My Boyfriend Feels Like A Roommate
December 7, 2015 8:40 PM   Subscribe

I am 27 years old and currently doing a Master's in Social Work. I have been in a relationship for three years with my partner. We're in a monogamous relationship. My relationship was good, fun, and exciting. Until about a year ago. And there's still some good moments, here and there. When I voice my concerns, he listens. He's had my back and called up his friend when he posted an anti-feminist rant on my Facebook wall knowing full well I'm a huge HUGE feminist. He cooks me supper when I'm stressed, and he's always been very patient with when my anxiety gets out of control. I avoid social situations, I avoid talking to authority, and I avoid talking about my needs, wants, and anything that is personal. So does my partner. And as a result, our relationship is at a point where I feel I actually just live with a roommate.

We barely have sex anymore. My libido was always a bit more active than his, but overtime sex happened less and less often and now we have sex twice a month. And we just don't talk about it. The past two years, he's gotten more and more into gaming. He'll play video games for 12 hours a day. He doesn't go to bed anymore when I do, and prefers to stay up and play games. The only time we hang out together is when we're eating supper. I've been really busy with school, so I can't really say that I've been all that present either.

I guess, my questions are: How do I approach discussing my feelings and frustrations with him? Is this even salvageable?

About a year and a half ago, I came out to him as bisexual and he was supportive, kind, and never doubted me. He was shaken, a bit. As I assume many people would be, since he worried that I had met someone. I hadn't. It was just something that I needed to vocalize at the time.

I was recently diagnosed with PTSD and a general anxiety disorder, which mostly manifests itself as social anxiety. My partner likely has an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, though of course that's just my opinion. I see very similar behavioural patterns between he and I.
posted by claireberts to Human Relations (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Could absolutely be salvageable. You'll need to talk to him, though. The biggest feeling of dismay I got was when you said "and we just don't talk about it" and "I avoid talking about my needs, wants, and anything that is personal". If you don't talk about how to keep your relationship alive and happy, then there's no way for him to know what you want or even *that* you want something else. For all you know, he's playing video games to deal with the funk he's in because you don't want to spend time with him.

If you think it would help to put some time & energy in to figuring out what you want first (which, I bet it would be a good idea), I'd recommend a few counseling sessions targeted specifically at your feelings about the relationship. A pro could help you find a good opening line or a good angle to approach the conversation from to be more comfortable and not prone to catastrophize about the situation.
posted by Lady Li at 8:50 PM on December 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

Data point: it happened to a friend of mine. Her boyfriend was addicted to WOW. She had a come to Jesus talk with him. A lot of discussions actually. Eventually it came down to, "It's me or the game." It was tough on him because he felt like his Guild was counting on him, whatever that is. They worked it out and have been together 15 years, married for 8.
posted by omg_parrots at 9:01 PM on December 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

Not sure how helpful this is, but a very close guy friend of mine went through the same thing.
Other complications in their case included significant alcohol consumption, indifferent job situation and worsening relations with their respective families.

The counsellor listened for 30 minutes and then suggested they take a vacation, where they only have each other (no electronics, no friends etc). They did the Appalachian trail hike for 2 months, and it changed their outlook completely.

It was hard at first, what with the physical difficulties, but over a period of time, they were able to manage.

[Not sure of your financial and medical situation, so please modify accordingly]
posted by theobserver at 9:03 PM on December 7, 2015

Tell him these things! And counselling is definitely a great thing to try, for both of you, maybe both together, and alone. My ex got to the "I guess we're just roommates" point, and rather than taking that as a giant waving red flag meaning "hie thee to a professional relationship counsellor, like, tomorrow", I didn't really do much of anything, having already gotten to the blocking-stuff-out-and-not-dealing-with-things phase. You're not going to feel intimate with someone you're not sharing intimate things with.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 9:03 PM on December 7, 2015 [7 favorites]

It sounds like you both are having a rough patch due to outside stresses and the related coping mechanisms. The good thing is that you two have a steady foundation and the outside stressors will not be that way forever! In fact, you likely have a break coming up that should make things a bit easier temporarily.

The distance grew with time and the closeness can grow back with time, too. Could you two plan to have one night off where you two plan a low-key date (take away and a DVD) with time to chill, cuddle, and just be together? And then sleep in the next morning, such as on a Saturday or Sunday. (The planning means you can anticipate the fun and also prepare for missed time.) Inviting him to come to bed with you one night would be a nice first step. (You could ask when you both get home, "Hey, let's go to bed together tonight. I miss falling asleep with you!") The sex can come with time, maybe not this week but next week or so, thanks to the increased general intimacy and time scheduled. It sounds like you both miss each other a lot, and it's hard, especially when you both know how great things have been and can be! It sounds like you're getting medical help and support, which is good because that's a hard thing to do on your own or even just with a partner.

As others have said, it's about opening the communication back up, talking about where each of you are and how you miss one another. It's the little things that count and add up: little gestures of caring and openness, and those thank yous for the little things. When you do talk, I'd focus more on how the situation is tough in terms of outside factors affecting the inside: I'd try to avoid criticizing about the video games, etc. because I see that more as an effect than a cause. I really think with more of the small stuff, things will get better again. Good for you for realizing it, and best of luck getting started!
posted by smorgasbord at 9:41 PM on December 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

I avoid talking about my needs, wants, and anything that is personal.

