My boyfriend suddenly changed

-- Question for John --

I need some explanation to what happened in my most recent relationship. We really hit it off and before long, we really felt like were really meant for each other. In a couple instances he mentioned a future together and though I understand that these are not promises, many times, I at least took these utterances to heart that he really loved me that much. Then my boyfriend suddenly changed.

Anyway, I got a job which would make me move away for a short time (6 weeks) and in the month before I left, we got into 2 distinctive fights. The first, a horrible blow out where he was drunk and apologized profusely afterwards and the second fight occurred also a drunken evening, unfortunately, the day before I flew out of town.

He picked the fight with me that night claiming that I had done something I hadn’t. It has been a week and we have still not spoken. The day I was leaving, I called him to touch base with him and at least kind of settle the relationship and he merely said yes we needed to talk but that he was in a room with a bunch of people and that we would talk about it later.

He seemed upset still and when i asked if he was still mad about what he “thought” I had done, he said yes. Now that a week has gone by, I realize I am better off without him and yet I find myself still tormented by the fact that I don’t understand how something like this happened.

I guess I just don’t understand how a relationship can falter SO quickly…I am constantly wondering if this is his way of basically saying to me that our relationship meant nothing to him. Logically it would seem that if it did, he would have at least made SOME effort to contact me. Anyway, thanks for your time and any insight in matter such as this would be kindly appreciated.

-- Answer from John --

There are usually unstated emotional issues that are below the surface which contribute to these kinds of fights — in fact, which make up the majority of the energy of the fight. Without really exploring with the person himself what was under the blowout, it is impossible to resolve or even figure out. Therefore, deducing that your relationship meant nothing to him is so completely hypothetical that one must conclude that the deduction says more about your fears than it does about anything objective in him. The mere fact that he was terribly upset — perhaps amplified by the booze — would rather suggest that you are definitely “under his skin” and mean something to him. People generally don’t bother to be upset by people who mean nothing to them. Right?

Even that he has not contacted you does not directly indicate the degree to which the relationship mattered to him. If he has alot of unresolved feelings about these fights — and unresolved and still unstated emotional energies that contributed to the fight — then he is sitting in his own emotionally unresourceful place — perhaps filled with anger, pain and/or fear — and perhaps not feeling able to contact you and do something constructive — so instead, he is just stewing and not communicating. In the end, if that scenario was accurate, it would indicate that the relationship means alot to him, but he is stuck in a quandary around not feeling he can do anything to improve it or make it work. Which kind of also sounds like where you are at.

When blowups first occur in a relatively new relationship — and the great honeymoon phase of love seems to end — it becomes a choice point for couples.

Fights and conflicts can eventually ruin a relationship, no matter how much love is there. Love is not enough. It’s dangerous to keep reacting. Sooner or later, things get said or done out of anger that can never be taken back.

I have worked with many people after they split up, and most of them deeply regret having said or done certain things when they were arguing — and they would give anything to be able to go back in time and have done something different.

However, there is an important opportunity when couples are suffering from conflicts, but they still have enough love to want to work things out. Both partners have an incredibly important opportunity to grow personally and learn new communication techniques to overcome conflict.

Research has shown that the most important difference between couples that split up, and those who stay together in love, is NOT the absence of problems or differences that might give rise to conflicts. All couples have about the same amount of issues to deal with.

The difference is in the communication skills that a couple is willing to learn to better resolve their issues. Couples who learn new communication skills that help them more respectfully overcome their problems and differences stay together and have lasting love. Couples who just keep reacting either sink into permanent unhappiness or eventually split up.

So all couples have problems from time to time. It’s more important HOW you go about resolving your problems than what your problems are. If you want longterm happiness, you need to learn new communication skills that help you effectively resolve your problems. This includes ways of avoiding blowups like the ones you have had.

If you do ever reestablish communication with him — and I rather expect you might — and if the two of you choose to try again — I would suggest that you sit down together and make an agreement to learn new communication skills that will help you better resolve conflicts.

But whether or not that happens, it is important for you personally to learn from this situation. Relationships are our best teachers — for what we need to learn next in our personal development. You have an incredibly important opportunity to develop new skills and strategies in dealing with emotionally charged issues. Do that, and you dramatically increase your chances to beat the odds and have a relationship filled with lasting love and happiness — whether it be with this guy, if you choose to try again — or with any guy in the future. You might as well learn this stuff now, while you are still young. It does not get easier with age — you just tend to stack up a higher pile of failed relationships and accumulate even more emotional baggage.