My boyfriend and I have been together for nearly five years. It goes along great, and then something happens and he walks away. Then, it’s usually me who reaches back out. We find our way back to each other only to “rinse and repeat.” It’s a vicious cycle and has become the norm, unfortunately. He wants a commitment of marriage and so do I, but it’s hard to give him that commitment when he is ALWAYS the one walking away. It’s never me.
Recently, his apartment lease was up and he said he wanted to move in with me. He also wanted to move in his 18-year-old son who just started to live with him a few weeks ago. (Prior to this, his son lived with his ex-wife for nearly 4 years.) I told him I didn’t think it was a good idea, but I wanted to continue to see him while he got closer to his son. He didn’t like what I had to say, so here we go again with not talking.
We’ve exchanged a couple of text messages and I’ve seen him once for lunch. When we saw each other, he said he wanted us to talk with a therapist. I agreed. Days went by and I didn’t hear back from him. I texted him to ask about the therapist meeting. His response: “I’m focusing my attention on my work and raising my son right now.” So, yes, in other words he doesn’t have time for me.
So here goes my question: Do I let it go and wait for him to contact me? Do I reach out to end it all for good letting him know that I deserve attention and, since I’m not getting it, I’m walking away for good?
I really do love him, but I am just not so sure what’s the next best step to take. — On and Off
Yes, I have given you relationship advice before. In fact, since June, 2015, I have given you advice on the same relationship dilemma with the same on-and-off boyfriend four times — once here when you asked if you should beg him to come back, once here when you complained about him emotionally abandoning you, once in a now-deleted forum thread when he said he just wanted to be your friend and you asked “Should I continue the relationship ‘as is’ and give him the space he seems to need hoping for a change of heart? Should I go back to him and say that I can’t be friends because I was happy when we were a couple, and wish him the best of luck walking away once and for all?,” and once in a private email thread with you back in June, 2016, in which you wrote:
My boyfriend and I broke up about two months ago after a 4-year relationship. He was ready to be married. I wasn’t. I had just been through a divorce after being married for 25 years and my mom was very sick and passed away. I want him back in my life, and have read all the relationship blogs I can get my hands on.
During our relationship, he would get frustrated and give me the silent treatment. We eventually worked things out each time, but only when I initiated things.
The current state of our relationship is that we are texting and say we will be here for one another as time goes on. We are going to a concert in a few weeks – but, I think, as friends.
I want to tell him how I really feel. Should I do that, or just give it more time?
Sound familiar? The abandonment, the “just being friends,” the waiting for him to initiate a reconciliation, the wondering if you should just give it more time. I told you then, for the third time, to move on. Clearly, you didn’t listen to me. Each time you’ve written to me — each time you complained about the boyfriend emotionally abandoning you, walking away, taking back your engagement ring, and just generally treating you like shit–I told you to MOA. For over two years, I’ve been telling you to MOA. And you keep ignoring my advice. You keep going back to this guy who keeps leaving you. Why do you keep doing the same thing? Why do you keep going back to him? Why do you keep writing to me and ignoring my advice? Are you expecting me to tell you something different? Do you think I have something to say that will magically make your boyfriend a gentleman who cares about you and your feelings? I don’t. No one does. It’s been five years. This is your relationship and it’s not going to change. And this is the fifth and final time I’m going to tell you this: MOA. And get yourself to therapy. Like, individual therapy, not couples therapy that the dude is too busy to attend.
If you don’t finally follow this advice, you will continue indefinitely the same soul-sucking, dead-end pattern you’ve been engaging in for five years and it will be entirely your own fault. Seriously, lose his phone number, block his email, disengage on every single level, and once and for all MOA and focus on creating a life for yourself outside this emotional purgatory you’ve been living in for years.
Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.
Lianne September 7, 2017, 9:40 am
Jesus. I have to wonder, though. Is this abandonment really out of the blue? Is there nothing done on the LW’s part to warrant him leaving? I think about the times I’ve been in shitty relationships with guys who won’t commit and walked away and then having them reach back out to me…Anyway…It takes two to tango and clearly this is just one side of a story.