It's close to impossible to have fulfilling relationships when this is the case. I think individual therapy to work on this issue would be immensely helpful. Maybe couple's therapy with him, but only if you think at least one of you can be open and vulnerable with the couple's therapist. If neither of you are there yet, I'd start with individual therapy to get there.
posted by jaguar at 9:45 PM on December 7, 2015 [20 favorites]

In many ways, I'm you, about 3-4 years later. I finally asked him to move out a month ago, and the last two weeks I've been SO much more happy than I've been in years. I finally feel like there's hope for the future, instead of being even more lonely ten years from now. We tried and tried and tried - and it was finally time for us to give in and admit that while we make pretty ok friends, we really aren't the right person for each other. Which is pretty darn hard to admit when we'd been together eight years.
posted by stormyteal at 10:40 PM on December 7, 2015 [5 favorites]

I was in a similar place during graduate school. My husband and I spent a weekend camping without technology which gave us enough positive relationship feels to get through grad school. After I finished we had to work on our new norms but it did involve us both talking about our relationship needs. With work from both of you, it sounds like your relationship just needs some work, not to be scrapped.
posted by toomanycurls at 11:10 PM on December 7, 2015

It could be possible that your Masters is adding to the pile-on. It is a large amount of work, and at points can be very emotionally draining. I recently completed my Masters and there were times where my emotional bank was drained completely dry. My boyfriend at the time was very supportive, but we had times where I could never really relax with him because of the study commitments hanging over my head, I couldn't be bothered trying to anticipate his needs, and the pressure of every additional demand on me felt disproportionately high. I am normally a very considerate girlfriend! But at the time I couldn't be, as well as being a good student, and a productive employee.

I felt bad, but there are times in every relationship when one partner has to be patient and do the majority of the heavy lifting-- within reason, and a finite length of time, of course. It sounds like both of you have withdrawn to an extent from having to do any emotional labour. If you want to salvage the relationship, you do need to have a discussion with him about what you both need from the relationship, and strategise ways that you can try to address these needs. You might not be able to meet them completely at this stage, but a good faith effort can go a long way.

To get to this stage though, you need to sit down with him, open your mouth and make the words come out. I'm not sure exactly of the right way to do this, but I am absolutely sure that not doing this will be the worst method of all.
posted by roshy at 1:43 AM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Figure out what you need and tell him.

If you need more sex, how much more? What does it look like? Once a week? Once every other day?

If you need help around the house, tell him. Spell it out for him.

Do you feel he could contribute more to the household cleaning, cooking, and income? I wouldn't like my husband playing 12 hours of a video game a day. He's clearly addicted. I've been addicted to games: I used to play 10 hours of SIMS a day but I got over it when the game got boring. Your boyfriend probably just switches to new games.

He sounds like a normal guy, though. So, if you were to break it off with him, you'd probably just end up with another guy with similar issues--although maybe not the video game addiction. But it would be something else.

I'd work with the one you got.
posted by Piedmont_Americana at 2:49 AM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I avoid talking about my needs, wants, and anything that is personal. So does my partner.

The good news is that this can probably be fixed. The bad news is that it sounds like you guys as a couple do not currently posses the skill set -- namely, communication -- needed to do this. The super news is that if you both want to save this relationship, you can buy these skills. You purchase them through couples' therapy.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:53 AM on December 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

We barely have sex anymore. My libido was always a bit more active than his, but overtime sex happened less and less often and now we have sex twice a month.

About a year and a half ago, I came out to him as bisexual

Could these be related? Perhaps he worries that he can't satisfy you like a woman could. Maybe he feels he's not enough. It sounds like he's very supportive of you. Have you been supportive enough of him? Have you made him feel special, loved and cherished? Men need all that stuff too.

You guys can't keep on hoping each one will meet your needs when it's obviously not happening. His retreat into video games may be in response to your interactions as much as his own. What are you retreating into? Study perhaps? I know relationships involve a lot of give and take, that's part of their joy when it works well and is balanced, but could it have become unbalanced with your study etc? Could he, possibly, feel neglected, even though he can't find the words to express it?
posted by Thella at 4:24 AM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Your entire above the fold paragraph is just describing a good friend and housemate, not a romantic partner.

Is he sexy? attractive? does he stir you with feelings of romance and love? because those are requirements for most people.

You need to figure out what you want and ask for it. As the AskMe phrase goes "Make words come out of your mouth" It's hard to do but there is literally no other way to do this.

Also he needs to stop playing World or Birthcontrol when it's time to fuck.

State clearly and loudly what you want and when you want it, if nothing happens right away, leave.
posted by French Fry at 6:38 AM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's awesome that he's supportive and understands you on the issues you care about - but that's not a reason to stay in a relationship where you aren't really feeling it anymore.

People grow apart. You're young and busy. Not all relationships have to be salvaged.

Guys don't have to be MFAs to get dumped.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 9:21 AM on December 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you still want to be with him - but it sounds like you're both all up in your heads. Get back in touch with your bodies together - ask him to find you some porn you'd like to watch together. Or find it yourself and ask him to watch it with you.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:53 PM on December 8, 2015

I can't emphasize communication and expressing your needs enough, as well as being present to each other; but others have covered that nicely.

What is his love language? What concrete signs from you does he need to feel loved? The five general categories are: Physical touch, quality time together, gifts, services, and words of encouragement. Knowing how you and he show love is important. Often, I find Partner A feels love by giving and receiving gifts, so they give gifts, while Partner B is words of encouragement, so B gives those words, and neither feels like they are receiving love, despite giving so much love to their partner.
posted by Jacen at 2:06 PM on December 8, 2015

You're going to have to talk to him. There really not anyway around it. I mean you could break up with him but considering that you admit you don't discuss personal things, difficulties etc with your partner you'll probably have the same or similar problems with someone else.

Communication is key, it makes people feel close to one another. As far as video games go it sounds like your boyfriend is getting something from the games that he isn't getting in real life. I don't know what that is bit perhaps this a good chance to have an into.ate conversation and discuss it.
posted by CosmicSeeker42 at 5:56 PM on December 8, 2015

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