You Want Someone Who Sticks By You Through Tough Times

My client Christie just told me a horrible story about her fiancé pulling away from her.

My client May recently informed me that her on-again/off-again boyfriend was off-again.

My client Selma has been so hurt by her last guy that she’s keeping all her relationships casual.

If you empathize with them, and you find that your love life, too, is a perpetual challenge, it doesn’t have to be that way. Really. It doesn’t.

By learning about men and what it’s fair to expect from them, you can let go of your frustration and confusion instantly.

It’s easy to be in a relationship when everything is perfect.

It’s easy to be in a relationship when everything is perfect.

You discover something new about your partner every day.

You send flirty texts when you’re out of town.

You can’t stop thinking about him – or the great sex you’re having.

You leave your weekends open, knowing that he’ll fill them with his presence.

This is new love, and truly, there’s nothing better.

But let’s say you’re riding high, when suddenly you get laid off? Or your mom gets sick and has to go to the hospital?

Any normal woman is going to have a rough time with either scenario. Feelings of sadness, powerlessness, and impotence. Depression, frustration, and low-self esteem.

At such times, you can’t be expected to be a ton of fun to be around, nor to have very much to give to a partner.

Which means that a man has be really invested in you to weather the bad stretches.

A fair-weather boyfriend – Mr. Right Now – doesn’t want to bother with driving you to the hospital or helping you with your resume.

A man who doesn’t support you when you’re at your weakest is not a man to keep.

He just wants you to be fun, spontaneous, and easygoing – none of which describe your emotions when you’re dealing with illness or unemployment.

As awful as it is to recover from such setbacks, it’s even worse when the person you’re dating pulls away or isn’t supportive of you.

In a way, it almost feels worse than the event itself.

Suddenly, you’re not just obsessing about how hard it is to hold it together emotionally, but you’re being torn apart by your growing distance from your “partner”.

This is no way to live life.

And I know because I have had MANY clients go through this.

One woman had to put life on hold to help her son through drug rehab.

Another struggled for months with the illness and death of her beloved mother.

Another has been out of work for nearly a year and can’t find a position like her old job.

Each and every one suffered through boyfriends (in one instance a fiancé!) who weren’t fully supportive of them through their darkest days.

And what did each of these amazing women want to do?

THEY WANTED TO HOLD ON TO THE UNSUPPORTIVE BOYFRIEND!

Sorry. Wrong answer.

THIS is how he acts when he’s asked to be selfless.

THIS is how he acts when he doesn’t get his way.

THIS is how he acts when the chips are down.

So why would you want to commit to a man who doesn’t have the decency to put your needs first when you need him the most?

Because you love him?

Because he’s cute and smart and funny and successful?

WHO CARES?

You just got a glimpse of the rest of your life.

A man who doesn’t support you when you’re at your weakest is not a man to keep.

As tough as it is to let him go, he’s done you a favor. He’s shown you his stripes. And he’s shown them to you early enough that you can move along.

I had a girlfriend who dumped me after I struggled in business in 2004. I’m not going to defend myself and say that I was a ball of laughs. I was pretty anxious and challenging to be around. But she gave up on me when I needed her most. That said everything to me.

Imagine you’re married and this happens.

He pulls away when you get depressed at your work situation.

He refuses to communicate when you want to know where your relationship’s headed.

He leaves you when you get breast cancer.

By ignoring your guy’s pitiful reaction to life’s challenges, you’re signing on for deep heartbreak in the future.

Don’t do it.

Your type should start with the man who treats you the best… everything else comes in second.

How a partner responds to crisis and communicates through challenges says everything about the future you will have together. Does he crumble? Withdraw? Bail out?

If so, consider yourself lucky. You just dodged a major bullet.

Now I’d like you to think about the partner who sticks with you through your trauma.

What does it say about the partner who puts up with your suffering?

What does it say about the partner who cheers you up when you’re down?

What does it say about the partner who believes in “for better or for worse”?

It says that he is selfless.

It says that he loves you unconditionally.

It says that he is willing to put your needs first.

What relevance does all this heavy stuff have to do with you?

Well, you know that it would be wonderful to find true love. But it seems so far away, so impossible.

It’s not impossible.

It happens every day.

In the past few years, it happened to my sister, my four best friends, and me. Not to mention HUNDREDS of my clients and readers.

And if there’s a common thread between those relationships, it’s that all of us let go of how it was “supposed” to look and found the partner who accepted us at our worst.

What we found were spouses who share the same values, the same humor, and had the same dedication to building a life together that we did.

