Why Your Guy Is Always Leaving You, Then Coming Back
The Nice Guy vs. The Fuckboy
Bobby Box, our self-proclaimed nice guy, is an engaged 20-something from Canada. Treez Alexander, our self-proclaimed fuckboy, is a single-and-DGAF 20-something from Brooklyn. Together, they're here to offer you an uncensored look into the male mind — from two very different viewpoints — to help you navigate any dating, relationship, or sex problem.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name (or pseudonym), age, and a description of your puzzling situation, and you could be featured in a future column.
Nice guy and fuckboy,
Maybe you can help me out. I’m lost and confused.
I’ve been with this guy for four years and we can’t seem to get things right. Our relationship is either really good or really bad — there is no happy medium.
We’ve been doing well for almost a year, but then, things went downhill. All of sudden, he told me he’s not happy and wants to take a break.
Then, about a month later, he came back and told me he loves me, and wanted to fix things. He told me he would prove himself and make things right, so I listened to him, and we got back together.
We did well for about another year once again, and then the same thing happened. This has happened three different times now, and I’m tired of the back and forth.
I love him, though. We have a lot in common. The biggest problem we have is our communication with each other, we never seem to resolve it.
This last time things got this bad, I found out he was getting a litle too close with a girl he worked with.
The girl’s friend messaged me saying her friend and my boyfriend have been “talking,” and she wanted to know how things were between us because she didn’t want her friend to get hurt (since my boyfriend was leading her on).
When I asked my boyfriend about this, he told me nothing physical happened between them. He also said that when things started to go too far, he ended it. Then, he said she got upset and started causing drama.
Apparently, he started talking to her as a friend to vent about the two of us and our issues. She started getting feelings for him, so he ended the friendship, and quit his job there. I knew he quit his job, but I didn’t know it was because of that.
He told me he wishes he could talk to me, but he feels he can’t because of how I might react. He says he has a hard time feeling like he has a place in life, and he’s tired of feeling like he’s nothing.
Often, he gets depressed and feels the urge to run away from the problems he can’t fix, which is why he wants to always take a break from our relationship. But then realizes how big a mistake he made and knows how much he wants me in his life.
Finding out about this other girl and him has caused trust issues between us, on top of already being in an insecure relationship.
Can you help me understand him? Or do you have any advice on what to do? I do believe he loves me, but like I said, I’m tired of always being confused, and I’m not sure what steps to take. Thank you.
Hi lost and confused,
I wanted to start with asking this: Are you not very affectionate?
I’m thinking he might use the “I’m not happy” narrative to scare you into being more tentative to his needs.
Guys are much needier in relationships than we tend to let on, and this neediness grows the longer we’re with someone.
We won’t tell you outright that we need more affection (because it’s not very “manly” of us), so this guy’s chosen to threaten your relationship as an alternative.
Since you’ve been together for four years, maybe he misses those early days when you’d embrace him for no reason aside from missing him after a long work day.
Your man doesn’t sound like he has a tough time articulating himself or his feelings (mentioning how he feels he can’t find his place in life, how he runs away from problems he can’t fix, etc.), so I feel like if there was a particular issue he could point out about the degradation of your relationship, he would have.
To me, this sounds like an overall dissatisfaction in the relationship on both accounts.
But make no mistake about it: This man cheated on you emotionally with a co-worker. And it got to the point where a friend of hers felt the need to tell you because of how far it had gotten.
I’m sure you’re not so innocent in this relationship either, but this was a huge mistake on his part. He remains firm that things hadn’t gotten physical, and I have to say, I believe him.
I think he honestly wanted somebody to talk to because even you admit communication (which is the most important trait in any successful relationship) is your relationship’s biggest foible.
I’m not saying what he did was right (because it isn’t), but it is revealing. So hear me out.
His affair wasn’t physical — this much you know. It’s also worth mentioning that neither of you have made one comment here about physicality being an issue in the relationship. So clearly, good sex isn’t the problem here. You’re doing well on that front.
He ventured outside of your relationship because he needed somebody to talk to. Isn’t that sad? Again, I’m not saying what he’s done was warranted, but if you really want to fix things (these same issues have been occurring annually over your four years together), you either need to open the floodgates of communication or you leave. Those are your only two options, I’m afraid.
You also mention that he’s fled before. It sounds to me like he’s of that “grass is always greener” mentality. Taking his annual leave from the relationship to explore the exploits of being single, only to routinely return back to his warm and safe relationship with you.
Again, this isn’t fair to you. Where’s your fun in all of this?
Perhaps that spark you once shared has since fizzled out, and instead of thriving in your relationship, you’ve grown comfortable. And since fleeing feels like tearing off a warm comforter and weathering the blistering cold, you both insist on staying under those warm, cozy sheets.
