Perfect Relationship Ends Suddenly
Q: My boyfriend of two years (he's 33, I'm 27) broke up with me last week. We've had an incredible, committed, enjoyable, enviable relationship and never fought, always appreciated each other and were so happy. We've had some rough patches to deal with -- we live 35 miles apart and both have busy schedules; his job is exceptionally challenging and I scheduled around him. I brought up moving in together at the 1.5 year mark, as my roommate was moving out and it seemed like a natural step. He wasn't ready, but loved me and wanted to continue with us. Last week he told me that he thinks that at 33 and in a 2-year relationship, he should have a clear picture of the future, our future. And he does not. He's afraid we'll be at this same stage in 6 months or 12 months and it would be so much harder then. I never pressured him, but he said he feared that was a problem, since we were both okay with the status quo. We both cried, we're both hurting and I know this was not easy for him. If he can't commit now, then he can't. And I get it. But I feel so terrible and so lost without him. I thought I'd be with him forever. And while I know that love isn't all a relationship needs and maybe I wasn't the one for him and maybe this is about timing, not me, I know that it hurts in the end. That work doesn't matter, commitments, money, nothing. It's sharing your life with someone. People fight and pray for what we had, and he's walking away because he is afraid of the unknown and unsure about me. We're not in contact now, as I left it up to him to decide. Our parents and friends are shocked and sad. I am inconsolable. I want him to wake up and realize what he's giving up, but I can't do a thing. -- Emily, 27
Dr. Susan: Some men drive their lovers crazy by sharing every anxiety. One man knows his girlfriend used to enjoy flirting, so what if she will always crave the attention of other men? Another feels he's missing some magic spark he'd always imagined he'd have in a relationship. Yet another comes right out and tells you that you're not as smart or as attractive or as funny as he'd hoped, but he hangs in there for years because he really likes you a lot, and then he finally gains the courage to make the break. Then there's the other kind of guy who keeps such doubts to himself and then something happens and he springs it on you all at once: We're not going anywhere as a couple and I'm leaving.
Emily, I don't know what happened to make your boyfriend suddenly decide it was time to move on. He says that because he can't clearly picture the two of you together in the future, and that you're both okay with the status quo, that somehow that means it's not meant to be. I have to say that he's possibly nuts, if all the good things you say about the relationship are true. That is, unless you've been a bit deluded all this time and he's been giving hints of dissatisfaction that you haven't taken note of. Such things do happen.
At 33, and after two years together, he's certainly old enough and knows you well enough to commit. But there's no accounting for a man's fears. He sounds as though he's expecting something beyond the ordinary to happen when he's "really" in love. Sometimes a man will leave a great relationship and then fairly quickly fall in love with and marry someone not nearly as good for him, because his brain and hormones are swayed by the feelings a new lover causes in him, feelings he also had for you at first. But what can you do? Nothing. His expectations are unreal, he's a coward, and he doesn't realize what he's giving up. Or else he's not telling the whole truth. Either way, the pain you're going through is beyond words, and all you can do is survive it. If you've been able to have this good of a relationship with one man, eventually you'll be able to have one with a man who is able to match your level of commitment.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.