If you’ve ever had a partner who didn’t want you at your BEST…who wouldn’t commit to you even when you were 100% happy …think about what it would be like to have a partner who would run from you when you’re struggling.

Only by putting kindness and consistency above all other qualities – looks, money, height, weight, age – only then can you find a love this deep and true.

It’s easy to wonder where these kind people are, but I’m telling you, they’re everywhere.

You just might not consider them your “type”.

Your type should start with the man who treats you the best… everything else comes in second.

While it takes little work to find Mr. Right, with me by your side, it’s a much quicker (and more exciting!) ride.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    JA

    Back when my wife and I were dating, I’d sit in her room with her while she rocked back and forth with severe menstrual cramps. I wasn’t always sure what to do or say, but I sat with her. I wanted to show her that I was willing to spend time with her even when she felt lousy.

    1. 1.1
      Bec

      very thoughtful . Lucky lady !

  2. 3
    Robyn

    Evan –

    You have written some great articles over the years, but this one has to be the best of the lot (in my opinion, anyway). Really insightful! 

    What you describe is incredibly important in all relationships, not just in “love”/marriage/long-term partnerships.

    Anyone can be a good partner when the going is good (a.k.a. “fair-weather friend”).
    But it’s when the going gets tough that you see the real person / true character of some one.

    As Rudyard Kipling said:

    “If you can meet with triumph and disaster
    And treat those two imposters just the same;
    ….
    ….
    Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!”

    Thanks for reminding me of what really DOES count when it comes to finding Mr. Right!

  3. 4
    Kerri

    Thanks, Evan. I love reading your blog and finding new ways to appreciate my wonderful guy. Nowhere near perfect (just like me) but over and over again, a truly awesome human being and pretty stellar boyfriend. Thanks for helping me continue to see that.

  4. 5
    Speed

    Evan, I just have to say it: this is the very best blog post you’ve ever made.

  5. 6
    Sophie

    Evan,
    Great post.  A point I want to add: I also believe that in many cases you don’t get to see the true character of a man until you witness how he handles a life challenge or crisis of his own.  I’ve known men who seem to sail ok in good days, but the moment he loses his job for example, he either turns into selfish-to-the-core monster or completely loses his will of strength.  If he has to struggle in anyway, he couldn’t care the life/death of you.  You don’t even exisit for him.  Men like that are ALSO NOT KEEPERS.  They either can’t handle the hard times, or they love themselves SO MUCH MORE than you.

  6. 7
    Fawn

    @6 – you have made a spectacular point.  I’ve been going through some hard times with health issues and family issues and my boyfriend has been there 100 percent for me.  At the same time, I work hard not to let it interfere with our relationship.  I know that life goes on and you just have to do the best you can to be there everyday.  He is a gift and I intend to appreciate him and enjoy him – through the hard times and good times.

  7. 8
    Diana

    Evan,
    This post brought tears to my eyes. My boyfriend is currently unemployed and actively seeking gainful employment. I have helped him redraft both his resume and cover letter, and just yesterday I contacted a close friend who is going to set up a couple of interviews for him. His unemployment is the only factor holding us back from tying the knot. I love him deeply. I used the sound advice you offer in “Why He Disappeared” and our relationshiphas grown closer over time (I was one of the first 25 to order your book). No, he is not lazy. Yes, he is a well-educated professional. Yes, I am honored to be his girl. Today’s advice is truly golden.

  8. 9
    Tish

    SOPHIE #6 – OMG, were you there when it happened to me??? LOL  I couldn’t have said it better cuz that’s EXACTLY what happened.  He suffered setbacks with his finances (cut in work hours), Real Estate market crash (foreclosure) and instead of allowing me to be a friend to him or manning up and focusing on what his next move needed to be, he became that “selfish-to-the-core” monster.  Told me that he wanted to date other women, became a complete jackass.  Cut me completely out of his life and went from calling every day 2-3 times a day to once a week and having the nerve to ask for sex after turning against me!  HA!  I CUT HIM OFF and stopped even having him over for a year and a half until I finally told him to stop calling me all together. I gave him back his ring and severed all ties. I’m so glad that I did not allow him to use me.  I’m so at peace because of my decision and I haven’t looked back.  He on the other hand stays in touch with my family, (whatever).  Like you said, he was not a keeper.  I’d rather be alone in peace than to be miserable with somebody who as Sophie so eloquently put it “couldn’t care the life/death of me”.  Oh and don’t get me started on the “loving themselves so much more than you”, this guy became an arrogant, conceited jerk!  I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing.  After 8 years of him not being able to get enough of me, one setback and he fell apart and basically said, “screw you, it’s all about me”.  

    Ok, I digress  . . . . .good post Evan!