Here’s what I think needs to happen: You two need a break from each other. One where each of you can start seeing other people, where you can experience partnership away from what you’ve grown accustomed to, because obviously, things aren’t working out right now.
If, after a certain amount of time (say four or five months), you two amicably agree that you want to work on what you have, go for it.
At least then, you can say, though this relationship isn’t perfect, it works for the both of you and is preferential to everything else is out there. At least this will quench his “grass is greener” curiosity. Yours, too.
It’s clear you both love each other, but you need to determine whether that love is the result of comfort or an authentic connection.
Best of luck!
The first thing you want to do is simplify your situation. The devil is in the details, so flush them for a minute and break down your story and relationship to its essential parts. It’s the only way you’ll be able to analyze it clearly enough to come to any sort of truth.
Here’s what I’ve gleaned: You’ve been together four years, locked in the same on-and-off cycle, he’s unhappy with himself, you’re unhappy with him, yet you’re loyal.
You feel more obligated to him than to your own wellbeing; you’re a bit controlling, a bit insecure; you’ve been pushed a bit too far and at least a considerable part of you views the possibility of life with him a considerable option.
Am I on the right track? If not, stop reading here because everything I say from this point on will be based on those assumptions.
Now let’s tackle these one at a time:
He keeps leaving you because you’re controlling and insecure enough to meddle in his shit before he even fucks that shit up, as evidenced by the potential cheater you preemptively sniffed out.
It’s fair to assume your unfounded and unfair mistrust — he separated himself from the other woman and remained loyal to you all on his own — is at least part of the reason he can no longer confide in you.
You’re possessive to the point where you don’t even let him make his own mistakes. People want comfort, not to be controlled. This is why he keeps leaving you.
He keeps coming back because it’s not as easy out there as everyone thinks. Everyone wants to be single until they actually are. It’s not for everyone. You have to have a certain stillness to your center to enjoy it.
People want to be single like they want to swim across the lake. It sounds like a great idea, an exercise in freedom. Until your arms get tired halfway, and you realize nobody is coming to the rescue.
I wonder, when he came back to you again and again, if he realized his true love for you… or if he’s just sick of swinging and missing. Guys get out of relationships thinking they’re going to kill it with women immediately and have a new one every night.
This is delusional for anyone, and especially so for someone who hasn’t practiced in a considerable amount of time.
So they try and fail until they can’t take it anymore. Then, they go running back to their steady partner, saying they realized there is no one else for them and that they’ll change. And every time, you take them back.
Maybe it felt like he realized his love for you. Maybe that’s what he wants to believe. Maybe that’s what you want to believe. But trust me, the only thing he realized is he isn’t great at getting women, and he already has one, so why the hell was he running from her in the first place?
But then, you remind him why, he runs again and time continues to be a flat circle.
No matter your drama, you’re safe for him and he’s safe for you. People are so afraid to be alone, but then, they’re not so good to each other
I have a close friend we’ll call Robbie*.
Robbie is kind of an awkward guy: He has trouble connecting socially, and girls didn’t pay him any attention growing up. But he’s been dating his first girlfriend now for about a year, and he jumps through hoops for her.
She lives a thousand miles away, but he flies to her multiple times per month. She is very needy. She cries on the phone with him every night, saying she’s so lonely.
If he doesn’t call, if she doesn’t like his tone, if he doesn’t detail his grocery list to her, she cries. Then, when they’re together, she argues with him and belittles him constantly. When the weekend is over, his drive to the airport is a huge reprieve.
Robbie never speaks about her in a positive way. He resents the constant emotional handholding, tiptoeing and ego stroking he needs to pull off from half a world away. They are not perfect for each other.
But they are also not breaking up any time soon.
Because while being in a relationship is hard, being single is also harder than it looks. Robbie and his girl know things are bleak and that they have a lot of bad. But they’ve also never met anyone else who gives them any good, so they’re weary of casting the first person that did aside.
They stay together for the kids they don’t yet have. They operate not under the directive to find the best, most fulfilling partner, but out of fear of being alone.
It’s not a perfect comparison, but they remind me of you and your man.
You two have trust issues, commitment issues, self-esteem issues and history issues. That’s a lot of issues. You have problems that tend to intensify more than they tend to go away.
Shouldn’t four years with someone make you feel more secure around them? Shouldn’t that much time together make your relationship stronger?
Don’t downplay your ability to find someone you have similar goals in life with. You’re probably not training to become an astronaut. It won’t be THAT hard.
That said, only leave him if you’re doing so for the right reasons. Don’t stay with him just because you’ve been with him before.
But don’t leave him out of spite. Don’t leave him so he’ll come running back. Leave him if you’re interested in what else is out there and if you can legitimately muster enough resolve to find it.
Or just suffer in safety. If you do that, you might as well marry him.
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