Quickie: “He Keeps Asking for a Break”

Bunny boiler

I have been in a relationship with a guy for 10 months now. Four months ago his brother went to jail for protesting against the government. He is still detained. My boyfriend has changed completely since then and it’s getting worse. He started off by saying that he doesn’t want to be in a relationship anymore. He no longer talks to his friends. He has been socially withdrawn by all means.

A month later he told me he doesn’t know whether he doesn’t love me anymore or if he’s just confused because by what’s happening in his life. I told him that his feelings were appropriate given what he’s going through and that I would remain by his side and I won’t ask anything from him until he’s ready.

A month later he repeated his words again. He said that he’s not happy because he’s not making me happy. He said that he doesn’t want to be a burden in my life. He asked me if I needed a break, and I refused and told him that I’m here to remain by his side and that I won’t leave him when he’s having a hard time only to come back when he’s happy.

Later, during the same month, he visited a counselor, but he always refuses to talk about it. Today we talked again. I was very mad at him because I didn’t like the way he treats girls at college — he is being so friendly that everyone has started commenting about it. He said he was trying to gain his old life back again (the life he had before we were even together). And then we repeated the same conversation again, and he suggested that we take a break. I refused and told him to choose between two things: either we save the relationship and he should start to respect me more, or we end it. He said he will try to fix things. But later I learned that he told my friends weeks ago that he wants to break up with me but doesn’t want to upset me.

I am very confused. I don’t know what he wants. Yesterday was the first time he went out with his friends in a very long time. He sleeps a lot. He doesn’t study. He is failing in almost all courses. We don’t go out. But it’s hard for me to know when he is sad because he’s funny and cracks jokes all the time. I love him so much and I don’t want to lose him. Please advise me!! — No Need for a Break

So, your boyfriend has tried to break up with you — oh, sorry, I mean “take a break” — FOUR times and you keep refusing to leave his side and you are confused about why he’s acting withdrawn?! Honey, take a hint. He doesn’t want to date you anymore. He’s tried to be nice about it and you are making it really hard, by literally refusing to leave his side. Give the guy a break! He doesn’t want to be pressured. And he sure as shit doesn’t want a girlfriend who tells him in one breath not to make an effort to make her happy and then in the next breath gives him grief about being overly friendly to other girls and demands more respect or else. It sounds like he has enough to worry about right now, so let him off the hook for worrying about you and tell him that, if it’s a break he wants, he can have it.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

    How can you not know what he wants? He’s told you (and acted like it) FOUR times already! MOA!

  2. When a guy says he wants to take a break, break it off with him permanently.

  3. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

    “He started off by saying that he doesn’t want to be in a relationship anymore.”

    This is what he wants, to not date you.

  4. kerrycontrary says:

    Anyone else catch this gem?: “. Four months ago his brother went to jail for protesting against the government. He is still detained.”—-is your boyfriend’s brother a terrorist or something? Why is he “detained” for 4 months for protesting? Are you sure your boyfriend is ALSO not a terrorist?

    Kidding…but kind of not.

    1. I don’t think this letter comes from the US. Most likely somewhere with a lot of unrest.

      1. Yeah, that was my first thought—this probably isn’t the U.S.? ALTHOUGH (& not to get all political) but the U.S. hasn’t exactly been very nice to its protestors lately, either…

    2. Yeah, I thought the same thing. Either they’re outside the US, or his brother was involved in something REALLY sketchy. Or maybe owns a cattle ranch in Texas? It’s hard to say.

  5. He is actually being very clear. He doesn’t want to be with you. And what you want from him – for him to return to being the person you got into a relationship with 10 months ago – is not going to happen.

  6. Okay. So in 10 months, he’s tried to break up with you 4 times? On average that’s once every 2.5 months. He wants to break up. The only way it could be clearer is if he put it in neon lights and had a parade go underneath it.

  7. Love the pic, Wendy! As for you, LW, I’m not sure what’s not clear. This guy doesn’t want to date you anymore. Please accept that and act accordingly. Otherwise, we’re going to see a follow up along the lines of “My boyfriend said he didn’t want to date me and hasn’t spoken to me in 6 months and I just found out that he’s been seeing some other girl behind my back and I feel so betrayed and heartbroken. How could he do this to me? And how do I get our relationship back on track?” Save yourself the drama and just let it go already, LW.

    1. Haha. I had to go back an look at the picture. PERFECT! LW, if you haven’t seen Fatal Attraction, you should….

  8. Avatar photo theattack says:

    Why do you want to be with someone so much who clearly doesn’t want to be with you?

    1. Avatar photo LlamaPajamas says:

      I was wondering the same thing, then remembered what a hot mess I was in my early 20s. I’m so freaking glad I’m past this phase of desperately wanting to make it work with guys who are wrong for me and/or not interested in a relationship.