  9. 10
    NN

    I have picked my friends based on that principle for years..

    I had a difficult time once, when I really needed the emotional support of my friends, and those friends that are left from that time, and those I have met afterwards are chosen based on that reliableness. 
    I don’t have that many friends, only 5.. rest are acquaintances.
    I have a male friend from that time who helps me with my CV, and all that.. but no, since he is not sexually exciting in my eyes. I gave it up after trying to date him for a summer, and allowed him to find someone who finds him hot… And we still are good friends, and our mutual supportative friendship has lasted for almost decade. =).. and his girlfriend is ok with it, as she understands that history is history, and she is also good friends with her most exes.

    Why would I settle less when looking for a man for myself?
    Friend in need, is a friend in deed. If he doesn’t fullfill my requirements, he is not to be taken seriously, and I pass him.. no matter how hot.

    But still on the other side – a man needs to be hot, or he is just a friend. 

    I don’t need a man who is educated, not who has money.. nor do I care if he wants children, all those are secondary in my opinion. Important facts are good character, reasonably similar look of life and intellectual level AND sexual hotness. 
    I am not settling with my essential requirements, I’m rather single than in a relationship that doesn’t satisfy me in all important levels.

  10. 11
    Sophie

    To Tish #9, it happened to twice.  One turned against me by trying to make money off me; the other wilted into a state of complete uselessness. I tried to comfort them, encourage them, care for them in every way – I was so emotionally exhausted I was sinking with them.  At that moment, I saw the true color of their character: selfish men who are fundamentally only interested in their own survival or men who are intrinsically weak, incapable of being a strong anchor for himself or for YOU in YOUR times of need.  These men simply don’t make good life partners because life challenges are both inevitable and bountiful.  Aren’t you glad we find this out BEFORE marriage??  I dodged a bullet as Evan said. 

  11. 12
    Kim

    Thank you Evan for a great post!  I agree with the other posters here that this is one of your best.  I am reminded here why I am no longer dating the jerk who viciously dumped me and then immediately started seeing a well-to-do widow when I was a struggling grad student/single mom with two kids. His complaint was that I never had any money to do things.  His “sugar mama” now takes him on expensive vacations.  WHATever.  MAJOR bullet dodged there. I am also reminded that even though I have been out of work now since March, my new guy is still supportive, still sticks with me, and hasn’t disappeared.  He offers suggestions on my job searches, help on interviewing, and is there to listen to my rejection rants.  Oh yeah, and he is loving, calls everyday, and we see each other weekly, even though we live over an hour away from one another.  He is fully functioning emotionally and physically, as he calls it, and I couldn’t be happier!  Now, if I could just land that dream job, life would be perfect … :)

  12. 13
    Evelyn

    What if HE is the one going through trauma? What is he wants time alone to deal with his trauma? Then you are the one being asked to be selfless, and not get your way, and give him what he needs. He is not there for you, he doesn’t want to be around you, but he is asking you to support him by backing away.

    Is it selfish to judge him for wanting time and space to deal with his own career/family difficulties? Or should we be more supportive, as women, of men’s need for space and time to themselves when they ask for it at difficult times?

    Or is the fact that he wants to be alone to deal with his traumas a bad sign? Evan?

    1. 13.1
      Carmelia

      I’d like to hear feedback on this, too. I was dating a man with clinical depression, diagnosed 20 yrs ago. While he was very gentle, respectful and supportive of me for the first 3 mos, I was of him as well and continued to be. But the dynamic began to change. True mental illness adds another dimension to this dynamic. He was not actively in treatment, meds or counseling. He would pull away when something triggered him, but wouldn’t tell me the ‘what or why’, even conversations we had and it was something I’d said. I extended grace and patience as he worked through this 2 or 3 times. He was able to work through it and have more clarity. His thinking would become distorted and completely misunderstand discussions at times, which can happen to anyone. So he’d withdraw. However, if I struggled with something or became hurt by a comment or action of his, he couldn’t handle it and again would withdraw and blame me for ‘persecuting’ him. It felt as though it was all about him and his needs. He functioned from fear and worry and it felt like walking on egg shells and being judged for ever bringing up something that he was uncomfortable discussing. It became a pattern and took a toll on me eventually…all within about 7 mos. I ended the relationship. IMO, I think there is a time to give someone space when they need it. However, if someone is married or in a LTR, my desire and need is to work as team, give and take rather than just check out and be isolated. At least I can’t live with that type of roller coaster over and over. Is there hope with treatment? Perhaps. Time will tell. Part of this is selfishness though too. It still hurts no matter how you slice it and see if for what it is.

