To stay or leave an emotionally unfulfilled relationship?

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    I have been dating my boyfriend for a year and three months. After 9 months we moved in together. I was very hesitant about this but since my current roommate was moving to another state and his roommate decided to move out at the same exact time, I took it as a synchronicity and a sign that we should move in together. He works 55 hours a week every week and we have no time together. I feel distant from him emotionally, physically and spiritually. We feel like roommates. He also shuts out all forms of intimacy physical and emotional. He will laugh or fidget nervously if the topic gets too emotional or serious. He has actually fallen asleep on me while I am pouring my heart out to him; it doesn’t matter if I am talking about my dreams, my work, relationship issues, etc. I try to get him to talk to me about his stuff but he says everything is fine. So now I really don’t talk to him about those things and keep the subject light. I feel like I am emotionally cheating on him because I connect well with other people and disclose more of myself to others than him. It is a very strange relationship and I know there is a lot wrong but can’t seem to pinpoint it. He actually wants marriage and children and I want these things but not with him in his current state. I wouldn’t want the father of my children to be physically present but not truly engaged with his children. He is very satisfied with having a superficial, on the surface relationship. I want a deeper relationship with a good connection. We can’t even share a conversation anymore because we converse like strangers; ‘So what did you have for lunch today?”. Sooooo boring. From the outside we look like the perfect couple but I am just not feeling it. Things aren’t hostile. He is conflict free. He is a really nice and sweet guy. He is pretty goofy and highly lovable. But sometimes just a big kid. He really needs to do some internal growth. But just no connection. I know something is wrong but I don’t know what. Here are my perceptions:

    On his end:
    -He has ED issues since the very first time he has had sex when he was 16. He had a girlfriend at 18, which lasted for two years. She was a bipolar stripper and according to him there was no real connection there. Then he was single until he met me at 24. We went to a counselor who deemed his ED issue psychological.
    -Both parents were alcoholics and let him do whatever he wanted. According to him even though they were addicts, he had a good upbringing. His sister who has been in and out of jail and in and out of rehab would beg to differ.
    -His mother died of alcoholism February of 2012. He had a younger sister who died from SIDS as an infant and he says his mother could never get over it so drank herself to death. We met June of 2012.
    -He is very passive. Never states his needs. He always does a lot for others. His friends boss him around from time to time.
    -Although his grandparents offered to pay for his college, he won’ pursue a degree in IT. He claims it’s his passion but won’t go for it. He actually won’t go for much of what he wants. He complains about working at a pizza restaurant but won’t do anything substantial to change his circumstances.
    -He also claims he wants to be close to me but doesn’t know how. He doesn’t ever seem to know what he wants, feels, thinks, etc. He changes them depending on what he thinks I want to hear. So I feel like I don’t truly know him.
    -I conclude he has severe fear of intimacy not just physical but intimacy at all levels. He distances people emotionally. He is nice and conflict free, which prevents people from investigating into him further.

    On my end
    – I have trust issues (not that my partner will cheat) and a fear of intimacy too. I have issues trusting that others won’t hurt me, manipulate me, judge me etc, once I open up to them.
    -I have a hard time feeling vulnerable. However, I learned this really messed up past relationships so I have been very vulnerable in this relationship, which has resulted in lots of hurt. I finally open up and he shuts me out or falls asleep. Men in the past would beg to get to know more than just my body. Now I feel stupid because I finally decided to take a leap of courage, open up my heart and his emotional distance feels like rejection. At the same time I feel brave, the only reason I am opening my heart up to him is because I could finally open it up to myself.
    -I struggle with feelings of shame and guilt regarding sexuality. I feel bad for wanting sex. The lack of physical intimacy has me wanting sex, then I go into feelings of shame and guilt. I suppress my sexual desires but then become frustrated or depressed. I have been feeling depressed about the lack of connection, I realized that I was feeling so hurt and down by it because I subconsciously felt I didn’t deserve love or connection. So this relationship served as “proof” of that belief. Had I been more centered, I could have just said, “OK, I am not getting the connection I want and deserve so I am moving on and wishing you well”. However, I just internalized all of this, made it out to mean I am unworthy and caused unnecessary suffering.
    – I don’t like myself in this relationship. I have become so bossy and demanding. Bossy because he is sooooo passive and indecisive and people pleasing. I hate being bossy. I don’t like it. He seems to like it though. His friends are bossy with him too. Everyone just seems to tell him what to do. I have become demanding because my needs aren’t being met and this also makes me feel needy. I have become so critical of his every move. Wow! I never thought I would be the naggy, bitchy wife type person. Yuck!
    – I feel unattractive. I find myself telling him about male co-workers who take me to lunch, bring me chocolates, men who ask me out on dates, guys I connect with emotionally, etc. I even told him about a mutual friend who confessed that he wanted to sleep with me, it was pretty obvious anyways. I distanced myself from this person. I have never been unfaithful nor do I plan too. I am so fixated on him. I get a lot of male attention and I just brush it off because it means nothing to me if it isn’t coming from him. I point it all out to him as a way of saying “you see I am wanted, I am worthy, I am valuable, look other people desire me”. However, when I catch myself doing this, I feel ashamed and like I have such low self esteem.
    -For the most part, I am very caring and nurturing of him. Sometimes I feel like a mother to him. I don’t mind supporting my partner but I want it to be mutual. I feel like I am coddling him at times. When I think of leaving, I feel like I can’t because I begin to think who is going to take care of him. He has told him he wouldn’t know what to do with himself. I left him alone for a couple of days. The house was a mess, he feed himself on junk food (real junk food like Twizzlers), wore swim trunks the whole time. I know he just needs to take care of himself and I just need to take care of me.

