Does a Relationship Have to Start Out Easy to Be Successful?

Does a Relationship Have to Start Out Easy to Be Successful?

Hi Evan,
First off- thank-you! I am a single mom and finally find myself in a relationship with another single parent whom I completely respect and trust. Your advice on waiting to have sex until committed, mirroring, and letting him lead the way have 100% worked for me!

Here’s the rub. We have been together 4 months. 1 month in he lost his job, 2 months in his car, and at 3 months was just barely managing to hang on to his home.

He is also building his own business from the ground up and is finally seeing an income again. His stress level is high and his schedule is intense. He is spending all of his free time with me, however, that’s only 1-2 nights a week. We do talk on the phone everyday.

I know he wants to be with me. I know he is overloaded. None of my needs are being met right now (companionship, regular sex). How do I hang on? Do I just grin and bear it? We have weathered quite a bit together in a short period of time and this isn’t exactly the smooth start to a relationship that I always hear is key to long-term success. Plus I feel our communication levels are getting lower, not higher due to everything piling on top of him. How do I gauge a relationship without all the ‘normal’ barometers?

Thanks for listening. —Alyssa

Dear Alyssa,

Thoughtful question, which resists an easy answer.

I think it all depends on whether you see this man as having the potential to be your future husband or not.

As long as you’re on his team, you have a great chance to weather this storm and prove your worth as a partner.

If you do, you stick it out.

If you don’t, it’s well within your right to bail.

First, take a look at the man himself. Most of us have gone through hard times in our lives, not unlike your boyfriend.

Some people pull out of them — some people are in a perpetual funk.

Which category does your boyfriend fall into?

Is he a strong, driven, entrepreneurial man with a combination of book smarts, street smarts and drive that will lift him from his malaise?

Or is he the kind of guy who is always bouncing from job to job, who always complains that no one understands him, and who always has big ideas that never quite take off?

In other words, do you believe that this man will eventually pull himself out of this rut and that you’ll get back to normal?

If you believe in him, then I would stick with him.

Not because he’s a load of laughs with a high sex drive and a lot of free time and disposable income, but because you believe in his character and are the kind of partner who values loyalty.

Flip it over for a second and imagine you were in his position. What would you like HIM to do? I assume that if you were in his position, you’d be busy, stressed, frustrated, worried, depressed and consumed with pulling yourself out of this financial hole. Everything else would, by nature, be secondary to you getting back on your feet.

You’d presumably want him to be patient with you as you work through this tough time. Or, you’d have the kindness and wherewithal to realize that you have nothing to give, that it’s going to be a LONG road back, and let him know that he should probably move on without you.

If you believe in him, then I would stick with him.

But if, as you acknowledge, he’s a good man who is already spending all of his free time with you, I would ask him how you can help him achieve his goals. Can you help with his business? His marketing? His accounting? The dinner/movie bills? When I met my wife, she was in deep credit card debt and I helped her out by taking care of every check for three years, until she paid down all of her cards.

As long as you’re on his team — not pressuring him or telling him how much he’s failing you — you have a great chance to weather this storm and prove your worth as a partner. And I can all but guarantee you, he’s never had someone who has done anything like that for him before.

This is why you’d choose a man. This is why he’ll choose you.

Good luck.

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  1. 1

    Well, Alyssa, it’s a tough situation and I have been in your shoes for over two years…
    My ex-boyfriend is really a good man and i will always admire his ability to concentrate on the goal, his strength and that he never gives up, even when he has a lot on his shoulders for years.
    And I would be more than glad to be there for him, to help him and to support. But after two years it became quite clear, that he doesn’t need me – well, only like the weekend amusement, let’s say. He cares, he is very tender and loving, but my place in his busy schedule was determined in his mind. And this is why i finally broke up with him. I still love him, but I just cannot accept the role for me HE is comfortable with. I am not.
    So, i hope you will never come to the same point with your boyfriend, where you will be part of his schedule, but not his life.
    I sincerely wish you luck.