  13. 14
    Catharine

    I have been reading your blog for several months now and have finally accepted the fact that the man I thought I would marry was not “The One”.  I’m not young. I have been married and divorced twice and have a grown son.  My parents had a strong marriage and a wonderful friendship in spite of the fact that my mom had MS for 25 years. She was a total invalid for the last 5 years of her life.  My dad died a year ago at 85 after spending 21 years by himself.  My parents had their ups and downs.  My dad was an alpha male and my mother adored him, but she was the tough one when push came to shove. My parents did not bail on each other and at times it would have been easy to do just that. They showed my sister and I by example what unconditional love truly is.

    I am so glad that you are sharing your thoughts on this subject. I wish someone had said to me at 23 that I should expect more and wait until I find it.  I have told my son the same thing.  Fortunantly, the ex he wanted to marry showed her  true colors ahead of time, saving him a lot of grief.  I hope he will benefit from my mistakes.

  14. 15
    AQ

    Like I said when I dumped my last boyfriend who didn’t want to sell his house or give up his things to commit or put up with my ex having cancer and the terror that ensued on my family – it is a heckuva time to break up but an even worse time to settle and I dumped him without a flinch after 1.5 years. Now, looking back, I think you can see this trait early on – how likely are they to be inconvenienced to fit you in the schedule and to mesh to your life? How hard do you have to work to “keep” them happy?

    Dodge a bullet is right! I love your blog because it shows I am not the only one on this difficult journey to find MRRIGHT for me@

  15. 16
    Terri

    Bad times in a relationship are supposed to draw a couple together.  Frequently, however, we read about couples who separate and divorce after he loses his job or the serious illness of a child.
     
    When you love your mate, IMO you want to be there to help them weather a personal crisis.  A person who withdraws or disappears when emotionally needed is not someone with whom you want to spend your life.

  16. 17
    pd

    This happened to me recently, I ended up in hospital having an emergency operation and after leaving my boyfriend a message on his voice mail to let him know where I was, I received an sms saying “poor darling etc etc” and then I didn’t hear from him again for nearly 4 weeks.

    He rang and asked how I was and could he see me again soon. “Gee sweetie, haven’t heard from you for ages, can’t wait to see you again, let me check my schedule … Oh, let me see, I should be free sometime in 2015 …”
    He said he is so sorry, where did the time go, busy with work, blah blah blah!

    What a jerk! And what a good thing I found out now before I got too invested in this man.
    Evan’s advice is spot on as usual. Dump the dick!

  17. 18
    Susi

    @Pd – what???!! 4 weeks later?? the total self-centerdness of some people never ceases to amaze me!  Thank god you found our sooner rather than later.

  18. 19
    Trenia

    What a great post! And I wish more people understood this concept. I completely agree with NN #10, I ended a lot of friendships in recent years after I went through a series of personal issues and setbacks in the span of 9 months. It showed me who my real friends were, but this is now a measure for ALL of my relationships.

    @JA#1, kudos to you, that was absolutely golden what you did for your wife while she had cramps.

  19. 20
    JB

    I was in a relationship with a woman for almost a year when all at the same time she found out her sister was dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease,her ex-hubby was taking her back to court to lower child support payments,and she was going through/starting menopause.All this happened within 3 weeks.Sadly she never gave me the chance to show how I would’ve supported her and helped her through this tough time.She stopped returning calls,accepting dates and faded away from me without even a “goodbye” right after New Year’s of course.Fast forward 5 years,now she lives with her mom,her sister has “passed”,she no longer gets child support because kids are older,I assume menopause is close to or IS over and I see her smiling face,horribly written profile on Match everyday saying she’s looking for a man that can have a “healthy relationship”??? Unbelievable !!!….LOL

    1. 20.1
      Goldberry

      I bet she wanted to lean on you but couldn’t do it. She probably was too afraid to ask for your help… because of being let down by other people in the past.

  20. 21
    SS

    @Evelyn #13
     
    I’ve been through this before, and usually when a man reacted that way, it was very early on in the dating relationship. I have no idea how he might have been if we had been together for a while.
     
    My thoughts in that situation is that when a tough time comes up, he’ll decide to sacrifice the budding relationship to focus on whatever issue it is, and will push the woman away in the name of “needing space.” I used to be the type to give the man that space he needed (although I’d always try to reach out in the name of showing how much I cared), but the relationships always came to an end because he ultimately decided that he had too much going on in his life to focus on me. But I’m a great woman of course and would make someone else very happy…
     
    I usually got really bad advice from other women on this topic too. They suggested I check in on the guy all the time, bake cookies, bring him soup, etc., to show that I was there for him. But honestly, he really didn’t deserve all that at that point… I think it’s probably best in such cases to give him that space understanding that it has a good chance of being a permanent separation.

