I love him. But can we still do this?
January 11, 2011 9:40 AM   Subscribe

How can you tell for sure whether you are still in love with someone? How hard should I try to find out?

I've been in a relationship for almost eight years. The last year has been really rough. My partner, Ryan, went through several different crises where he wasn't sure he wanted to stay together. We did this in April, then again in July, then again in December. Each time, I was definitely intent on staying together, but each time he dragged it out just to the breaking point of my endurance before the elastic snapped back and he decided he really, really did want to stay. He's had a hard couple of years (grad school, personal loss, health problems) independent of our relationship that have heaped a lot of stress onto him, and that's been a big factor in his indecision.

This also happened one other time, four years ago; back then it resulted in him actually moving out for a year -- though on the day he moved, he told me he'd already realized that he'd made a mistake, and that he'd do everything he could to find a way to stay together (and to his credit, he really did put in that work and we had several happy years as a result).

The last few weeks we were on a break from each other, which I had begun to assume was permanent, and I started doing the kinds of things that one does to try and recover from the end of a LTR. He called me Thursday and said that he'd decided that he'd realized once and for all that we should be together. I invited him to come stay with me for the weekend and discuss it, we had a really nice time with some really probing, candid conversations about our relationship. I still love him, I still feel like we belong together, but naturally I have had enough distance and disappointment to make it hard to trust that anything will change. We have talked about this pattern of his, and he says he's starting to understand and work on that part of himself.

I get so many conflicting opinions. On one hand I keep hearing that the seven year mark is murder on relationships, and that freak-outs like we've had are not uncommon. Also I know perfectly well that in order to love someone in the long term you have to get to know and accept their limitations and work around or in concert with them. And I love this person deeply, and can't imagine achieving this level of intimacy with anyone else, ever again. We are an amazing match, I respect him utterly.

And yet I feel a sort of dull ache sometimes when I imagine the future, because I'm afraid of going through the same whole circus again, especially when I have invested so much effort already into shoring up my identity as a newly single person. I'm afraid of moving backward, back to the dark places we were last year, and losing my confidence.

So how do I decide what to do? I told him that, at this point, I am only interested in going forward if he can, like, promise that we won't end up right back where we are. And I was clear with him that it would take some time for me to build up the trust necessary to really imagine a future together again. My ambivalence knows no bounds, but because of the emotional back-and-forth, I don't know what part of myself to trust. Which is scary, with such big decisions to be made! He's a wonderful person, and I don't want to hurt him unnecessarily.

I think we are good candidates for couples counseling, but he's in a college program in a neighboring state for the next few months, and our pattern of weekend visits makes that a very difficult, sporadic option. My friends are supportive (and are sympathetic to me, mostly) but I am afraid of wearing out their goodwill with the constant back-and-forth.
posted by Julia F***ing Sugarbaker to Human Relations (31 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Are there any other parties involved? Either you or him?

If so, I would not consider him to be a good candidate for the long term.
posted by AuntieRuth at 9:46 AM on January 11, 2011

Obviously, he can’t promise that this will never happen again.

You don’t say how old you guys are, but if he’s in college and you’ve been together for eight years, chances are you were very, very young when you started dating. Perhaps you’re not as good a fit as adults as you were as teenagers, if that’s the case.

At some point, you have to put your foot down. Are you willing to let this guy jerk you around? In good relationships, grad schook, personal loss, and health problems aren’t independent of your relationship. It’s all tied up.

As to the 7 year itch thing, many, many couples never experience anything like that. The myth is whatever you decide to make of it.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:46 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ahh ... I feel badly for you. My initial reaction is to advise you to cut your losses and get clear. I don't know what assurance he can give you that he won't act out this way again. You sound like a terrific person and deserving of much better than this. He'll have no incentive to change for real and for good as long as you're at this beck and call ... so if I were you I'd bail, for real, walk through the pain, face it squarely, and get on with your life. I wish you well.
posted by charris5005 at 9:46 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I feel a sort of dull ache sometimes when I imagine the future

This, for me, would be a dealbreaker. Obviously, I'm not you, but that dull ache is a warning, and you disregard it at your own risk.

I am only interested in going forward if he can, like, promise that we won't end up right back where we are.

If he promises you this, will you believe him?

He's a wonderful person, and I don't want to hurt him unnecessarily.

