Will he leave or stay?

Read more Relationship Advice and Dating Advice from THE GUYS about marriage.

Hi Guys,

I’ve been with my partner for 10 years and we have four kids together. We were not each other’s first relationship, but I was his first sexual partner and long-term relationship. We had a good relationship, at least I thought so. In fact, we were planning on having another baby soon, which was entirely his idea. He was pushing for it! We don’t argue and have no problems with our sex life; we laugh daily and, well, as far as I can see there weren’t any indicators that he was unhappy, and trust me, I’ve been trying to figure out if I’ve overlooked something.

In September he suddenly changed. He became emotionally distant, frustrated and easily irritated. In the end he told me that he felt we were just friends and confessed to having developed a crush on a new colleague. He moved out and left me devastated. Since then he has been back and forth! One week he loves me, next he says he doesn’t. For example, on the 14th he came to my house and was all, well, odd! He said he he didn’t love me, knew he didn’t want our relationship, that he didn’t enjoy my company, and thought I was annoying. In fact, he wanted no responsibilities at all! He wanted to be free and to do what he wanted, when he wanted. He also said, that he believed we could work it out but he just didn’t think he wanted to.

The following weekend he went to the cinema with some co-workers, including the girl he has a crush on and he hung out with her the next day too. But he says nothing happened between them. I saw some messages from other colleagues that confirmed that. He then came to visit for Christmas and stayed over the Christmas holiday, and pretty much as soon as he was in the house, he was following me around the house, kept looking at me and after the kids had gone to bed, was sat up close to me, tried to hold my hand, lie in my arms, asked me to stroke his hair like I used to in the evenings, tried to kiss me and kept giving me long hugs. He even woke me up in the middle of the night by stroking my face, although I pretended I was still asleep because he clearly thought I was. What’s even more odd, was that when he mentioned, in a joking way, that he was sure he could have me back if he wanted, and I burst out laughing so hard I was crying. He looked really hurt and upset. I didn’t mean to laugh like that, I had had a bit of alcohol! He told me he hates his life and doesn’t know what he wants.

Then, after Christmas he left, and just last night said that while it did mean something to him, it ‘clearly didn’t mean as much as to me’ (well, duh!) and it hadn’t changed anything. He says, that he feels conflicted, and a ‘bit’ of him still wants our relationship, but mostly it feels over to him. He says he misses me, but keeps himself so occupied he doesn’t have time to think about it. I don’t know how much his co-worker plays a part in it. He says he knows he can get with her if he wants to, but doesn’t think he wants to. I don’t know what to make of all this. I try to leave him be most of the time, only contact him if it’s about the kids or about the house we shared. I try to keep contact minimal for my own sake.

Is he just playing with me, or is he genuinely confused? What should I do? Is there anything I can do?! I still believe in us! That we could fix this, if he wants to, but sometimes I feel like that’s exactly what he knows and why he thinks he can get away with it.

Please help.


Dear E,

Thanks for your question.

If our math is correct, we’d put your guy in his early 30s. (Your his first partner, together 10 years.) Sounds like your guy is going through some sort of mid-life crisis at a younger age than most. This can happen when people think about what they don’t have rather than what they do. They start to see other people’s lives as more interesting, even better, and they start to crave freedom to come and go as they please. To us, this seems like a classic case of thinking the “grass is greener.”

The issue is bigger than this other woman. She’s more a symptom of his internal conflict. People in healthy and happy relationships have crushes, but they don’t act on them. Crushes are normal fantasies that people have from time to time, but most people are able to see them for what they are: a little excitement to possibly spice up their own relationship or a little harmless fun to make the day more interesting. Since your man is struggling with the burden of his life—or his perceived burden—his crush represents freedom, the ability to make his own decisions.

You might ask: So why does he give me mixed-signals? And why did he want another kid?

He’s giving you mixed-signals because a part of him knows he’s crazy for throwing away what he has. A part of him knows he’s a lucky man to have four kids, a loving partner, and a relatively stable life. When things don’t go quite as planned out in his fantasy life he realizes that maybe he’s making a mistake, and comes back home. He also comes back because he misses the emotional intimacy and sex.

As to why he pushed for another kid. Think of it as his way of forcing his own hand. If he has another kid on the way he’d have to stay. It’s also a way of injecting some excitement back into his life.

You’re right, your relationship issues can be solved, but both of you have to want to try. Do you? Do you still love him? Do you want him back? You need to answer those questions honestly. If so, have you expressed this to him? We know you’re hurting, but laughing at him when he opens up to you—even if he was a bit off-putting and arrogant—is not going to help the situation.

On the flip side, he also has to choose the relationship. He has to choose to come back. And that’s a question we can’t answer. Only time will tell.

What we will say is that while the two of you are apart, we might keep sex off the table. Sex should never be a bargaining chip, but we do think it’s going to cloud the issue at hand. What you really need to do is start talking about this. You need to have some heart-to-heart conversations about your relationship. If that seems impossible to you, then we might suggest seeking professional help. (Couples counseling perhaps.) Yes, it would cost money, but who knows, it could possibly save your relationship. That might be money worth spent.

We wish you all the best, and we truly hope you can work this out. (We hate to see couples break up.)

If you have follow-up questions/comments/thoughts please leave below in the comments’ section. (You must be Logged In to do so because of all the SPAM we get. It’s easy though.)



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