  21. 22
    nathan

    The giving men space thing is tricky, given what SS and a few others are pointing out. I tend to need some time to process alone, and to reflect on what is going on – and too much attention during those times feels smothering and excessive.
    However, I also know that during one relationship, that ended about 4 years ago, I pushed away too much a few times, and it definitely impacted things in a negative way going forward.
    It all comes back to trust. If you’re a man pushing away your partner whenever your suffering, you’re probably don’t have much trust in her or the relationship. And if you’re a woman who doesn’t give any space, who thinks that any “alone time” for a guy during that period of struggle is a problem, then you’re also probably not trusting him or the relationship.
    Finding the balance point between a person’s natural way of coping, and what the relationship together calls for, seems key.
     

  22. 23
    Terri

    About a man wanting “space”, what I have heard from friends is that this translates – eventually – into a BREAKUP!
     
    It is rare, but not impossible, for him to decide he misses you terribly and wants to commit to a permanent relationship.
     
    This “space” usually means he wants to have more time to date another woman and see how this relationship develops.  If it does not, you will be waiting in the wings to take him back.
     
    If a man really cares about you, he will not want to risk a period of separation when YOU might connect with someone else.  Space = “I want to think about how expendable you are.”

  23. 24
    nathan

    Terri, to me it depends on the definition of “space” here. If I’m not living with a partner, and I’d like a few days to sit with something happening in my life, I don’t think that’s out of line or an indication I have some ulterior motive. And if I’m living with someone, asking for less time probably (based on having a stronger level of trust, which I know isn’t always the case) also shouldn’t be an issue.
    If you’re speaking about “space’ in terms of weeks or even months of time, I totally agree. I even have been there. One of my long term relationships basically ended after her call for space turned into “I’m seeing someone else.”

  24. 25
    SS

    Nathan @24,
     
    I agree that a few days of space is reasonable. I hope that a woman could give a man that amount of time for him to handle things the way he wants and to clear his head. I learned this along the way too — while women might want to draw closer (generally) to a man at a time of need by spending more time with him, a man might want to create space for a short period of time and then after emerging from that period of solitude, return to his partner.
     
    But weeks or months? Yeah, something else is going on. Or if the “space” period ends but the person is still emotionally distant and finds more reasons not to spend time with you, those are indications of a larger problem.

  25. 26
    Annie

    @#6

    I really don’t understand your reply in response with Evan’s post.

    He seems to be saying, that if your partner cannot support you when you are struggling , then they are not the right one.

    You mentioned partners of yours who struggled, and when they did so they became selfish?

    When people are struggling, they really really WANT their needs to be put first to help them. They aren’t being selfish they just want to be supported. If you don’t do that, then you are not the supportive partner.

    Everything you said, seems to be the opposite of What Evan Said.

  26. 27
    Sophie

    Annie #26 – you understand incorrectly what I said.  Please read #11 and Tish #9 and see if that helps you better.  I was agreeing with EVERYTHING Evan said, I simply added that not only it’s revealing to see how a man deals with YOUR struggles, it is also telling to see how he deals with HIS OWN struggles.  What Tish and I experienced was that despite WE being the extremely supportive partners when they had setbacks, they turned into extremely selfish monsters. The “ME”  loomed so large they began to do things TO OUR DETRIMENT, they couldn’t care about anyone else in the world.  It is OK to support us less or not support us at all when they were struggling (I am nodding to your point), but it is NOT acceptable to HURT us, take advantage of us, shut us off, use us as punch bags or try to make money off us.  

  27. 28
    Bridget

    I’ve  been in an on again off again relationship for quite some time.  When we were off, I developed pneumonia so severly I was unable to take care of myself.  He picked me up and let me stay at his house in his bed.  I was there for almost 3 weeks, he also took care of my dog and cat too.  That says alot especially since we weren’t even together. He knew I had no where else to go He risked catching pneumonia, and gave up his bed for my comfort.  When I finally got better he told me he enjoyed taking care of me. 

  28. 29
    Terri

    Bridget #28
    Where are you in your relationship with him now?  Sounds like he has feelings for you to extend himself in that way.
    Nathan and SS:
    Re my thoughts about a man needing space, I feel that a few days or a week is not a problem but longer than that period of time is an issue.

  29. 30
    Evelyn

    Thanks for all the feedback, ladies (and men). Relationships sure seem tricky sometimes, and I think it is definitely during times of crisis that you can discover real issues, or find real treasures in people. Good luck to everyone!

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