Today’s article is in response to a question from a reader (via Ask Melissa!) about what to do when your boyfriend isn’t communicating with you like he used to and how to get him to open up.
Why doesn’t my divorced boyfriend communicate with me like he did in the beginning of the relationship?
I’ve been dating my boyfriend for one year and six months. I love him dearly, he’s the love of my life. He’s 39, I’m 28. He’s been divorced for three years, no kids and no interaction with the ex-wife.
In the first few months he was so open with me. He did so many cute things, we checked in with each other all throughout the day.
Now things have changed. He works a lot and has lost three family members in the last year.
My boyfriend doesn’t communicate with me like he did in the beginning. I have to pull information out of him. A relationship has to have an open communication to work.
Maybe all the hours he works now and the deaths in his family is making him shut down. Am I wasting my time in this relationship or am I just being irrational?
-Lost Without Communication
Hi Lost Without Communication,
I hear you. I can see why that would be heartbreaking and frustrating because you feel like he’s pulling away.
It sounds like your boyfriend has been through a lot in the past year with losing three family members.
Without knowing more about his situation, it could be that the loss of those family members has impacted and occupied him so much to the point where he’s become emotionally absent from your relationship.
Maybe he’s suffering from depression due to his loss.
If someone has experienced significant emotional trauma, and they are struggling with how to deal with it, sometimes they’ll withdraw from their relationships.
He may be working a lot as a way to cope with the losses.
Whatever is happening, whether he is struggling with loss or is having mixed feelings about his relationship with you, he’s struggling with how to communicate what’s really going on for him.
Communication is a skill.
And in order to communicate effectively, he needs to know HOW to communicate effectively and FEEL SAFE making his needs known.
But he’s got to come to a sense of safety and grow his communication skills on his own terms.
He’s responsible for reaching out and getting help with those things if and when he wants it.
How to Encourage Him to Open Up
The best thing that you can do is to communicate and be open with him in the same way that you wish he’d communicate with you.
The way you find out what’s going on is to ask him. How he responds (or doesn’t respond) will give you information.
Use “I” language when you ask him. Meaning, talk about how the issue is making you feel.
“I miss touching base throughout the day; I miss checking in with each other. Checking in with each other makes me feel connected to you. It means a lot to me.”
Something like that. Use the words that feel true to you.
Avoid “you” language such as saying “You don’t talk to me anymore…” or “You never…” because people tend to get defensive when they feel they’re being accused, and it makes them less likely to be receptive to what you’re trying to say.
Let him know its okay to feel sad if that’s what he’s feeling, and that it’s okay to tell you what’s going on for him, even if it’s not some good news.
Your openness invites his openness.
If he doesn’t know about the issues and concerns you’re facing in the relationship (and issues point to unmet needs and requirements), he’s not going to have the opportunity to try and meet those needs.
So making your needs and concerns known to him is really important.
But also pay attention to how he responds.
How he responds to your concerns (or doesn’t respond to them) will tell you a lot about likelihood of this issue being resolved any time soon.
Don’t Fall into the “Rescue” Trap
If he responds to your concerns with openness and he shares with you what’s going on for him and helps provide an explanation for why it seems like he’s less communicative, his desire to open up and reassure you is a good sign that he wants to stay connected.
But if he distances himself from you further, then that makes things more difficult.
He may not want or know how to open up.
The key thing here is to not get stuck trying to pry him open or try to heal his pain, if that’s what he’s going through.
There’s often a big temptation for women to try and “be there” for their boyfriend by trying to fix his problems.
We tend to do this out of compassion.
But we also tend to do this out of deep fear.
Fear that the relationship will not survive.
Fear that we’ll lose our relationship with person we love if we don’t try and fix the situation.
But having a healthy relationship means also knowing where your responsibility is in a relationship.
And knowing where it’s not.
We can’t be responsible for our lover’s emotional journey. Or for his healing. Or for his choices.
Because once we try to control the outcome of his journey, we’ll always feel helpless and disempowered in our relationship.
And we risk making our self a wreck over trying to control something we ultimately cannot control.
He is the creator of his own experience.
In a relationship, it is not our role to fix or rescue each other.
Rather, in a healthy relationship, we EXPERIENCE each other, and SHARE in that experience through our self-expression – through being who we are.
Can This Problem Be Solved?
I would encourage you to get clear on what need is not being met in your relationship.
For example, you mentioned that you missed the kind of communication that you had.
What is important to you about that communication?
What need was not being met?
What do you wish communication in your relationship were like?
And then I encourage you to have a heart-to-heart with him to let him know how you feel and why you’re concerned.
And ask how you could work together to solve it.
See how he responds.
Is he open to working with you on this?
If he is UNWILLING to problem-solve the issues with you together, then that’s another problem.
Solving relationship issues requires BOTH partners’ willingness to work on the problem.
If there isn’t a willingness from both partners to solve the problem, then the boat doesn’t go anywhere.
And if it comes to that, then you will have to decide how you want to handle the unsolvable problem(s)…whether that means letting the problem go or moving on from the relationship.
And I go into what to do with unsolvable problems in my article about Should You Wait for Him to Be Ready for a Relationship.
I know this is a lot of think about but I hope this provides you with some guidance.
Please feel free to reach out if you need any other support!
To your success in love,
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