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TherapistMaryAnn, Counselor
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 5823
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues
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My boyfriend (22) and I (23) go through rough patches often.

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My boyfriend (22) and I (23) go through rough patches often. He asks for space a lot, and I know that I have a tendency to be needy, which I'm trying to work on. I know it has to do with my past and anxiety, but we have also agreed that the beginning of our relationship is also a key factor for the relationship anxiety. He broke up with his long term girlfriend for me about a year and a half ago, but didn't get over her quickly and tried to go back to her. Eventually, he begged for me back. We've been together ever since, but he often needs space and becomes distant. Our official 6 months is coming up, but we've been dating for over a year.

I might add that he is still a bit immature and will admit it. He is always worried that he doesn't know what he wants in life, doesn't know what occupation he wants, and feels like a failure for a lot of things (not graduating college yet, & I'm almost done with my masters). He often states that he "isn't the man he wants to be." I'm always understanding, but I have trouble giving him space when he asks for it. He's not really much of a phone caller and usually just texts.

Here recently, he's been going through obvious stressful events. His dad is having surgery next week on his back (calcium build-up in his spinal cord), and on top of that, his best friend from high school got in a cliff diving accident and broke his neck. He's completely paralyzed. My boyfriend has been up at the hospital constantly and has actually been calling me everyday just to update me. He has asked to see me for dinner (with his family) and asked me to come over in the past week since the accident happened, so I've been happy about that. We had plans for the weekend to go on a trip to see a concert, but I told him to stay with his friend if he felt he needed to (he agreed, and I told him I was not upset by any means, though disappointed that we wouldn't be going together). I've been extremely understanding, brought him a small goody bag of snacks for the hospital waiting room, and he's been frequently expressing his love for me. I told him his actions have been admirable lately, and I wouldn't want him to focus his attention anywhere other than on his friend. I also offered to go to the hospital with him if he wanted me to, but I don't know his friend and felt it was too serious, as I think he did too, though he said he may want me to sometime in the future.

He cancelled our trip not only because of just the fact that his friend is in the hospital, but because he is also being moved out of the state next week. I know he is seriously just stressed to the max right now, especially since he was stressed about his father already and other simple things.

My question: Do you feel as though he is using me as a safety net for now? Before this happened, his distance made me wonder if he wanted to break up. He is not one for confrontation and will NOT do anything to hurt people's feelings, so I'm afraid that he wouldn't want to tell me directly if he did. If this is all just stress, I can handle that for now. But if it's something bigger in our relationship that he just can't deal with right now, I feel as though I need to prepare myself.

Another question: How should I treat him during this time? If I don't hear from him for a few hours, I typically text him and ask him if he's doing alright or ask him to update me when he can. He usually calls later or texts me back and tells me. Today, I told him to update me after his friend's surgery this morning. He didn't respond, but sent me a "snapchat" picture on his iphone chat of him in an elevator. Sometimes I just can't read him, but I don't want to push him and definitely don't want to bring up more stress, especially regarding something that should not be his main priority.

Either way, I'm worried he's not in it for the long haul. I'm about to turn 24 and obtain my master's degree, which means I'll be getting a real job soon, and who knows where. I don't want to plan my future around him, but I also don't want to skip out of town and miss out on something that could be great, even if it means waiting for him to be ready for engagement or something more of a commitment than just the boyfriend/girlfriend thing. What is your advice?

Thank you for your time.
Hello, I'd like to help you with your question.

It does sound like his need for time away is somewhat of a concern. It could be that he is introverted and just needs a lot of time to himself. Or it could be that he fears commitment and is holding back because of that. As you mentioned, he seems to struggle with completely school and seems indecisive at times.

The best way to know is to talk to him about it. You want to be clear about what is causing this with him before you decide if this is the right relationship for you.

However, as you said, he is dealing with a lot right now so this might not be a good time to bring this topic up. At this point, it is probably a good idea to continue to be there for him and support him until he has a chance to get through everything and focus back on his life and his relationship with you.

One good sign seems to be how he continues to contact you through the crisis he is dealing with. He seems to make time to let you know what is going on and that means you are on his mind. And that can mean he cares a lot. He may just not show it as much in a direct way.

When he is able to, sit down with him and talk out what you feel. Be as gentle as you can about it, but do let him know that his frequent need to have time away concerns you. You deserve to know where he stands with the relationship and what might be causing his behavior. That way, you can make a clear decision by knowing all the facts.

I hope this has helped you,
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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

The problem is, I've tried to talk to him so many times about our relationship that it's almost life-sucking. I don't want to talk about it, he doesn't want to talk about it, and we've gotten to the point where talking about anything serious related to our relationship is seen as negative. I don't want to leave him, I want to marry the guy. I think he know I'd never leave him, too. I, however, am not so sure.


He has admitted that he is an introvert and likes space to think by himself or time with friends to get his mind on sports or some other hobby. I understand, but have a hard time coping with it. Today he is acting a bit weird, and I honestly think it is because I asked him if everything was okay between us. I asked nonchalantly and in a positive manner, but that's when the distance started. He didn't respond to the text, so I texted again and said to let me know about the surgery when he had the time to redirect the conversation since I felt it was adding more stress. I just meant for a simple "yeah, babe, of course!" I know he's going through things, but I just wanted some reassurance, even though the distance is due to unrelated stresses.


Thanks for your answer!

If he has admitted to being introverted that could explain the time he needs alone. But it would not explain why he gets upset when you ask him if everything is ok between you. That probably means that he doesn't want to deal with his feelings and that does not help you.

If you both do not want to talk it out or he is not willing to talk about it, it might be a matter of either learning to live with it or deciding if this might be worth getting counseling over. If you do get married, you do not want to be dealing with this the rest of your life. It will only get worse.

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