  2. 2
    Karmic Equation

    You might want to consider Option A, in conjunction with “virtual virginity” and circular dating while you try to work this out or think this through.
    Basically, date other men, but don’t sleep with them. This ensures you’re keeping your options open, without necessarily doing anything that you might consider unfaithful.
    If he’s not your fiance, and your needs are not being met, you are doing yourself a disservice by closing out your other options while waiting him out. There may be other men out there who will better meet your needs.

  3. 3

    @Karmic Equatiton
    well, not long time ago there was a big discussion here about dating – and that any man will try to get more intimate around the third date))))
    from my experience it was the same: if i go on the second date with a man, it is normal for him to assume i am interested in him, and not only in his charming personality))
    by following your advice, the circular dating will be a   constant man-changing wheel. i have found it exhausting emotionally and very unfair to men – most of them are very good guys and don’t deserve to be used as a buffet.

  4. 4
    Karmic Equation

    Hi Dagaz,

    I believe circular dating works only if you’re not sleeping with any of the men involved 🙂 Once you sleep with one of them, then it gets dicey.

    However, that said, there are men, even good men, who will continue to date other women until they offer exclusivity. Therefore, unless and until a man offers exclusivity, it is much more beneficial to women to circular date, to ensure we’re not putting all our eggs in one basket, and to ensure we don’t become fixated/needy of one man. BUT circular dating is very difficult for most women to do, myself included 🙂

    But if you can do it, you should. It’s the best way to make sure you keep your options open and stay “just a little out of reach” for your man. Staying just a little out of reach ensures your man continues to think of you as a prize he needs to win. (I read this in a book somewhere, I think “Why Men Love Bitches” (and bitch is not used a pejorative in the book. It’s a good book!)

  5. 5

    IF you have an exclusive committed relationship…..forget any ideas of dating around.     That is just more pressure for this poor guy!   If a guy pulled this a girl freind of mine who was going through kid drama or some other crisis …I wouldl tell her to dump him fast.

    I don’t see any deal breakers here.     This may not be fun but really good guys are worth sticking by.   You really KNOW if this is a good  guy or just a loser.   This  economy has really been tough for so many and it does affect the whole dating scene.    

  6. 6

    I liked Evan’s suggested of flipping it around. If YOU were the one with limited time for companionship and regular sex, what would you want him to do? Would you let him go?

    To me this is a clear indication of how emotionally invested one is. If letting go is an option, then you are not  that deeply emotionally invested.  

  7. 7

    @Karmic Equation:

    i guess it’s a question of terminology then))
    as i’ve pointed earlier, it’s basically impossible to continue to date a man and not to get intimate with him. or i will have to replace this man quickly, or he will go away in search for a woman who is really interested in him.
    constantly seeing a man and just to hold hands with him – it’s not dating him, it’s stringing him around, imho.
    and after exlusivity became a deal for both partners, there’s no more circular dating should be involved anymore.

  8. 8

    I’m wondering if this isn’t a case of unrealistic expectations?   I think 2 adults, each with children (assuming under age 18), work and other responsibilties that were in place before meeting often can only see each other 1-2 times per week.   It would be great if it could be more, I just find that’s difficult.   When something like this comes up, and it will (just have been going through a disruption like this myself), it takes a lot of patience to see things through.   He’s making the effort, give him credit and be supportive and focus on what you DO have rather than what you DON’T have would be my suggestion.   Spend time with friends, family and your children, and everything will work out as it is meant to.    

