Ask a Guy:  He Lost His Job and Wants to Break Up post image

Ask a Guy: He Lost His Job and Wants to Break Up


I was dating my boyfriend for 7 months. We were happy and going along with the relationship at a normal speed.  We were exclusive, called each other girlfriend / boyfriend. Then he lost his job and pushed me away. He wanted a break, so we took 2 weeks alone.

He came back and decided he wants to start over and just “see each other”, but not use labels and big obligations for our relationships future. He missed me, but was confused where to start over. Where do I go from here?

What you’re describing is actually something I’ve seen happen a lot when it comes to men, relationships and job loss.

Never underestimate the power of a man’s job to affect the rest of his life.  There’s something deeply psychologically ingrained in men that causes us to feel terrible when our career, work or job is out of whack.

There was a post a little while ago called, “Ask a Guy: Why Isn’t My Boyfriend Interested in Sex Anymore?” where I talked about how a guy’s job has a deep impact on his self-image/self-esteem and sense of worth in the world.

Job loss is hard on men and women, but I don’t believe that it shakes a woman’s sense of overall worth and “potency” in the world the way that it shakes a man.

One of the major ways that men gauge their own attractiveness is on their ability to effect the world in the way that they intend.  Men live in the world of wins and losses, victories and defeats.

And it pervades through the culture.  When someone is being nasty and wants to shoot down a woman’s attractiveness to men, they’ll insult the woman’s appearance or weight.  But when someone wants to insult a man’s attractiveness to woman, they’ll insult his ability to “win” in the world — they’ll call him a loser.

A guy can’t help but feel like a loser when he’s lost his job.  Even if he didn’t like the job all that much, if he feels that he didn’t deserve to lose his job he will very likely start questioning his own sense of potency (ability to have an effect in the world) and his own sense of deserving-ness.

As a result, your guy probably feels like a worthless loser on the inside.  And as a worthless loser, he probably feels that he doesn’t deserve love, affection, a relationship or sex from a good woman like you.

In fact, he may have wanted to break it off with you because he feels that you don’t deserve to be “stuck with a loser like him”.  He might be trying to give you an out so that you don’t have to be stuck with him (and if you do stay with him, it would mean that you really do care for him and he’s not a total loser at least.)

Moreover, men don’t want to feel coddled or pity for our loss.  I can tell you personally that it’s a sickening feeling for a guy to think that his girl is loving him because she has to, but deep down is disappointed in him or thinks he’s a loser in the world — and guys will think that way even if that’s not what’s really going on.  So if you’ve been trying to comfort your guy, be careful… it could actually be driving him further away.

So what should you do?

Well, I’m going to go back to the advice I’ve given for many areas of man-woman psychology:  Leave it alone!  Give him space to figure it out… if he brings it up, let him just talk about it, ask questions, but don’t get involved in trying to help or solve it.  If you can avoid the subject completely, do that.

All the guy wants is to get back in the saddle and feel like he’s winning in the world again.  Once he’s solved the problem within himself and feels like he’s a “winner” where he wants to be, then things will be better and your relationship will most likely return to normal.

The problem is, there’s no telling how long this will take.  I can tell you that I went through this and it took me a year to really, truly get my act together again.  For other people, it might only take a couple of weeks or a month.  It really depends on the person’s personality, how the rest of their life is, their social support outside of your relationship, etc.

The question you want to ask yourself is: How long are you willing to wait?  If you really like the guy and are happy with the relationship, I would say definitely wait it out for a bit.  Give him space, don’t bring up the subject and don’t coddle him.  Just make sure the time you spend with him is positive and high quality and let him figure out his situation himself.

Hope it helps,

eric charles

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Ana October 18, 2012, 2:29 pm

My ex and I were together for 10 months; he found out in June his work contract would be over in mid-September. He and I were govt contractors. Since June, he had been distancing himself from me, while I was trying to keep him thinking positive; I even went as far as helping him with his resume, cover letters, and job apps. Well at the end of August, he said he was not happy with the direction his life was going and that he felt he didn’t want to bring me down with him or snap on me if he became angry. He tried breaking up with me via e-mail. Then he asked to “clear his mind” for 6 days. I saw him after 6 days and thought we were fine. We discussed a few things; I kept telling him that I’d be there for him through the good and bad and I thought he understood. Well, sure enough he broke up with me 5 days before he lost his job. I feel that he didn’t want me to stick around because he had to deal with this on his own. As far as I know, he’s still unemployed but we haven’t contacted each other at all. I took it pretty hard as I genuinely loved him but if he’s obviously not happy with his life, then he wouldn’t feel happy with me and I’d feel miserable if I was lacking love and affection.

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Lena June 12, 2012, 12:17 am

My boyfriend and I have only been dating for about a month and the relationship so far has been the best. He treats me as if I am the only and most beautiful girl in the world. I do my part as well to make understand that he is the King in my world. Our chemistry is the best i have ever had in my life. I feel as if he was the one that was made for me.

Today he just lost his job and he was so upset he went home to another state with his family and left me high and dry. I understand completely about a man’s ability to not be able to provide can really mess him up. I offered for him to move with me while trying to figure the mess out but he said “that would be nice but I need to figure out my next move”.

