Did He Break Up?

Q: I and my boyfriend of two years were going to move in together. Then about 4 weeks ago, he called and said he "can't do this anymore" and, not in so many words, he said he wanted to end our relationship. I was caught completely off guard. I didn't hear from him for over a week, and when he called it was a conversation of awkward pleasantries. Nothing was said about what had happened or about picking up our things from each other. He has been under a lot of work-related stress and found out that his ex-wife is getting remarried. Should I hold out any hope that this relationship can be saved? Or should I just wait for his call to "come get my things," believing that it is over for good? I'm very confused about his handling of the whole thing. -- Mandy, 37

Dr. Susan: In a relationship, things can go along smoothly, one step leading to the next without either of you thinking too deeply about it, until it seems inevitable that you'll move in together and sooner or later get married. That very sense of inevitability can make some men (or women) stop and change their mind on a dime. All jobs cause stress at times, so I wouldn't accept that as an excuse for inconsiderate behavior or for not being able to deal with a relationship that's been going well. Nor should the remarriage of his ex-wife be all that traumatic if he's in love with someone new (i.e., you).

So here you are, ready to take the next step, and he suddenly realizes he doesn't want to commit at that level. Rather than take the time to discuss his ambivalent feelings with you, he comes up with the lazy explanation of not being able to "do this anymore." I wonder why "nothing was said" about his apparent breaking up with you. Why didn't you come right out and ask him what was going on? After two years together, you both should be comfortable enough to speak your minds. So where does that leave you now? I wouldn't sit around hoping or waiting for his call. Take charge of your own life and pick up the phone. If he says it's over, believe him and move on. If he says he just needs some time (a common excuse for getting away), don't accept that "as is." Agree to meet with him, talk over what's in his mind and yours, and then, if that's the way it has to be, exchange your belongings and tie up the loose ends. He owes you clarity and consideration, and you owe yourself a more active role in your own life. The days of women waiting for that darn phone to ring should be long gone by now.

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