    I get this  concept of circular dating, but when in an exclusive relationship, it would be very hurtful to the other person to find out your girl/guy has been out with others, sex or no sex.   I know I would be hurt if I ran into  situations where I wasn’t as available and he decided to go out with other women in his spare time.   🙁    

  9. 9

    I’m going to sound completely cynical, but I felt I needed to comment as I’ve been in Alyssa’s shoes myself. I think it goes without saying that, if she stays with this guy, then his problems will, over time, become her own. On top of everything else she’s got going in her life, she’ll be dealing with his loss of job, car, house, etc. Since Alyssa says she is a single mom, to me this means that her kids will be sucked into this current as well. Since she knows the guy’s exact situation and I don’t, it is up to her to decide whether she wants this guy’s problems to become a part of her children’s lives. When I found myself in a similar situation, I said no, simply because there was enough going on in the man’s life to make me worried for my own kids if we continued seeing each other. Sorry, but my children come first, because I am pretty much the only family they have. If it’s any consolation, in my case, the man also eventually admitted that he had no time or energy to give me the relationship I needed, because he was in over his head with his own family stuff. It’s been almost two years since we ended things; we still talk, and from what I can tell, both of us are better off.
    This basically boils down to Evan’s question whether Alyssa can be on this guy’s team by offering tangible support. It is entirely possible that she plain and simple doesn’t have the resources for that. In that case, I advise to move on.

    1. 9.1


      I was in a similar dilemma as both Alyssa and you. I am so glad I am reading that it is OK to leave. I was bending over backwards to accommodate him and lost my dignity in the process. After going through thick and thin with him, his lack of appreciation and self-awareness really hurt me. Even when I left, I felt  defeated that I cannot stand by someone I loved. I just felt so guilty throughout that process, if I left him in the midst of his  struggles, what kind of person am I? It’s a tough choice but also a necessary one I know now.  Now reading this and hearing from you, I feel much better. I am currently working on my self-worth and knowing my emotional limitations and acknowledging when I am running on empty. So thank You Evan, Alyssa and Goldie.  

  10. 10

    Thanks for answering my question!   We have since broken up, he broke it off because he felt I deserved more and the stress was causing him to act in ways that ‘wasn’t him’.    And, truth be told, his stress was bringing out the worst in me, too.

    I miss him, but I’m glad he ended it, I could have never left a boyfriend (however new) just because he is having a hard time- it is simply not in my personal code of ethics.    It was honestly one of the most stressful dating experiences I have ever experienced, but at the very least I discovered I am capable of moving from ‘dating’ to in a relationship- something I haven’t accomplished in quite some time.   Thanks, Evan!

  11. 11

    @ Michelle #8   – I completely agree with your thoughts on the concept of circular dating especially in regards to what Alyssa has said in her e-mail.     She appears to be IN an exclusive relationship.   If she partook of any ‘circular dating’ at this point in the relationship, to me and I’m sure her to her SO it’d be considered cheating.     I understand having difficulties and issues in your relationship, but suggesting ‘circular dating’ in this instance to me is akin to suggesting cheating instead of trying to work it out.     If moving towards that direction you walk away first, then begin your ‘circular dating.’

  12. 12

    @Alyssa You both sound like good people who made a mature decision that was best for you both. If you both are single again a year from now, who knows. 🙂

  13. 13

    I think that if you truly care about somebody, you support them, even if there is no “boyfried/girlfriend” title in there somewhere. I also think it is important that each has a life on their own, and that they don’t become  “dependant” of the other person.. I think that no relationship is without trouble, but what really makes a difference is how one chooses to face them. I think it was very honorable of him to break it off, but if you truly care about him, you can still support him in any way you can that doesn’t affect you economically or mentally. Great relationships really last,  but they change along the way   🙂

  14. 14

    Great advice, EMK, and very cool that you cared enough about your future wife to take care of the bills so that she could get back in the black.

    A lot of good people are going through hard times in this economy and that doesn’t mean that they are “losers.”   In fact, if one wants to think of dating in terms of economics, this economy might actually help people find a relative “bargain” in terms of a mate because of circumstances.   When a man is oozing cash, he has a lot more options.   When his finances are tight, he doesn’t.   My thought is that if he is a man of character, he will love you all the more because you loved him and stuck with him through this hard time.