    To sum it up (sorry for the long post), I don’t know to leave or stay. I am scared of leaving because I don’t want to make the wrong decision. I know that I have relationships issues of my own and want to make sure that I am not just running away. I also don’t want to hurt him and know that he has already gone through alot with the loss of his mother. Furthermore, all of my relationships have been like this and I am afraid of making the same ill choices in the future. Sometimes I wonder if maybe I am staying because if we do connect, then it would prove that I am worthy of connection. What if I am not strong enough to make a mature decision? I don’t want to be desperate. I am almost afraid of a relationship working out too. Also I have begin the process of healing from sexual abuse which has been very difficult. I am scared to leave at this time because I don’t want to be alone. However, I don’t feel like I am being supported. If anything I feel terribly isolated. The lack of emotional connection and our sexual issues just makes the pain from the past hurt a more. Him being emotionally unavailable just brings a lot of old feelings to the surface. In a way this was good because it made me see where I was hurting and what needed healing. I tried to remain mature about it by evaluating myself and realizing what pain is from the past and what pain is from now. But I feel like it is enough pain and just want to connect with someone. I know the connection needs to start with connecting to myself first. What should I do?

    • This topic was modified 10 years, 10 months ago by Zenhen.


    Whew! I almost feel the need to make a flowchart for this one. So many competing and interacting desires and feelings, its no wonder there is so much conflict! A bunch of things came to heart as I read your words, and I’ll try to capture as many as I can into words. Pardon the brevity, I trust that our connection will support it, as there is no judgment in me for you. Namaste, sis.

    1) You are not his caretaker, and if you stay with him for that reason you’re actually inhibiting his growth, which is not caring. Perhaps you’re trying to avoid the guilt of leaving someone who isn’t practiced at self care. The guilt is unneeded, because he has to learn to stand, you can’t prop him up.

    2) His lack of response has nothing to do with you. You are courageous, open hearted, curious, and beautiful. If he snoozes past that, its his issue. Not yours. Your beauty is easy to connect to, and whatever difficulties he has is not something you can fix.

    3) Sometimes we outgrow our partners, and have to move on. Otherwise there is tension between who they are, who we are, and where the intimacy can go. This often arises as judging their actions, because we want to stay with them, but we want something different, more nourishing than we have. Lasting intimacy occurs when the growth is together, and each half of the pair compliments each other.

    4) You seem like you have a strong sex drive, which is totally fine. Many guys would kill, scramble, woo, or beg for such a quality in a partner. Its nothing to be ashamed about, scared of, or sacrificed. Sexual fulfillment is one of the needs in a relationship, and has nothing to do with past abuse. The fears and shame and so forth, yes, but the drive itself is well researched and documented as a fundamental driving force in all beings. As you become brighter and more peaceful (heal the ick) the drive will remain. Good for you! It means you’re alive.

    5) Don’t be afraid of making the same mistakes, you won’t. You’ll make new ones. Ha ha!

    6) Its well observed that the need for connection starts within. As you self nurture, continue meditating (right?), and growing, much of the chaos will dissipate. Patience… its one thing to begin to see ourselves clearly, and its quite another to learn to temper our desires so we’re not just throwing ourselves onto anyone who shows affection. The gift that is Zenhen is sacred, special, and beautiful, and so it honors yourself to be particular when it comes to opening your heart, mind and body to another. Said differently, be picky, you’re worth it!

    7) The feeling of isolation is part of the shame, rather than being caused by your partner. The isolation goes away when we spend time reconnecting to our body, getting back into our senses, feeling the breath in our body. Consider that you are surrounded by a rich garden of sights and sounds and smells and flavors and feelings… how in the heck could we be isolated from the energy of nature? Its here now! And now! Keep breathing and noticing the breath, and the isolation melts, because here you are!

    I think that’s all of them that came up. 🙂 Staying or going is a question that perhaps you could bring up to your boyfriend. You’re really stepping up to the plate and taking back your joy. Huzzah! If he wants to step up to the plate too, give him the chance to. If he doesn’t, move on. You want a deeper connection, and plenty of men are out there who want that too. For the record, when my wife and I first started dating, she was closed much like your boyfriend. She opened, and its been more beautiful than I could have hoped. The girlfriend I had before her did not, and moving on was difficult, but boy am I glad I did.

