Dating

By Hannah Joseph

The Situation:

I got fired from my secondary job as a waiter early this week, which was a disaster. Now, my girlfriend of three years and I only see each other on the weekends so being the genius I am, I decided to hide it from her until I could tell her in person. When she decided to surprise me at work and realized that I had been fired, she got extremely upset and hasn’t spoken to me in about a week. I tried to explain that I was too embarrassed to tell her before (since I pride myself in being the provider of the relationship) but she said she couldn’t trust me anymore. Now I don’t know what to do – I don’t even know what I want to do. I know that in a day or two after stringing me along and being irrational, she’ll want me back but I don’t feel the same passion I once felt in the relationship and being that it’s my first real relationship, I feel like I could find better out there. I feel like a scumbag for admitting it, but I don’t know if I want to be with her anymore!

Mark* 22, New York

The Solve:

Hi Mark; unfortunately, job loss has recently become a problem in many relationships. Especially in more traditional relationships, when the role of “provider” is threatened, both partners can feel strained. In your case, however, I think there are several underlying issues that you should consider before making any important decisions.

According to Dr. Jason Greenberg, there are two questions you should ask yourself. One is, simply (paraphrase alert!): Where did all the passion go? That is to say, what is going on with you personally, or between you and your girlfriend that has led you to feel this way? Once you figure this out, you’ll have your answer. The situation with your job may very well be just a symptom of a deeper problem. “It almost seems like he may have been using this situation as a way to exit the relationship,” said Dr. Greenberg. “When she pulled away from him, it gave him the opportunity to get out too.” Use the time in which you two are not talking to begin a conversation with yourself. Is there something specific about her behavior that is turning you off? And if so, are you contributing to it in any way? If that’s the case, definitely try to talk to her about it so that you can both alter your behaviors and get on a better (more passionate) track.

Or is it something personal? You said it yourself – you’re 22, and this is your first relationship. You’ve been together for three years, and you think you can find better. Are you speaking out of anger, or is this what you honestly believe? On one hand, you’ll never know if you can find better until you try out other relationships. So if you truly feel like you don’t have enough experience to settle down for a long term relationship, you might want to consider taking a break. It could be very possible that you’re using this particular situation as an excuse to let go of the metaphorical baby blanket that first relationships often turn in to. On the other hand, I wouldn’t recommend throwing away a good thing in favor of mystery box #2. Evaluate what it is about her that makes you happy and whether the bad outweighs the good. Is your lack of passion for her temporary and situational? If so, try to talk things out with her and stick it out a while. Relationships have rainy days too!

The second question you should think about is: Why do you need to play the role of alpha dog? “Chances are, if you had been honest with your girlfriend, her reaction to it probably wouldn’t have been as strong as your own reaction to getting fired,” said Dr. Greenberg. “Think about why you feel like you have to be the provider in the relationship, because that’s an issue that’s going to carry on in whatever relationship you’re in.” Is it a power issue? If so, the underlying problem may actually be a power struggle. While you feel the need to assert your dominance financially, your girlfriend may also be trying to exert authority by overreacting and holding her love over your head, which would contribute to your frustration with the relationship. You should each ask yourself what is more important: being in control or your significant other? Once you’ve answered that, you should be able to communicate about your feelings and move forward. Please keep in touch and let me know how things go!

All the best,

Hannah

This week’s expert is Dr. Jason Greenberg, who is a licensed psychologist with over 10 years of experience in counseling. He is helps run a private practice in NYC and leads forums for the online patient information site Medhelp.org.

*Name has been changed to keep anonymity.

Originally published November 2008
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