“He’s Asked for Space. Should I Prepare for the Worst?”

I’ve recently started seeing somebody who lost his best friend and nearly lost his brother in a car accident a year ago today. We’ve been together for about five months and other than the usual hiccups in a relationship we’ve done well. We’ve both promised one another to stick it out through the difficult times to form a strong, healthy relationship. We had a disagreement about five days ago and I’m wondering if his sudden need for space is because of his grief. He was supposed to be in the car with his best friend and brother the day the fatal accident occurred but decided at the last minute not to join them. He always talks about his best friend who passed, has two tattoos dedicated to him, and how his brother suffers from brain damage even now. He has told me he needs time to think and decide where this relationship is going to go and if we will continue the relationship. He’s been cold and distant the past few days, and I’m not sure if I should wait or if I should prepare for the worst. I’ve let him know I’m here if he needs/wants to talk but otherwise I have backed off. Is there anything else I can do? — Sticking it Out

Any anniversary, but especially the first anniversary of losing someone important, can be pretty tough to get through. In the days, and sometimes even weeks, leading up to the date, it’s not uncommon for the grieving person to feel a range of deep emotions and to desire solitude to process these complicated feelings. So, yes, your boyfriend’s “sudden need for space” is very likely related to the first anniversary of the fatal accident that took his best friend and changed the course of his brother’s life as well as his. The best thing you can do is to respect his need for space and back off a bit. For the next week or two, don’t ask anything of him and don’t expect him to be there for you. You can send occasional texts, but keep them brief and don’t attach them with an exception of return communication. A simple: “Hey, just checking in and letting you know I’m thinking of you. Hope you’re hanging in there” gets the job done. But don’t overdo it – a text every three days or so is enough. He will reach out again when he’s ready and he’ll appreciate that you gave him the space he needed.

In general, five months into a relationship is way to soon to “promise to stick it ouut through the tough times.” That’s putting a lot of pressure on yourselves and on a relationship that is so new and between two people who are still getting to know each other. Keep things a little more casual for now and save a commitment like that for when you’ve gotten to know each other better and have a stronger foundation to stand on.

My boyfriend moved 500 miles away for a better job. We talked it over for a month before he left and came to the decision that, since we lived together, I would move in with my parents temporarily and start looking for a job in the city he moved to. He has been very thoughtful in all of this; he found an apartment we both would like (which I am currently giving him money towards), he took our pets with him, and when I visit him, he treats me to restaurants and activities he knows that I will like. He even goes so far as to stock up the fridge with foods he knows I love! He tells me that whatever I want to do he’ll support me and has even said that, if I ever wanted to stop working one day, he would take care of me. What’s not to love about a thoughtful man that you know you could go to with your every problem?

Now here’s the problem: He is absolutely stressing me out. He has put so much pressure on me to move immediately because he thinks if I wait too long we won’t work. I think he might be afraid of losing me. We also fight constantly about the dumbest things, and he has always been very pushy and very opinionated to the point that at times I’m not sure that I agree with him on his perspective towards life. He pushed me into moving in with him earlier than I wanted to. He is very introverted, so I have to pull answers out of him. He is also very sensitive, so the smallest things just upset him. I also think I have lost my attraction to him; we are rarely intimate and, when we are, I’m just not that into it/him/the act. He’s gained a lot of weight since we started dating, and he wasn’t that small to begin with.

Now I’m being interviewed for a job that would open up so many possibilities in my career, but it may require me to move to a different city than where my boyfriend is. I am so emotionally conflicted and am unsure what to do! Part of me wants to break up with him, but part of me loves him too much and can’t imagine my life without him! Help! — Emotionally Conflicted

It doesn’t sound like you love him as a romantic partner. You aren’t attracted to him. He stresses you out. You fight constantly and don’t seem to share values or perspectives. It doesn’t even sound like you respect him very much or enjoy his company. But you are entertaining the thought of spending your life with him? It sounds to me like you’re hanging on to him because he’s safe. You know he’s there if/when you need him. There’s something about being with someone who seems more into you than you are into him, and that something is security or insurance. You don’t worry about being dumped, basically. But at the same time, you’ve got all these other emotions you’re describing which all sound like dissatisfaction. This relationship may be safe, but it doesn’t fulfill you; it doesn’t bring you joy. And, you know what? It probably doesn’t fulfill your boyfriend or bring him joy either. Because there’s something about being with someone whose feelings are significantly weaker for you, and that something is also dissatisfaction with a hearty sprinkling of inferiority. It’s a pretty miserable and confusing position to be in, and you are doing your boyfriend zero favors by keeping him there.

I say let the poor guy go and find someone who will really be into him and not just into him as a support system and good friend.

My boyfriend and I have been living together for the past two years. We’ve talked about getting married and having kids. As he has allowed me to focus on school, he has also been pursuing his own career of a cobbler/shoe designer. It all started through social media, project after project. I love to see him succeed and reach his goals. Lately, he has even made it into a couple magazines from all over the world. With his “fame,” he has become even busier and I feel like I’m not getting as much attention from him as I used to. I feel alone a lot of the time, even with him next to me (of course, on his phone, working).

I want to see him succeed while not getting in the way. But trying to get his attention seems to start arguments. How do I know when it’s time to step back and let him focus on his career and for us to go our separate paths? — Feeling Neglected

When your needs are continually not being met and your significant other has made it clear he can’t make you the priority you deserve to be.

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

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