    In a way, I think that not having a lot of money helps people in relationships become a lot more honest about themselves and each other.   Either you really like the person you’re with or you don’t because there aren’t a lot of “props” (fancy dinners, vacations to exotic locations, long days of sex in hotel rooms) to be distracted by.   You have to make your own fun together   or you realize that it isn’t all that fun being with each other and you move on.

    Best of luck to you as you navigate this challenging time, Alyssa!  

  15. 15

    i was struck by the title of this post.   My own recent experience is this: I have been in an exclusive relationship for coming up 3 months. Right from the first time we met it was easy. Conversation was easy. Communication was easy. There was a sense of balance.   We had our first date a week after that meeting. Decided on a exclusive relationship a few dates after that. There has been some HUGE challenges – his exwife dying of cancer, an employment issue for me. Kid stuff.   House stuff. Health stuff.   But through all this there was…is…still an overriding sense of rightness and yes, EASY-ness.
    Compare this to the dating disasters I have written of previously, spanning the past 4 years.   Yes in some of those there were moments of easy. But it wasn’t the underlying climate. That’s the difference.

    1. 15.1


      I get what you mean. Good point. That rightness and  easiness.  

      1. 15.1.1

        Fascinating to come across my post. It’s now 2 and a bit years and we just broke up – he left me for a friend. apparantly THIS time it’s true love… On reflection i can say…the first three months…the first 12 months WERE easy in terms of the RELATIONSHIP – but the outside factors continued to press in (almost exclusively HIS issues not mine). In the end nothing was easy. If it was just us, in a bubble with no kids, employment issues, friends, money issues, whatever, it’s was a piece of cake and it was bliss. but as an overall relationship, it was hard work. I didn’t mind AT ALL, cos that’s what life is. but for him, he wanted easy and only easy – and I imagine he believes that this new thing will be the answer to all problems. I hope it is.

  16. 16
    Jackie Holness

    I think this is a situation that requires that you “watch” him for a while and see what happens…but since the relationship is already done at this point, it is a moot point…

  17. 17

    I’m always the one to offer support to a man because it’s what I would want if I were down and out.   But I’ve never seen a man actually appreciate that help or understanding.   A man is like a taxi cab, and a broken taxi cab’s not picking up anyone–even the girl who helped change the tire.

  18. 18

    @Alyssa —

    Whoops!   I missed your comment about the relationship ending before posting.   It sounds like things worked out for the best for you — good luck on your future dating endeavors!  

  19. 19

    Although I wish for everyone to never go through rough times, this is inevitable in life. Therefore I think that such rough patches early in a new relationship can be a blessing in disguise.
    Difficult times will make chemistry dissolve faster and bring new partners back to reality sooner, which to me is an advantage because I’d rather know sooner than later that that person is made of. Getting to know someone in their less ideal circumstances will offer an early glimpse of their true character and a chance to show yours. How do they treat you under stress? Are they still able to be respectful, caring, and trustowrthy? Are they able to juggle conflicting demands on their schedules? Are they generous with the little time/money left for the relationship? Is the partner “left out” able to demonstrate patience? Offer some support? Do with less?
    It’s a balance of course. You can’t expect too much support early on, and you should not give too much either. The most nurturing of us run the risk of taking a partner under stress as a “project” and invest unreasonnable amount of support too early on. This is the time to be very careful, open your eyes wide and monitor how hard they work at resolving their situation. As Evan said, some folks are always in some kind of drama, others use difficult circumstances to elicit pity, others to give way too much way too soon as a desperate attempt to become indispensable. If your new partner is under stress, be patient, be supportive, but limit your intensity and keep your expectations to a minimum. Communicate them clearly. If the situation does not progress within a couple of months, at least to a place of equilibrium where a relationship can progress, I’d say good bye.

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