If he were writing an AskMe from his own POV, would he say the same about you? Would he mean it?
posted by Zozo at 9:46 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: We are 31 and 29.

There are no other parties involved

If he were writing an AskMe from his own POV, would he say the same about you? Would he mean it?

I do genuinely believe he would.
posted by Julia F***ing Sugarbaker at 9:49 AM on January 11, 2011

My rubric for deciding to stay together (aside from basic compatibilities) is whether or not things are truly--really and truly--getting better overall or not. Being willing to be self-reflective, being willing to work at things, making serious effort at that work--these are all signs that things will continue to get better, despite occasional setbacks.

I wouldn't extract any promises, because circumstances change and people change. He would probably mean it, but that doesn't mean you won't have another set-back in the future. I don't think that means you can't take the risk.
posted by RedEmma at 9:59 AM on January 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

"I'll going to let you in on a little secret. Being the One is like being love. No one can tell you you're in love, you just know it. Through and through. Balls to bones."

That is some good advice from the Oracle.
If you doubt it, then you ain't it.
posted by Flood at 10:00 AM on January 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

Ugh, I feel reticent to offer this kind of advice, but it's always alarming to see worries and blips obscure your vision.

Honestly, it sounds to me as if you love him still as much as you ever did. Couples counselling is the way, with both of you there. If you can't bear the stress of being around him in the interim, take a break until he can return.

He will never be in a position to promise devotion forever. You need to make your peace with this as you move on (with or without him).

I have absolutely no experience with this situation, so take this advice with the knowledge of my naiveté. But... I dunno... Your love and respect sorta shines through.

Take care of yourself and good luck.
posted by dumdidumdum at 10:10 AM on January 11, 2011

I think we are good candidates for couples counseling, but he's in a college program in a neighboring state for the next few months, and our pattern of weekend visits makes that a very difficult, sporadic option.

Here's your plan of action. Keep up with the weekend visits. Nothing really bad can come of that, and if it does, you'll have more data to act on. And if it's good, then you have more data, too.

When he's done with the program, if he comes back to your city, then you enter counseling. And then you evaluate again.

Basically ... you don't need to make a decision now ... so, don't.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:12 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I feel like it is completely reasonable given these details to establish the agreement with your partner that for your relationship to continue he has to commit to working through problems and stressful periods of life without without a drawn out, are-we-going-to-break-up-or-not crisis being on the table. For most people in fact that would be an unstated but very real, deal-breaker assumption of a long term, seriously committed relationship: that the serious consideration of a break-up with attendant actions like trial separations would happen only after the exhaustion of all other options and would be assumed to be leading to either a decisive break or a renewed relationship where the drama is maintained at a much more manageable level going forward.

If you take this route (and given what you say about your feelings about the relationship, I imagine you will), you will have to accept that if he can't or won't change, part of this is that he's probably going to be back after the "final" break up begging for one more chance and it's going to be down to you to stick to your guns.
posted by nanojath at 10:13 AM on January 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

If you doubt it, then you ain't it. I think that's baloney- are there really people out there who live this way? "If I have doubts at all, it must not be the right thing." Good for them who can live that way, but if I didn't do anything I had doubts about, I wouldn't do anything at all, ever, including get of bed (and I'm generally certain that getting out of bed is a mistake).

I think when it comes to long-term relationships, there are things you absolutely must have in order to make the relationship work. The two that come to my mind are commitment and trust. Your commitment to your partner and your trust that he's committed to you. Love, I don't know that you will always be able to pin that down at any particular moment, but you should always be able to check in and know that you're both in it 100%. I suppose there are people who live with less than that, but I know I couldn't.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:14 AM on January 11, 2011 [13 favorites]

I was once Ryan.

My boyfriend J and I were together from our early to late 20s. I vacillated in the relationship even though I loved him very much. For me, there were several factors at play.

I had a fear of commitment that I didn't know I had. My parents had divorced in my early teens and there was cheating involved. When I got too close to J, I felt squirrelly. I didn't know why, and I felt bad about myself. Both J and I thought of me as a flake. I felt he was very generous to love me anyway, and I didn't deserve it.

I was too young to make a lifetime commitment to someone. I am a late bloomer due to childhood verbal and psychological abuse. At the time, I didn't even realize my family wasn't normal. I thought they were right about me and I felt bad about who I was. I didn't really know who I was.