      1. quixoticbeatnik says:

        Yes! I’m so glad I’m past this phase, too.

  9. lets_be_honest says:

    Dear Wendy,
    I asked my boss for a raise this morning, and he replied saying “No, actually I want you to box up your stuff and leave the premises for good.” Well, now I’ve had more coffee and I’m sitting at my desk and am seriously confused as to why he refuses to hand me work to do today and keeps asking me to leave because I was “fired.” What do this all mean? I should stay at my desk, right?

    1. That’s weird, the same thing happened with my landlord when I stopped paying rent — I keep waiting for him to send me the new lease, but now these other people are here and they say it’s their apartment now…

    2. sarolabelle says:

      I keep drinking this what is called Coca-Cola but it doesn’t taste like Dr. Pepper. I have drank 4 now and none of them taste like Dr. Pepper. Any idea on why it doesn’t taste like Dr. Pepper?

  10. Let go.

    That is all.

  11. Best advice my mother ever gave me: “When a man says he doesn’t want to be in a relationship, he means he doesn’t want to be in a relationship with YOU”

    1. quixoticbeatnik says:

      I wish I would have heard this in high school, haha.

  12. “And he sure as shit doesn’t want a girlfriend who tells him in one breath not to make an effort to make her happy and then in the next breath gives him grief about being overly friendly to other girls and demands more respect or else.”

    THIS THIS THIS THIS. LW, wtf. You’re putting yourself in this impossible Supportive Against All Odds Girlfriend role, & not even doing a good job with it. Just stop. If you want him to be happy, let him leave. And if you want yourself to be happy, let him go.

  13. I think “Sure as Shit” is one of my favorite phrases ever.

    Yeah, he’s totally tried to break up with you 4 times. Get the hint. The ship has sailed.

  14. Oh dear. He’s telling YOU what he wants. He’s telling YOUR FRIENDS what he wants. He’s BEHAVING just as he is telling you and your friends. The only one in this scenario that shouldn’t be confused is YOU. Please let this guy go and salvage what’s left of your self respect.

  15. I can just see the sequel to this…
    “Dear Wendy,
    My boyfriend continues to keep wanting to take a break but I keep refusing. Obviously we are meant to be together. Our problem now is that he’s told me on 14 seperate occasions that he doesn’t want any kids, so I secretly went off birth control, started taking fertility drugs and am now pregnant with his triplets. I don’t understand why he’s upset. I know he wants to have kids with me, he’s just going through some emotional turmoil. How do I make him realize how lucky he is?
    -Need A Baby-Daddy”

    Seriously, dude tells you repeatedly that he doesn’t want to be with you. In a breakup, you can’t just “refuse”… if it’s not working, it’s not working. If he’s using the term “break” it’s probably because either a) he doesn’t want to hurt you or b) he’s scared you’re some creepy stalker who doesn’t want to let go.

    1. Why is he scared that she’s a creepy stalker who doesn’t want to let go? She’s only trying to be supportive. Refusing to break up with someone just because they tell you they don’t want to see you anymore doesn’t mean a thing. I think you are being very judgmental, here. (This is sarcasm in case it’s not obvious.)

      1. I know, I know. I’ve been trying to work on that judgmental thing. I mean, I’m sure the LW is a completely normal and harmless stalker. It’s like they say, no one loves you like your stalker!

  16. When I was with my ex we actually almost broke up 3 times before we finally broke up for good. Part of that had to do with me being scared to be alone and wanting to work on the relationship when in reality I deserved a LOT better than what he was giving me. I just didn’t realize that at the time. I thought we were meant to be together and get married (“special love” and all that) and I was willing to do almost anything to keep him around. I should have let him go that first time.
    LW learn from my mistake. Break up with him for good. You may love him but this isn’t what a healthy relationship looks like.

    1. Yeah, this reminds me of my college boyfriend too. Especially the whole “I don’t want to be a burden to you” crap, which to me at the time was just like aww, I have to take care of him. gag. We even did go on a “break” at one point. LW – it’s okay. This is not what a good relationship looks like. It’s okay to move on.

      1. Okay, I know I badmouthed the boyfriend in my post below, but this made me realize that I actually acted like him a little bit, to one of my college boyfriends. I asked for a break for a month (when I really just wanted to break up), then we got back together, then I broke up. So I guess from the other side, when you’re a youthful hot mess you also think, “OMG I CANNOT BREAK THAT PERSON’S HEART, THEY WILL NEVER RECOVER! It’s okay, we’ll just go on a break instead. That will fix it.”

  17. meadowphoenix says:

    Listen, I do think it’s a little dumb for your ex to tell you he wants to work on things, when he clearly wants to break up. It’s a little cowardly.