LisforLeslie September 8, 2017, 7:26 am
It’s a form of control and emotional detachment. I have a friend whose husband does the same thing. They have a fight and then he gives her the silent treatment. Sleep in another bedroom. Live completely separate lives until he eventually comes around.
MissDre September 7, 2017, 9:58 am
Why KEEP writing in if you so clearly don’t like or don’t want to follow the advice given?
Essie September 7, 2017, 10:04 am
LW, this is not a choice between staying with your boyfriend or being alone forever.
This is a choice between staying in a situation that’s making you miserable, or freeing yourself to find the kind of relationship you want.
Every day that you stay with this guy is a day you’re missing out on the life you want. Think about it. Every day, another chance to have the life you want is lost. Because you’re clinging to a loser who really isn’t that into you. If he was, he wouldn’t keep walking away.
artsygirl September 7, 2017, 10:23 am
Despite your BF being old enough to have an adult son, he is clearly not a mature adult. He wants to punish you every time you don’t give him an answer he wants. Half of your relationship has been on/off with him walking out when it gets tough. Imagine how it will be when you actually have problems most married coupes face (health, financial, family, etc). Please stop writing in and actually FIX this situation because as Wendy points out, just writing in will not actually stop the pattern. You are lucky enough to be able to make the break easily – you are not married, you do not live together, and he has already walked away. Just loose his number and stop chasing the damn guy and move on
Leslie Joan September 7, 2017, 10:40 am
LW, I really have to wonder what your family of origin was like, and what your marriage was like, for you to be so stuck on this years-long relationship with the same miserable on-again, off-again, push-pull relationship. I also have to wonder if anyone else has called you out on your own shit, because I’m not even remotely convinced that your claim that “he’s ALLLWAYS the one who winds up leaving “(sob, wring hanky), and never you. When someone gives you an engagement ring, and you accept, and he goes around telling people you are engaged, and you go around telling people it’s something else, don’t try to act as though you are just a passenger on this bus, and he’s the only one driving, and you’re a perpetual victim, and woe is you, and boo hoo hoo. Simple fact is, you are both meeting some screwed up need in each other, and so I can safely guarantee that this same old shit’s gonna keep happening, over and over and over again. Until and unless you do the work to heal yourself from whatever is eating at you (pattern of controlling menfolk in your family, perhaps?), nothing is going to change.
Think of your daughter if you can’t think of yourself. You’re showing her what kind of treatment to expect. You need to get some serious counseling and quit playing the game you’re participating in. You are part of the problem. Quit whining about him and deal with your own issues. They are what keep you in this relationship you claim not to like, but which I’ll bet is very familiar to you.
Leslie Joan September 7, 2017, 10:45 am
By the way, I’m not meaning to suggest that you should have let him move in or should have accepted his bullshit marriage proposal. You did the right thing not to. But the silent treatment is punishment, and a control device, and you surely must know this. So years of this means you know what’s going on and are an active participant. If you weren’t, you’d be gone instead of crying repeatedly for advice you are not going to take, and trying so so hard to make him look like the bad guy when all you need to do is move the frig on.
RedroverRedrover September 7, 2017, 11:45 am
This last paragraph is exactly what I was going to say. You are half of this behaviour. He does it, you ACCEPT it. You’ve told him you accept it, because every time he does it, YOU go back. That’s a tacit agreement. That’s saying “you can keep this up and I will always come back”. Why on earth would he bother treating you any different? He’s doing what he wants, and you’re sticking around for it. Sure, you probably complain, but you don’t leave. It’s a small price to pay, he just has to listen to you being upset, and then it blows over, and then you’re back in the relationship with him.
The only way to tell him that you won’t put up with it, is to *actually* not put up with it. Which means not going back.
Kate September 7, 2017, 10:51 am
Spoiler Alert: This will never work. No matter what you do. I’ve actually been in this kind of a relationshit. It lasted 8 years. I was always the one walking away and he always contacted me and sucked me back in. That push-pull dynamic created an artificial sense of a special connection that we must have, and that we just had to crack some code and it would work. It didn’t. It just kept getting worse and worse until I snapped and wanted nothing more to do with him. And then we each met someone else and got married to them.