If you guys are typical grad school age, you've probably been together since high school or early college. If so, simply due to normal personality growth and change, you may have outgrown your compatibility. Ryan might be struggling against that fact, trying to stay with you out of love and attachment even though you're not right for each other anymore. He may not even understand what he's going through. I certainly didn't.

J and I were very compatible in many ways, but there were some big issues he had that might have been dealbreakers had I been a stronger person, and at least would have had to be worked out. He was often condescending and dismissive of my opinions, in a jokingly affectionate way, and wouldn't understand why that hurt me. He also refused to believe I couldn't just pull myself up by my bootstraps.

I bought this, to some degree, due to my low self-esteem at the time.

There could be issues of incompatibility in your relationship as well -- I mean, aside from the fact that you guys aren't on the same page with commitment.

But if you guys are willing to get counseling, I think it could do you a lot of good. (That never happened for me and J; he was against it).

You may discover that it's time to end the relationship after all, but doing it via therapy will help ease the heartbreak. Eight years is a long time, and you guys are attached no matter what.

Try Emotionally Focused Therapy and read Sue Johnson's book. She's the founder of EFT.

If the problem is just that Ryan is scared, and everything else is good between you, EFT can help save your relationship.
posted by xenophile at 10:15 AM on January 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

It sounds like you may need a break.

Imagine that your relationship is like a heavy piece of furniture that you've been trying to move together. He's had about three or four chances at "hang on, let me put this down and get a better grip on it." And each time, you were standing there holding on to your end and it was really heavy. And then he picked up his end and was all, "okay, let's go!" Sometimes, when that happens, the person who's been standing there needs to take a step back and re-adjust their OWN grip.

He's had plenty of chances to re-assess his own committment to the relationship, and you've been waiting patiently and giving him space to do that; I wonder if maybe you may want to take the space to re-asses your OWN commitment, and let HIM hold on for a while. Or, you BOTH put the sofa down for a little while.

Since he's out of town for a few months, maybe it's worth considering a trial separation for the both of you -- the equivalent of "let's both put the sofa down for a minute and get a soda". Then after you've both rested up a bit, then you can see where you each stand and see if it works together still.

good luck. I know this is the opposite of fun.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:16 AM on January 11, 2011 [20 favorites]

If you doubt it, then you ain't it.

That's cool it works for you like that but for a lot of people it doesn't.

I think you're in a tough situation. When you've been with someone so long you definitely can feel invested. You've experienced things with that person that only you can share. You both have done a lot of growing up together.

I think the problem is the pattern of "breaks" and how even a few times you thought it was over for good. How did you feel when it was "over?" Did you see yourself moving on and finding someone else? Did you feel more like you were losing a close friend or a brother rather than a lover and life partner?

He's not going to be able to promise that things won't repeat themselves. Sometimes someone needs a final swift kick in the pants to get things together. This might be what this is for him.
You need to do a lot of deep soul searching, without him involved fogging up your judgment. You need to see if you can envision yourself being happier with or without this person. If it's with him, that future happiness is something you need to be prepared to risk with his pattern of flake out behavior. If it's without him, you might want to do the counseling but it could be time to move on, even as tough as it is to feel like you are throwing 7 years away.

Whatever you do just make sure you take some time to figure things out since you took so much time arriving to this juncture in the first place.
posted by zephyr_words at 10:20 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Counsellors offer weekend appointments so that is not a barrier if you both think this is important.

You need to trust him, what can he do to earn that trust? For some,
that would be a proposal, purchasing real estate together or him transferring closer to you.

It is great you are so concerned with not hurting him but to be honest, he kinda sounds like he doesn't want to commit in case something better comes along but isn't mature enough to be honest. Or maybe he doesn't want to be the "bad guy" and would rather you broke it off.
posted by saucysault at 10:21 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's a good opportunity for you to weigh the pros and cons over the next few months while he's away, and just get comfortable with yourself again period. Don't worry about making a quick decision.

Being in a LTR relationship for such a long time, it's hard to remember what it's like to be single, which is something to think about when deciding to end things between you two. The pros being that you will discover how to be completely your own person again and put more effort into your other relationships with friends and family. The cons being that sense of loneliness and a void where your partner used to be, something that can take a long time to dissipate. And the con of the uncomfortable sense that you might never find someone again after you've been looking for a while... an irrational but significant emotional response.

