He loves me and pushes me away

Visitor's Question from a 21-30 year old Female
My boyfriend and I have been together for about 2yrs. We are both in college and he graduates in the spring (i'm a sophmore). Our relationship has always been great until about four months ago. We are both really busy b/c he played college golf and is now the assisant girls basketball coach at our college, and I play college soccer and softball--one of us is always in season and gone a lot. No matter what, we have always made time for each other before.

Two weeks ago, we decided to be just friends for a while so that he could concentrate on graduation and basketball (so he could get a good job next year). I didn't like the idea at first, but he said that he was not giving me enough attention and time right now and he said that he couldn't do that to me like he has all this year. Well, if he needed his space and time, I was going to give him what he needed.

I've felt horrible since then...we still talk on the internet and at school, but it's not the same. I've felt so bad that I wrote him this long letter about how I felt and what I wanted. After that, we talked face to face and the situation still has not gotten better. He says that he loves me and always will...he just can't put me through all his pains and troubles right now. I love him so much, but I don't know what to do. He talks about having a serious relationship and wanting to be with me and how much he loves me....but we aren't together. Why? Does he still love me or is he just trying to push me away gently? I love him too much to distinguish for myself, because I do believe that he loves me and will eventually ask me to marry him once he's graduated and has a job. Am I just blinded by my love for him?

RomanceClass.com Advice
Hmmmmm. Just about every life nowadays is full of busy schedules and busy people. Even married couples that live together can be really busy with work, hobbies, projects and so on. So what you had before with your sports was relatively normal - you were juggling things on your schedules. And you worked to make time for each other when you could, which is the real life solution.

I can understand him saying "I don't feel like I am giving you enough time". That's a common enough discussion in most relationships! But I don't understand him saying "therefore we won't date." What does not dating solve? If it means "you now can see other people in that time" that's not a pause in a relationship, it's an ending. And he should have said that clearly if he meant that. If it DOESN'T mean you aren't seeing other people, what's the point of pausing? There are people out there who probably see less of each other than you two who are in serious relationships, even married. Lots of married people spend months apart because of jobs or other things. They don't say "let's be unmarried for a while because we're not side by side every second." They say, "We love each other and sure we can't be together, but that doesn't affect our love. We'll just stay in contact as much as we can."

So in a way he's saying, "I have other things I want to do with my time. I don't want to feel guilty about choosing to spend time on other things and not on you. Therefore I'm saying I'm not dating you, so that way I don't feel obligated to see you when I have spare time." But love is about *dealing* with things like absence. And it's about being there for each other, for better or for worse, not about saying "Oh wait, things are tough, let's call it off for a while until they get better." If you can't get through something like "busy schedules" now, what does that mean when you hit real issues later on? Do you just wave bye to each other then, too? If he's keeping you as a serious / best friend, how is he sparing you his pains and troubles? Hopefully you're still there caring for him. If anything, he has caused you more pain by cutting you off, and he is sparing himself the guilt when he chooses not to be with you because he feels he doesn't "have to" now.

I'm assuming here that you haven't been pressuring him with "we don't spend enough time together!" sorts of complaining, that would have pushed him into this. If you have been, then that might explain why he tried to take a break, to take that stress off of him.

So I would recommend sitting down with him at a quiet time when you both can talk. Approach this as a "together we" discussion and NOT a "but you ..." discussion. You want to make this something you can solve together, not an attack on why he is doing this. Say that you know you both love each other and care for each other, and that you assume neither of you have interest in dating someone else right now. And that you know you both are busy. But that many, many people are quite happily committed even though physically they cannot be together often or even at all for stretches of time. That the commitment between you two is very important to you, and that your level of commitment doesn't change just because you are together more or less hours a week. And that you feel that level of commitment for him now, just as you did a few weeks ago (i.e. before this 'break'). That you feel, that together, the two of you can maintain your commitment in your relationship even though you aren't together much. It's sort of a virtual 'business trip' for him, where he is busy with other things for a block of time, but you're still together as a couple.

And then ask him his feelings on this, and try not to interrupt. Encourage him to talk and say you understand what he's saying. Draw him out. Ask him (again in an encouraging way) what it was he felt was interfering with the commitment. Was it just the fact that you weren't together much? Really, that's part of just about every relationship at one time or another. It shouldn't affect the commitment of you two. Was it something else? Something must have triggered this decision in him. Get him to talk about it, and then talk together about how you can ease his fears. Hopefully once he admits to whatever was really bothering him, and you discuss it, he'll realize that it really is something the two of you can work through.

Hopefully you can find a solution that works well for you both. But really, if you both love each other, want to be with each other in the future and don't intend to date other people now, I'm not sure what the point in 'breaking up' was. Sure, you can't be together all the time. Nobody can in real life :) And learning to deal with that is a pretty important life lesson to learn. Better to learn it now, when you're in a supportive environment for it, rather than later on when he's off on a 6 month business trip and you're home alone with screaming kids!

-- from Jenn
One of Your Friendly Advisors at RomanceClass.com

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