    But it’s actually terrible that you are ignoring what this man’s saying. Terrible for him, because you are essentially concern-badgering him into a relationship, and terrible for you, because the last thing you want to be is a person who ignores what other people are actually saying while telling herself that she’s “helping.” There be delusion here.

    Reverse course. If you truly care about him and if you are so desperate to put his needs before yours, recognize that he’s saying that he needs not to be with you.

  18. He’s wimping out of making a clean break with you because he doesn’t want to upset you — but that doesn’t mean he wants the break any less. The fact that he can’t seem to man up and do it, while stringing you along, is actually probably a pretty good reason to make the break yourself. Take control of your own fate for once and go for what you want — someone who actually wants to be with you, which is not this guy.

  19. Painted_lady says:

    First off….taking a break, breaking up, etc., is a unilateral decision. Your opinion on whether you should break up is irrelevant if you have been broken up with, which you have. Insisting otherwise is, quite simply, crazypants.

    You’re threatening to break up with him if he does x, y, or z, and he WANTS TO BREAK UP WITH YOU. He already HAS. That’s why he keeps doing those things. Have some self-respect and take the fucking hint.

    1. iseeshiny says:

      What PL said. Trying to stay with someone who is trying to break up with you is horrible.

  20. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

    Beyond the fact that he obviously doesn’t want to be with you, considering he has told you that four times, how you are acting is ridiculous. Don’t try to be a martyr in a relationship. It doesn’t make you better than anyone. Saying “don’t try to make me happy” or telling someone to ignore your needs, especially when you mean the opposite, is simply immature and unhealthy. No long term relationship is built on lies or deception.

    1. lets_be_honest says:

      Duh! We all know its based on agreeing to no mutual masturbation with third parties! Come on LW, you should know this.

  21. Painted_lady says:

    Oh, and one more thing: don’t do the “supportive girlfriend” thing, where you’re “there” for someone no matter how shitty they are to you. People going through a rough time may be preoccupied, they may have less time for you, they have less emotional energy for you…but they don’t magically morph into straight-up shitty people and partners unless they already are those things. Sometimes women (probably men, too, but I think women are more prone) think if they just become the most understanding, most supportive girlfriend who asks absolutely nothing and lets her boyfriend do exactly what he wants, always, THEN he’ll want her. And even if it were true, which it isn’t, who wants to give up all their own needs and be subsumed by their partner?

    1. Oh my gosh yes to this!!! That happened when I was with my ex too. I just wanted him to be happy…I “knew” I could be the one to make him happy…and it saddens me now how much I thought I was willing to sacrifice for him. Never again.

  22. quixoticbeatnik says:

    He doesn’t want to be with you. If he WANTED to be with you, he would be acting like a much better boyfriend! He’s not asking if you want a break because he’s concerned about your emotional well-being, he wants to BREAK UP WITH YOU. He’s just cowardly and can’t outright say it. Break up with him, let go, move on. Be with someone who wants to be with you.

    I wish people could be more straightforward about what they want. It would save so much unnecessary drama and heartache.

  23. Avatar photo Crochet.Ninja says:

    you need to back off. he’s trying to tell you he needs space. and yes, that space may be forever. i understand your feelings, and you feel like if you just stick by him and love him ‘enough’ that it will work out. it doesn’t work that way unfortunately, i’ve been there.

    take that break and leave him alone for awhile.

  24. quixoticbeatnik says:

    Also, he’s trying to get a life again without you. He’s being friendly to everyone because he wants to hang out with people who aren’t you. He’s telling your friends he wants to break up with you!!!

  25. LW, you need to move on. Taking a break is code for “breaking up'”. He wants out of the relationship. True, he should be more direct about it, but some people just aren’t direct. Take the hint and MOA. Otherwise, you will be the stalker ex-girlfriend who wouldn’t let go.

    1. I kind of feel like it has come to that already . . . “the ex-girlfriend who wouldn’t let go” . . .

  26. *headdesk*

    LW, this guy has tried to break it off with you four times in the last 4-6 months. Just because you don’t agree doesn’t mean that you get your way. It still means you’re broken up. This guy is being too nice by allowing the farce of a relationship to continue. Sure, he needs to be more direct and 100% honest by saying “I’m breaking up with you”, but you also need to take a hint and realize that he is trying to break up with you and you are a stage-5 clinger right now.

    Move on. He has passively broken up with you 4 times now. It’s time to walk away and stop contacting him. Let this guy do what he’s going to do, and you find someone else out there who actually wants to be with you.