And you can decide whether the good aspects of the relationship are worth the price of accepting the bad, or if you feel like leaving the relationship is ultimately worth the uncertainty of future singledom.

In his defense, eventually he will be out of school and you will be (presumably) able to move on to living together again with steady jobs and income, far less stress in the normal course of things. If you plan on children together though, they are guaranteed to present a time of emotional rollercoastering too, and you already know how he responds to stress. I would move forward with the understanding that his true nature won't change a great deal, you know who he is.
posted by lizbunny at 11:01 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

He has a firm and established pattern of taking his difficulties out on his intimate relationship with you.

If you think about it, the first thing he needs to jettison when he gets under extreme life stress is you. Extreme life stress will reappear in his life. He can not promise this scenario won't happen again. In fact, it may happen next time while you are buying a house together, having a kid, or dealing with a serious illness.

He may be a sweet, lovely guy. Yes. But his pattern is one of instability in his feelings towards you. No amount of therapy is going to change that. You don't want someone who has to brainwash themselves to stay with you, do you? You know that never works in the long run, right??

Your gut instinct is the one to follow here. Moving on is often slow process, but the rewards are exceptionally worthwhile in your case.

You're a lot more centered and mature these days than this fellow you've been with for the past eight years. Go find someone who can love you on the same level you are capable of.
posted by jbenben at 11:16 AM on January 11, 2011 [7 favorites]

No doubt you will get a variety of responses sharing anecdotes, but there isn't a science to relationships (even though we talk about it like there is) and we don't know either of you.

And I love this person deeply, and can't imagine achieving this level of intimacy with anyone else, ever again. We are an amazing match, I respect him utterly.

You love him and you want him right now. Do what you need to do to make yourself happy every day. If that's staying with him, then that is what it is. But I think you might need to accept his limitations and assess what that means for fulfilling your wishes with regard to this relationship.

You sound like you're afraid it will end. It might, it might not. No one knows.

You can't change or control him, but you can stop worrying, forget the past, and give him a chance, if that's what you really want. Start fresh. You will probably know when you're ready to leave or if you want to stay. You don't have to do so much worrying. Nobody knows what will happen. Just be strong, make yourself happy, and don't let it take over your life. The relationship isn't doomed necessarily and it's not necessarily going to morph into a fairytale. Just figure out his limitations as more time passes and figure out your own limitations and what you want. Make the decision from there.
posted by anniecat at 11:32 AM on January 11, 2011

On one hand I keep hearing that the seven year mark is murder on relationships, and that freak-outs like we've had are not uncommon.

Don't read relationship "research" and start freaking out. Take care of yourself and make yourself happy, focus on yourself and not on "working" on the relationship. That may actually calm the relationship down and is good for your own well-being. Plus, you get to be happy.
posted by anniecat at 11:34 AM on January 11, 2011

To answer your more general question about how to know you are "in love."....There are no universal feelings. How can we possibly even know that we experience "love" the same as the next person? I wish I could say, like many have above, that you either know or you don't. I actually have never believed that. If anything, the more universal feeling is the one you are having - people wondering if what they are experiencing is the real thing. Unfortunately, there's no blood test to come back negative or positive for "love." I know this doesn't help except to maybe help you realize that you're not alone when you ask that "how do I know?" question.

Good luck!
posted by Gerard Sorme at 12:12 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I can imagine a conversation that goes something like this---"I look forward to enjoying our relationship again, and feeling the trust rebuild as we enjoy the relationship together. The moment you express doubts through words or deeds -- assuming there's nothing you're willing to ask me to change, I'm going to lovingly leave this relationship.

You're allowed to have doubts--but I'd like you to Protect me from suffering with them. you can suffer with them, see a therapist, whatever you need to do. But protect me from it---again, unless there's something you're willing to ask me to change.

