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,