on text. I don't want him to think I don't love him (yep that's how us women think if we don't hear it - I know :)). He suggested meeting up in a couple of weeks which would be the night he stays at mine - I don't know whether to suggest that either as I don't want him to think that I'll assume everything is back to normal but I'd love just to spend time with him. Just don't want to push him away, and even when I don't hear him say he loves me/has feelings for me, I need to deal with this and not think that's the end of the relationship as I don't want to be needy - still trying to master that one!! I sometimes get in a bit of a state when he doesn't text back, esp. late at night and think the worst, or I analyze texts too much - again, I need to stop that - any tips would be appreciated! Thanks for your time.

Sorry it took me a while to get back to you. For some reason the automatic email that notifies me of a response was not working today.


Even hearing what you have said here, I am encouraged that indeed he is so far overwhelmed and stress crazed that he controlled the only thing he could at the time...a relationship with you. He backed away, but not totally away from you in an effort to make sense of his life and to sort things out. That is not a bad thing in a male's world. It is for him, simple emotional survival.


Saying that he wishes he lived closer is a simple way to say that he is so fried from stress that even the trip to see you is hard, but know that he does like you. No man says this type of thing unless he has feelings. For, if he did not have feelings he would have simply ended the relationship with no opportunity for future contact. Instead he opened the door for much more contact and is talking with you. Totally not what a man who is looking to end things would do.


Complements, etc: I would steer clear of too much of anything really at this point, except as I have said...having fun and laughter together. He needs this. And, as he is pretty typically male in his responses, giving him a complement will simply make him feel either like he owes one back to you (common reaction) or that he is not doing well, and you think it will help him to hear it; neither an ideal situation.


Instead, simply enjoy talking with him and if you can, seeing him if he can arrange it on his terms. This limbo situation will not last forever, and he will stabilize his life as things settle and will reveal his intent to you. Right now he is not fully able to deal with an intense relationship and has wound it down for the time being.


How not to be needy? Focus on the truth. You are a catch. He knows it. He is acting like it, but it is hard for him right now. So, he backed off. Let him do so, and realize that in no uncertain terms he is still interested. It is just, different.

And, as far as over analysis...this is hard not to do, but men, we just do what we say and there are not deep layers of meaning in what say. So, see it for what it is...(Can men be that basic?) Yes. And enjoy us men... And enjoy him. Tell him you want to have fun with no pressure. He will love that. And, you, enjoy it in the process. This will work out. Good signs are there. Steven




Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thanks. He did call me last night as he had to go out urgently so didn't want me to worry if he didn't get back to me on text. Strange that he did that as this has happened in the past (a week ago actually - again an emergency) and he didn't tell me until the morning, which resulted in me barely sleeping for worrying - silly I know. I have to stop myself from thinking the worst all the time. Do men just focus on one thing at a time? For example, they're at work and trying to fix something, or they're late leaving the house so that's all they think about? I know women can do both...

Last question is in your experience, how long does this sort of behaviour usually last, is it common and should I expect it again from him? Obviously I don't want it to go on indefinitely and to be honest he's not that type of person. Guess I just would like a rough idea so I won't be jumping the gun or getting my hopes up too quickly. Have you written any books on this kind of thing or on male/female behaviour? I'd be interested to read them as your answers have been invaluable to me, thank you so much for your help, I'll definitely release the funds once answered.

Yes, men focus on one thing at a time. There is even a word for it in psychology, compartmentalization. Why? It is due to testosterone. This hormone causes males to be males in body, but it also damages the part of the brain that allows both brain hemispheres to communicate together easily. Women, as a result, do multitasking far better (as both hemispheres communicate better) and think and do multiple issues and thoughts at once. Men are one task, one thing at a time folks, most of us. We also tend to ignore emotions, and value logic over all; hence B's reaction to you. He is thinking about the logic of a relationship slow down, not the fact that he has caused you pain by his choice. In his head this all makes total sense. When the plan in his head is done, he'll be back.


This type of behavior is very common. It usually lasts several months (two-three) but this is an estimation only as all are different. I have not written books on this topic, but the very best one in this area is a classic. Men are from Mars and Women from Venus. It is simply excellent and talks all about this type of behavior. has it inexpensively. Steven

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