We've tried sharing the suffering, and I'm not going to do that again. I know that we'll never repeat that agonizing shared suffering again, because I'm not willing to do it again."
posted by vitabellosi at 1:33 PM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm afraid of going through the same whole circus again........ I'm afraid of moving backward,

I think you need to ask yourself how much fear your talking about and if you want to make decisions based on fear... i recommend against it.
posted by mrmarley at 1:39 PM on January 11, 2011

I've seen so many people, both here and IRL, make themselves miserable by focusing on their partner's motives. Ryan has a pattern of behavior in your relationship that's clearly been wearing on you, so much so that you aren't even happy when envisioning the future together. You are careful to supply his motives for continually breaking up with you - a combination of life stresses and general ambivalence about your relationship. Implicitly, you're telling us, and yourself, that, even though he's caused you a lot of distress, he's not a bad guy. And it sounds like he's not.

Here's the thing though (and I say this all the time on AskMe). People who keep breaking up with you and waffling about their commitment may not be bad people, but they will hurt you just as much as bad people will. More, sometimes, because you're more inclined to give them multiple chances.

I think you should take a break from this relationship for a little while. A real break, where you date other people. If you've been in this relationship for eight years, you may have forgotten what it's like to be with someone who doesn't do this to you. Long term relationships take work, this is true. But they shouldn't be work. The work can't be constant, and you shouldn't re-enter them with the same feeling that lots of people have during their Monday morning commute.
posted by Ragged Richard at 1:55 PM on January 11, 2011 [11 favorites]

at this point, I am only interested in going forward if he can, like, promise that we won't end up right back where we are.

He can't promise that. If he promises that, his promise is meaningless.

What he can promise is to work on it, but nobody can promise an outcome.

Since it seems impossible for you guys to work on it right now because of logistics, I myself would choose to take a break, but that's me.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:25 PM on January 11, 2011

A friend of mine was in a long term relationship with someone where they must have broken up and gotten back together literally 30 times or more within a year. Eventually they broke up for good. But it was a painful and toxic relationship. You're in a tough situation here because it's obvious that you want this relationship to work and you really love this guy. The problem is he's having his way with you and basically controlling the relationship. I think that when a couple breaks up and gets back together more then once, it's never a good sign for the relationship. There is no way, given his behavior in the past that you could ever count on this guy to be fully committed to you and this relationship. His behavior has shown that he's not. He seems to think it's ok to break up, see that you're awesome and then get back together. Clearly he has no respect for you or your feelings. While you may think this guy is right for you, it seems to me he's not. The right guy wouldn't come and go...multiple times. I'm sorry to say this, but I think you should end this relationship. At the very least if you decide to stay together, please tell yourself that if this sort of thing happens again you're never going back to this guy. Stop letting him take you on an emotional roller coaster. You deserve better.
posted by ljs30 at 2:58 PM on January 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

Cool Papa Bell points out that, given the distance, you don't need to sort this out perfectly right now. Which is true for practical reasons.

For emotional reasons, though? Several people above point out that he can't make this promise to you that you want, at least not such that it means anything.

So if you can't deal with the uncertainty then you need to call it quits. Otherwise, until such a time as you get some outside assistance, I think you need to just expect this back and forth to continue to happen. And recognize that you can impact nothing here other than how you behave in this situation - you have no power to prevent him from having another meltdown or twelve.

If you can tolerate that, stick it out. But personally I think this is the only part of your message that needs attention: "several different crises where he wasn't sure he wanted to stay together"

Adult relationships are 90% about whether you want to stay together. Maybe 99%. Because most of us don't have partners where everything is perfectly frictionless and we're both growing and changing in the exact same way. We make decisions every day about compromise and goals and values and the choices we make are different depending on if we're going to stay with this person. They're short-term decisions about what to argue about and long-term decisions about your life.

If he's constantly questioning whether he wants to stick around then what kind of decisions is he making?
posted by phearlez at 3:27 PM on January 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

I am a very firm believer in the idea that if something is meant to be, the universe will provide you with opportunities and the resources to make that thing happen. I believe this may be one of those opportunities, but not perhaps in the way that you might think.

As an outsider looking into your relationship based only on the information you've chosen to give to us, my gut reaction is that it's time for both of you to move on and begin to get to know yourselves independently of each other. Sure, couple's counseling might yield a few more months or maybe a few more years of renewed connection and harmony, but it also might send the two of you on a forced spiral into what might eventually be a break up for good. I think that to save the relationship that could be, you should actually take a full and official break from the relationship that is now, so that the two of you can take some time to invest in getting to know who each of you are so that if the time is right, you can revisit the possibility of getting back together later.

