Pam in Barrington writes:
My question would be similar to one that I am sure you have heard over and over with a very important exception. I have been involved with a man for two years, but he keeps completely disappearing. I miss him and feel that he has moved on, and I get very hurt. However, each time, I discover that he has had huge and legitimate things happen to him, ranging from being confronted with the diagnosis of a serious illness ending in brain surgery right after losing his job and the consequent serious depression, to a year later being seriously ill for 3 months, and now taking care of his dying mother. I do not abandon people, especially when they are confronted with such difficult life circumstances, but this is very very hard. Is there any higher purpose to our relationship, or will it always be this way?
Although many questions may seem similar in content or basis, I can assure you, no two questions are ever truly alike.
It seems as if your man is working through a rather chaotic span of his life path, and is facing it with a fairly stoic approach. He finds it much easier to “disappear” than to burden you with his problems. He believes that it is better to shoulder his challenges alone. He doesn’t want to drag you down or hold you back. He feels like his life is one of challenges and responsibilities, and believes he should face each passing issue on his own.
He is a good man and a very caring soul, but he is also quite tired and beat-up. He’s got reason. But opening up seems to compound his struggles. It does not appear as if he is intentionally trying to avoid you or exclude you when he falls off the face of the earth; it is just his manner of coping and dealing with things. While there is a strong foundation and connection between the two of you, your relationship does not present as if it has been classically defined. Because of this, your man isn’t quite as compelled as you’d like him to be to keep you abreast of everything he is going through. He just hopes that when he has the time and luxury of focusing on the more joyful things in life, you will be understanding about his absence, and you will embrace the attention and time he has to offer.
As far as a higher purpose to this relationship goes, you are living it. You are teaching him that he can find trust and stability in someone, even though he doesn’t always feel as if he is deserving. He is teaching you that it is okay to express your needs, even if it risks creating disturbance or upset.
If you really want to be with him and want this relationship to progress into something that is a bit more traditional and stable, you are going to have to fight for it. While there is extreme potential for success, fighting for this relationship is not without risk. You are dealing with a man who struggles with personal growth and change. Trust and faith, especially in others and love, do not come easy to him. It will take well over a year before he can consistently make strides in breaking old, loner patterns.
As for you, understand that you don’t need to play the part of the savior. While it is not in your nature to abandon people, you do need to look at what is good and healthy for you. You are not the one creating the silences and separations in this relationship, but you are permitting you friend to take the time he needs, without the courtesy of explanation or warning. While it may be a hard conversation to have repeatedly, this is something you need to address for your own well-being.
There are more challenges ahead for your man, and his challenges will impact your relationship with him. Eventually, chaos will succumb to normalcy, and each of you will have evolved to a place of being where a brighter, more stable and defined union will bring balance to each of you.
I hope this helps.