  27. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

    It’s weird to me how little pride people have. Like if someone broke up with me I would do approximately zero begging to get them back. Fuck em. I mean I understand maybe a little begging at the beginning. Promises to change whatever they think you’re doing wrong. But after like a week? You get over it and salvage what little shame you have left. I am surprised so many LW’s have so little pride.

    1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      See now, I wish I were more like you. I mean, when someone breaks my heart, I can certainly say “fuck em” but I wish a truly felt it.

      1. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

        Addie Pray you just feel too much and too deeply.

      2. Me too. I can’t just let it go. I’m not proud of the fact that I practically begged my ex to take me back, but I’m now REALLY glad we broke up.

    2. Painted_lady says:

      It’s certainly not my proudest moment, but I’ve done it. Being in a relationship was the *only* thing I liked about my life. Of course, I didn’t realize that the relationship was so miserable that it was a huge part of why I didn’t like my life. It just felt like, “Holy shit, you can’t leave! This is all I’ve got left.” It wasn’t about pride; it was about self-preservation.

      As well, I was always really susceptible to being made to feel like I was too much trouble. I can go into why, but suffice to say it’s just something I’ve always struggled with, and in that particular relationship, my ex would throw out, “It’s like you think we’re married!” or similar to shut down any requests that I had, like letting me know if he was going to be two hours late for lunch, or not allowing his roommate to insult me without saying a word, or asking that we sometimes stay the night at my place because staying at his place meant I woke up at 4:30 instead of 6:00 because of driving and showering and all. So it honestly seemed like I was the reason we’d had problems, and if I could just be less needy, then we would work out. It was awful, and I was so lucky he did me the favor of dumping me and refusing to take me back…but it definitely isn’t as simple as having no pride.

      1. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

        I mean I get that it’s not that simple. But at some point when you were begging weren’t you ever like – wow this is really pathetic. I am begging someone to take me back that kind of treats me like shit. Maybe next time I think it’s a good idea to text him I should text X person instead to save me from myself.

      2. I didn’t realize how ridiculous it was until I had time to process everything. I don’t think I would ever beg someone to take me back now, but at that time I had so little relationship experience I didn’t realize that other people would love me. It’s sad but true. I was so scared of being by myself for a variety of reasons, but now I realize being single is SO MUCH BETTER than being in a crappy relationship. After my last boyfriend and I broke up I just let him go immediately. He actually begged me to take him back in a weird way later but I flat-out turned him down…

      3. quixoticbeatnik says:

        I think love just blinds you. With my ex boyfriend, I broke up with him and never once thought about getting back together with him. I had fallen out of love with him and I knew it was the end. Thankfully he didn’t beg me to take him back, although when we broke up he did say he would give me time (like he thought I would change my mind) and I was like, nope, we are breaking up. The first guy I loved though, I really thought we’d be together. I was just crazy about him and ignored the obvious truth. I didn’t beg him, but I can understand the feelings why.

      4. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

        I guess maybe to explain it better I get the pathetic feelings. I’m pretty sure everyone has pathetic moments after break-ups. I’ve had them – like those crazy thoughts where you really think no one else will ever love you again and you’ll never want to have sex with anyone else ever again and you’re going to die alone and your friends will quit hanging out with you because you’re a single and blah blah blah. I definitely understand that weird place your brain takes you after heartbreak – I just don’t understand the actions. I’ve never really acted on those feelings. I’ve never been like – I need to get them to get back together with me even though they publicly broke up with me and have made it known they do not want to hang out with me again. (For me that’s always been the hardest part about a break up – it is literally the other person saying they don’t want to spend their time with you anymore. So sad.)

      5. Painted_lady says:

        No, that’s exactly what I’m saying: I literally did not get that *I* was not the problem. I felt like if I’d had fewer needs – which in retrospect were TOTALLY reasonable – then there would not have been a problem. I didn’t see that I was being reasonable and he wanted me to just quit asking for things altogether and let him do what he wanted without consequences. But because of the way my brain works (which I’ve worked to change and fall into that trap much less) I was manipulated into thinking that I was needy and pressuring him into more commitment than he wanted. OF COURSE now I see I was asking for basic consideration, but kind of like in an abusive relationship, you start feeling like the outbursts are your fault, I felt like I was the one who was causing trouble. And now I feel stupid and angry with myself for not dumping him because he treated me like shit, but I couldn’t see that just after it had happened.

  28. LW, this is a hard lesson to learn but we all learn it. A guy can act one way when you are being intimate and another way when you have cooler heads. He can text you all the time and still want to play the field. He can like you a lot and not be ready for a commitment. He is coming over for an easy lay. It is easier to stay together than deal with the headache of a breakup. I am sorry that you are learning this the hard way.

    1. I would be shocked if they were having sex right now, actually, given what she says about all his emotional issues. Sometimes men don’t love women and it has nothing to do with using them for sex…

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