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My Boyfriend is Taking Time Off from our Relationship

Artwork by Alexis Hickox

This article addresses the common theme of how we feel and what we should do when our partner is taking time off from our relationship.  Please note that there is some sexual content in this article which may only be appropriate for adult readers.

Dear Doctor Life Advice,

About a month or so ago my boyfriend and I broke up, or went “on a break”. We had been dating for 11 months. It was pretty serious. He said he needed to take time to think about himself.  What triggered this break was an event back in August when we went to a party and we were all drinking. Some guy that had been talking to me kissed me and tried to take advantage of me, but I didn’t allow it. Naturally, I told my boyfriend at the time what had happened.

According to my boyfriend, that is why we needed to break up. I have apologized multiple times for what had happened and have tried everything to show him that I still love him and care for him. He says he still loves me and that he misses me, but yet still needs time. We still hang out and have sex. I don’t understand; I thought we were okay, but then this blows up in my face. I don’t know what to do. I still love him and want to be with him, but how long does it have to be like this?

Broken-hearted and confused.

Dear Broken-Hearted and Confused,

I am so sorry that you are going through this.  Going “on a break” or taking time off a relationship is very common between couples these days.  We are going to address three main issues in this article that you need to ponder.  First, I must say that from reading your question, what struck me the most is that you are still spending time together and having sex.  I don’t know how that is compatible with “breaking up,” so we’ll address that.  Second, we need to talk about your ex-boyfriend’s motivations and behaviors regarding what happened, and possible reasons for why he’s handling things the way he is.  Third, and most importantly, we will address your behavior patterns, motivations, and tendencies.  Hopefully, this will help you clarify some of the confusion and even help a bit with the heartbreak.  I will refer to your ex-boyfriend as your “Ex” from now on to emphasize that you have “broken up.”

1. Your Current Relationship

There are two reasons not to hang out and have sex with your Ex after he breaks up with you.  The first is that your Ex is getting to enjoy all the benefits of his relationship with you, without having to commit to you as your boyfriend.  Think about it: not only is he getting to have sex with you, he’s also getting your constant apologies and reassurances that you love him.  In short, this is not an equal relationship.  Clearly, he has the upper hand in this. What exactly would be his incentive to go back to having an equal relationship in which he has to pursue you as much as you do him?

The second reason is that if he’s really being genuine with you, and he honestly needs time to think things through and find himself, then you are not giving him that time and space.  You are crowding him and he remains confused with your constant messages of love. He is enjoying your attention, and all the benefits that come with it, so he’s conflicted about what he really wants. Step away and let him really have time to think about himself. He needs to picture himself without you in his life, and see how much he really likes that picture.

2- Your EX’s Behavior

There are some things about his reaction to the party incidence that worries me.  There are questions I want you to answer for yourself.  I’m going to list them here and tell you my concerns about each one.

– Was he just looking for an “out?” You said you two were together for 11 months and things were going well, but I wonder if things were really going as well for him.  Would it be possible that he was feeling the relationship was becoming too serious?  If so, this opportunity gave him the “out” he needed. He gets to keep you, does not have to commit, and he even gets to blame YOU for the current state of events.

– Is he jealous, possessive, or insecure?  The fact that you were naturally honest with him shows that you are secure and dedicated in your relationship.  You made a mistake and you confessed it to him immediately. His reaction does not fit “the crime.” If he was not already looking for the “out,” then I’m wondering if he is incredibly jealous, possessive, or insecure. You need to look back at other incidences in your relationship as ask if he has ever exhibited these traits before. If he did, then you really need to think about if you want to be with someone who can be so over-bearing.

– Is he manipulative and just squeezing the opportunity for all it’s worth? You are obviously trying to appease him, and he’s holding you at an arm’s distance but has no intention of letting go either. Again, you can figure this out by looking at how manipulative he is with his friends and family.

In short, look at this “break” in your relationship as an opportunity for you to step back and evaluate him. Is he worth the relationship, or does he need to take time and resolve his own issues?

3- Your Own Behavior at The Party and Since

I feel that you didn’t give enough detail about what happened at the party.  We use intoxication as an excuse to do all sorts of things that we would not normally do when sober. Be conscious of your own behavior, and make sure your role in the current state of affairs is as innocent as you believe it is.

I have some questions for you to ask yourself, and, as always, I recommend you write down the answers and revisit them often.  Be mindful of how your answers may change over time. Do the same with the questions that I listed above regarding you Ex.

– Were you just having fun and enjoying being found attractive?  Were you attracted to this other guy and using alcohol as an excuse to let things go further than you usually would?

– Were you completely satisfied in your relationship with your Ex, or were there things that you felt were missing?  Could it be that a part of you was not getting the nurturing that you needed from your Ex? Sometimes when we feel unfulfilled or unsatisfied in a relationship but are not willing to admit it, we sabotage the relationship instead.  It is important here to look at your past relationships and see if you sabotaged any of them.  If you have a pattern of “unintentionally” ending your relationships, then you need to become conscious of this pattern.

– Do you feel that you have to be in a relationship to feel happy and good about yourself? Do you feel that a mediocre boyfriend is better than not having a boyfriend? Your Ex is not treating you well right now, and obviously not committing to the relationship the way you want him to. Why are you putting up with this?

-Imagine your ideal partner in a relationship, and see how your Ex measures up to this partner. If you could pick, what qualities of your Ex would you keep, and what would you get rid of?  Were there any qualities your Ex was missing that you would like to see in your ideal partner?

In conclusion, I know I have given you a lot more questions than answers.  The one solid piece of advice that I can give you right away is to stop hanging out with your Ex and to give him the space that he needs to figure this out.  I know this may be difficult for you, because you may never get him back.  If that is the case, he is a lost cause already, and you are not going to get back together with him anyway.  Use this break as an opportunity to evaluate the relationship for yourself.  As he’s taking time to find himself, use that time to do the same for yourself.

I’m assuming you are young. I hope that this “time off” will be a positive experience for you, and will either help you and your Ex to decide that you really love each other and want to be together, or help you become conscious of your patterns. As you learn more about yourself and become more mindful of your behaviors, you will find that your relationships will all improve, and become deeper and more satisfying.

Never forget your own worth!

Doctor Life Advice

Sayeh Beheshti, M.D.