    With warmth,



    5) Don’t be afraid of making the same mistakes, you won’t. You’ll make new ones. Ha ha!

    This brought the biggest smile to my face! I cracked up so hard. Hearing this actually brought great relief! I don’t have a problem with mistakes just the same ones.

    The post was long because I just felt like it was all a mess. I didn’t really know where to start. This really brought a lot of clarity and greater understanding of my situation. I really appreciate the insight, especially about the sex drive. I never thought of it as something that would remain even after the shame fades. I am slowly learning to embrace the drive and also my need for emotional connection and intimacy. These things don’t make me weak.

    I am glad that your wife was able to open up. Deep down that is what I hope for him, even if it is not with me. I also know how it feels to not let anyone in. It is just sad to see someone closed off because he is not only closed off to me but to himself. I will present this to him. I hope he wants to step up. I know we both need to do what it takes to nurture a healthy relationship and there are things I need to let go of and things I need to let in too.

    Btw thanks for introducing me to Ajahn Brahm. I have listened to three talks by him and have been so uplifted. I really appreciate it!

    With Love and Gratitude,


    Buddhist Wife

    Hi Zenhen,

    All I can say is that in my experience as a parent, you need to have a really strong and happy relationship before having children because it puts an enormous strain on any couple. If you don’t have this, having children is just going to make it worse.

    I also think it’s important to have a partner who is motivated, not to have some high flying career, but just generally because parenting is exhausting and you need to have a lot of get up and go to deal with it.

    If you don’t think your partner has these qualities I think you need to have a really long hard think about whether or not your relationship can continue.

    I wish you all the best.


    Thank you for writing this….
    I have been in a relationship for many years exactly as the one described… Apart from he refuses to live together. I broke up with him after 7 years of this behaviour, and he wrote letters and opened up to me (only after losing me) and I gave him a second chance.
    Things were to be different, we were engaged prior to the break, and the only time a date for a wedding was made was after we got back together. However, that was the only thing to change, a wedding…….
    2 and a half years later, making it a total of 10 years later, we still do not live together, it is my shame saying how my husband will only visit me for an hour at the most at night.
    It it a great question you asked, do you stay or leave? How long do we give of ourselves waiting on others?
    For the first time in all these years, I felt a wave of relief seeing I am not the only one, and I thank you for that.


    Hello Zenhen,

    I can definitely relate to your post! I know it is easier said than done but…

    I agree with what has been said above about presenting to him how you feel. If he can’t open up to you about how important this relationship is to him and show his commitment to and desire for you when your relationship is on the line, then I think you will have your answer. Relationships are about being equally, give and take. If you feel like you are supporting him and propping him up, and he isn’t doing anything back for you, he is taking advantage. You are not his mother and nor should you let him treat you as one.

    At the end of the day, sometimes you have to shut one door for the next one to open, to see opportunities and indeed people with fresh eyes and a clear mind.

    My advice in this situation is to write a list of all the things you want to do in life. Don’t even think about him or his needs when writing it. Go through it and really think; which ones would he help me to achieve? How many would he support me in doing? How many would he or the relationship STOP me from doing? He should support your dreams even if they are different to his own. Do you want to live for somebody elses dreams and goals, or you own?

    Good luck Zenhen,

    Susanna x

    Nicole Adriana

    Hi Zenhen,
    I see that this post is over 3 years old, but I am in the EXACT same situation. It’s actually unbelievable how you described our exact dynamic and my feelings. I would love to know how your situation turned out and what you learned. That would really help me so much at this very moment. I wish you could even email me personally but i’m not sure if that is even possible. Anyway, I hope to hear from you soon! Thank you.


    * Dear nicolea: I hope you get a response on this 2013 thread. If you would like to start your own thread with a description of your situation, please do so: click FORUMS above, choose a CATEGORY, click the chosen category, go down the page and post there.


    Hi beautiful i pray youre okay now, just know u cant babysit someone they gottamwork on themselves u deseve happiness we learn from mistakes and grow, you helped hi, thats what matters,,you tried, focus onnwhat makes u happy just knowntheres silver lining always and that u mater and are never alone always rooting for you, best of luck hon, focus onnyour happiness guys, and hel otjhers and be kind to you, dont critisize let stuff go and know u dont need to control what u cant control u and wish peoplenwell its all for s purpose. Theyll get help eventually love uu Love Leni ♡Livelovelifeleni Positivity&Motivation ♡


    Wow, I wish I could be in a group chat with all of you. Thank you for this post and helping me feel a little less lonely, my emotional connection has also dissipated with my partner.  We live an hour apart and after our weekend time together is over talking to him on the phone has become unbearable and I hardly desire to see him by the end of the week. It’s a little better when we are physically with each other but the lack of emotional connection makes keeping the spark when apart..well, aweful. 🙁





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