One of the best things about taking time away for yourself is that it gives you the chance to really start to sort and sift through a lot of the junk and clutter that builds up in our hearts and minds as we go through our adult lives. Shoot, lots of that stuff's been in there since we were kids, and by giving ourselves the chance to actually look through some of it, we are making it easier to reassess exactly who we are, where we are going, and what we want. The fact that you're feeling an ache, a negative one, makes me wonder if that's your soul going, "Hey! Time out! Let's regroup!". You deserve that chance to do that. You deserve the chance to be eager and excited and joyful about the future, and if you are meant to be together, you will find each other again, and you will have brought with you new tools to make that togetherness a permanent fixture in each of your lives, if that is what you two want to do.

So, in a nutshell: take a break. Get to know yourself again. Date other people. Go to therapy. Get interested in new things. Take a trip. Go, do, see, be, etc, etc. And then, promise each other that you'll revisit the relationship in a year to two years' time. And see what you've got. Either route could lead to the relationship ending, but by taking time off for yourself, where you'll end up emotionally and psychologically will be very different.

Good luck. :)
posted by patronuscharms at 3:31 PM on January 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

He is holding the trump card of abandonment when things get tough. I am usually that person - vacillating, ambivalent about a range of things, not just the relationship. I am struck by the way in which his abandonment cycle plays out over n over with you, and how it is resolved. When you agree to the abandonment and start to live autonomously he begs to come back, feels resolved to be with you. Some would label this deliberate manipulation. I tend to see it as an unconscious play out of archaic anxieties, some activated by the relationship and/or what it signifies to him. I think what the person who threatens abandonment fears the most, is that the person they are threatening with it, abandons them. I guess I'd ask, who abandoned your man along the way? One/both parents? Therapy is a good idea - you may not need many sessions. And can I say, you sound remarkably level headed and resourceful given the provocation you have been enduring as these cycles play out.
posted by honey-barbara at 4:29 PM on January 11, 2011 [6 favorites]

Call his bluff. Raise the stakes.

What if you proposed marriage? What would he do? If he would freak out and abandon you, there's your answer.

If you can't imagine proposing marriage because, fundamentally, you don't trust him, then there's your answer.

If he goes for it, then maybe he's serious about commitment.

You can't commit to a relationship. You can only be involved in one. Society created marriage to indicate commitment. If you don't have kids, don't share a house and aren't married, then you really can't be committed -- nothing is committing you.

Ask him to make a real sacrifice. If he won't sacrifice, he's not committed.
posted by musofire at 6:16 PM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

He is holding the trump card of abandonment when things get tough..... When you agree to the abandonment and start to live autonomously he begs to come back, feels resolved to be with you. Some would label this deliberate manipulation.... I think what the person who threatens abandonment fears the most, is that the person they are threatening with it, abandons them.


I am quoting selectively, of course - but this fucking nails it. He is holding all the cards (not because he's evil, or mean, because he's terrified), and you need to call him on in. This last break you had? Needs to be the LAST ONE. The next one is forever. You have to.
posted by tristeza at 8:20 PM on January 11, 2011

It seems strange to me that your initial question asks how you can tell whether you're still in love with Ryan, but the rest of what you write asks whether you should stay with him given his past (and possibly future) wavering. Those are two very different things (unless I'm misunderstanding something).

re: whether you should stay with him: he wavered back and forth and considered leaving you three times in 2010, which is pretty unacceptable in my mind. Undoubtedly, grad school, loss, and health problems would cause anyone stress...but consider also that many people are capable of remaining in committed relationships throughout grad school. Also consider that most (if not all?) people in life-long relationships will experience personal loss (death of parents, for example). And health problems are extremely common as well, even more so as people get older. I'm not trying to downplay the seriousness of the things that Ryan has been through recently, but my point is that these are (unfortunately) very common experiences in the grand scheme of life. He will almost certainly run into more of these experiences down the line and his reaction cannot be to try and leave you.

I agree with those who pointed out that now is an ideal time to take a break, think, try some new hobbies, make new friends, etc. Once he's back home in a few months, if both of you are willing, you could try seeing a couples therapist together and see if that helps. I personally would not stay with him unless there's reason to believe he will change (whether that's because he's seeing a therapist with you, or because he has made other changes in his life, etc). Otherwise, it seems likely that his pattern will keep repeating itself.
posted by whitelily at 9:46 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

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