I know he does not want to rely on me especially after his last relationship the girl had him pick up his whole life to be with her and she ended it when got there. So he is scared to take that step with me. I just feel like he had a bad batch of women in his life and I am not them. I texted him saying “If I can’t love you at your worst, then I don’t deserve you at your best” and he lightened up and stated he does not want to end our relationship.

I need to know what to do and how to talk to him so that I stay in his mind/heart without pressuring him and giving him his space to figure it all out. Also the right things to say to keep him encouraged and while still speaking to the King in him. Please help

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Stacia May 17, 2012, 2:59 pm

Thank you so much for this! My boyfriend was a week from becoming a commissioned officer in the military and got thrown out of his 10 week training program right before it happened. This was almost 2 months ago. Since then he went from wanting to move in together and further our relationship to hardly talking to me and greatly stopping verbal affection (we’re long distance). Since then he hasn’t been able to find a job and everyday he’s just grouchy. When we talk on the phone at night he’s just always down. It was getting really hard to separate his frustrations with himself and his life from his feelings for me, especially since it’s such a stark change from what I am used to.

I think the best piece of advice you gave in this is to give him space. I’ve been texting him/telling him all the time that I’m here for him and supporting him and bla bla and he stopped answering them. I’m probably making him feel even more like crap without realizing it. Thank you so much.

We did have a talk about communication and he told me he wants this to work if I can be patient with him through it so I’m definitely going to keep trying. Knowing he’s not the only guy who has dealt with this and in this manner is very encouraging!

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Erin January 29, 2012, 6:22 pm

These posts really help. My boyfriend and I have been together for 7 months. We worked together, and he was fired last week… in the most awful, demeaning way possible by his boss who was actually interviewing my bo’s replacements right in front of him the day they fired him!! My bo didn’t speak for two days. I gave in and sent him a text saying I believe in him and support him, and understand if he needs space for awhile. he said “thanks.” The next day he text that a new job had come through, and I said I was proud of him, he said “thanks.” That’s it so far. It’s so hard not to take it personally, or to reach out to him again…I’m just so hopeful that he can separate thinking of me from thinking of that toxic job and this break will be over soon. I miss him and love him so much.

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butterfly December 14, 2011, 6:26 pm

well, im a girl and feel like him now when i lost my job- ive stopped dating a guy who i actually really like… i know its stupid, but i know that i feel too low right now and too unhappy to be getting myself into a successful relationship with him. if im not happy with myself, how could we be happy? its a sad world we live in when thinking about all this crisis etc, people miss out on the joys of life which is just so short!

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Esley November 27, 2011, 2:38 pm

My boyfriend recently tried to break up with me. He lost his job not too long after we started going out. We worked at the same company and I had the misfortune of having to witness it. I did not mention it much and did not pressure him about his job loss. I may have been overly sensitive to his situation and the reason he wants to break it off is because he does not feel a connection. Unless you have a solid long term relationship, expect to skate on thin ice.

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Eric Charles November 27, 2011, 3:27 pm

There’s certainly an added sting considering that you worked there, so when he sees you he can’t help but think of the job.
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Your best option is to give him space and not take it personally. No guarantees that he’ll come back, but if you don’t want to chase him away, assume that he’ll work out his issues and come back to you when he’s ready.
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If/when he does, he’ll probably want to explain where his head is at and where he’s coming from. He wants you to understand him – if you can just listen without judgment or pity and just UNDERSTAND, it will deepen your connections and relationship.
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Good luck and hope that helps.

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Victoria August 8, 2010, 2:00 pm

Thank you for providing the insights I so needed. A month into our relationship, my ex was laid off from a prestigious job he’d had for 20 years (he’s also an ultra-athlete – i.e., highly defined by achievement). It’s been a rollercoaster ride (break up, reconcile, repeat several times). He’s been out of work for over a year and he’s been depressed the entire time. Last night, we finally had to accept fully that we couldn’t be a couple b/c his life is still derailed and he couldn’t give me the affection and feelings I wanted. Your columns about job loss and depression rang so true — I wish I had such advice 1.5 yrs ago. I love him. And b/c of that, I care more that he finds his footing again — w/o the pressure of a relationship — than that he be w/me. Hurts? Yes. But your insights have helped me to be at peace with how it is. Thank you.

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Eric Charles February 25, 2010, 10:30 am

Always glad when I can help. Good luck! :)

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Asa February 25, 2010, 3:52 am

Again, timely and insightful advice. And it’s helping me to understand the headspace that the guy I’m involved with is in.

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Kristen February 23, 2010, 10:28 am

Thank you for posting this Eric. I always appreciate reading your insights. You always have a fresh perspective on dating and relationships and you’re probably the only dating advice writer that I actually believe to be helpful.

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Sarah February 22, 2010, 9:59 pm

I love Ask a Guy… best dating advice out there.

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Pallavi February 21, 2010, 3:49 pm

Loved this article. Makes so much sense.

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Kate February 20, 2010, 6:22 pm

So true. I would also say that this can happen even when a guy is still at his job, but things are going badly. My ex-boyfriend got a new boss that he did not get along with. It was around that time our one year relationship took a turn for the worse.

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