Also there’s a very good chance he has another woman. Hear me out: I had a backup guy I was ALWAYS in contact with and would go see him / date him when things were “off” with my boyfriend.
Just fucking walk away.
Kate September 7, 2017, 10:56 am
PS, no, he most certainly does not want a commitment of marriage. It’s just something he talks about. If he wanted it, you would be married. He puts it on the table and then takes it away by demanding the ring back and breaking up with you. It is never going to happen.
Leslie Joan September 7, 2017, 1:33 pm
Love love love the term, “relationshit.”
But I think that they are both playing the same “I really really want to be married to you” game, and LW refuses to see her role in it. They are both paying lip service to what they claim they both want, and both looking to score blamey points off each other.
If LW really cared about ending the game playing she wouldn’t be wondering about making some grand declaration. She’d get solo counseling and block the guy. Instead, she’ll keep seeing him as oooh, just freeenzzz, bullshit.
CanadaGoose September 7, 2017, 11:11 am
No one can fix your problem but you and you know how to do it. You are both middle-aged- he isn’t changing. I am betting others in your life are more tired of hearing about this cycle you won’t fix than Wendy is. Take charge of your own happiness and walk away. Don’t make some grand declaration about it either. That’s just more drama and a thinly disguised “chase me please.”
Why the heck does an 18 year-old need raising? Support sure but active, time-consuming parenting? It’s all so dramatic. Get your drama from books and tv, and make room in your life for good people who treat you well.
Northern Star September 7, 2017, 12:00 pm
The best thing that could happen to you is your boyfriend deciding NOT to “find your way back to each other” anymore. Sure, you wouldn’t learn anything, and you’ll probably repeat the same pattern with someone new—but since you are choosing not to change, let’s just hope your boyfriend gets sick of this crap and ends things for good himself.
It’ll buy you a few weeks or months of NOT being in a lousy relationship.
Sunshine Brite September 7, 2017, 1:16 pm
How ridiculous… Listen to Wendy or be miserable. Not changing isn’t working
TheHizzy September 7, 2017, 1:39 pm
How lovely it would be for when he texts you, you reply with “New phone, who dis?”
Bittergaymark September 7, 2017, 3:38 pm
Eh, are we reading the same letter?
He wants to move in together. She says — NO. And somehow he is the one who fails to take the relationship seriously? Sounds to me more like she is addicted to drama. And is an unreliable narrator at best.
Sk September 11, 2017, 2:41 pm
Either way, they don’t want the same things. So the LW needs to move on.
carolann September 7, 2017, 4:53 pm
Sounds like both of them are addicted to drama. I guess some people never grow out of it. She said she was previously married for 25 years, so they must be in their 50s. (at least) She is far too old to put up with crap like this. Maybe it is time for her to be alone for a bit and seek therapy. She needs to learn what a healthy relationship is and isn’t. This definitely isnt.
Morecoffeeplease September 7, 2017, 8:43 pm
So pretty much when you do or say something that he doesn’t like he punishes you. You saying moving in together right now isn’t a good time was absolutely the right thing to say. This man wants control and wants to be right all the time and when someone goes against him he just wants to punish them. You do not want to spend your life with this man. He will just do this to you over and over for the rest of your life. Definitely leave him for good and open your heart to a guy who will treat you right and respect you and handle conflict in a mature way.
LisforLeslie September 8, 2017, 7:34 am
LW see my note above. Marriage does not change this. Moving in does not change this. My friend’s husband barely spoke to her for a YEAR because he was upset about something. I wish I were exaggerating. He’s got issues. She knows he has issues. She loves him desperately. I’m convinced he pushes her away to prove that he’s totally unlovable and will end up alone, because he has issues. She’s committed to showing him that she loves him. She is not a weak woman. She comes from a loving and solid family. But she also knows that when this shit happens, I am not going to give her a pity party. I’m going to tell her she knew this going into her marriage.
Just get out.
Sk September 11, 2017, 2:38 pm
After all of this, I think we can MOA from this LW after this letter. It’s in their hands now and we’ll be setting the right example. Good luck to them, I’m confident they will figure things out