You Want Someone Who Sticks By You Through Tough Times

husband gives flowers to his wife at the hospital
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?


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?


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.

Join our conversation (136 Comments).
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  1. 21

    @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.

  2. 22

    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.

    1. 22.1

      I am in a relationship with a man that recently pushed me away when he was confused about his own future and miserable at work. If it had nothing to do with me– which is what he said– why push me away because you’re unhappy? I’ve never given him any reason not to trust me.

      If you have experience with this, perhaps you can help me understand this behavior. I want, more than anything, to be compassionate towards him and his struggles… instead of resenting him when he withdrawals.

      1. 22.1.1

        Hi Grace, your fella is probably struggling with his identity re work etc.. for some guys their self value is wrapped up more in who they are professionally than the woman who loves them etc… I’m not saying it’s right but it is I think at odds what seem to be your nurturing. Literature is full of the stereotype of the guy going off on some big quest after a tragedy and coming back a hero , a new identity. Hope that helps.

    2. 22.2

      I agree

  3. 23

    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.”

  4. 24

    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.”

  5. 25

    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.

  6. 26


    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.

  7. 27

    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.   

  8. 28

    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.  

    1. 28.1

      Wow what a good guy.

  9. 29

    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.

  10. 30

    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!

  11. 31

    I may be taking this out of context but you sound a little giddy at the thought of ex’s misfortunes. It’s comes across a little creepy.

  12. 32

    My daughter went throgh a rough patch of health issues and had to drop out of college – her boyfriend dumped her in the midst of this.   Daughter wanted to go back to him and was so sad when he said he only wanted to be friends with her.   She wanted him back!   I told her it was a good thing that she find out now that he’s not going to be there for her.   I basically told her what Evan said in his post.   Because they’d had some good times and he was everything she thought she wanted (smart, good-looking), she thought he was the one.   I hope she has learned from this experience that smart and good-looking are secondary to loving you through the good and bad times.   I think it spoke a lot for him when she told him she was grieving for the relationship and very sad and he said he didn’t believe in grieving.  

    Good post, Evan!

  13. 33

    I read today this good article in Psychology Today – 6 clues to character

    It sums up pretty well (and way better than I could) what to look for in a persons character to measure a partners character.  What you need in a good relationship is for everyone to decide him/herself.

    Still you shouldn’t fool yourself.. It takes 2 to tango. You should measure yourself too with same criteria, to see where/how you could be a better partner for your meaningful other.

  14. 34

    @Sharon #31….when someone blows you off after 11 months without even a “goodbye,it’s over” you tend not to walk away and say “gee….I hope  they live happily ever after and wish them nothing but the best” Karma’s a bitch.”Giddy” is not the correct word.And yes I can be  very creepy sometimes……Bwahahahahahahahaha !!!!!! 😉

  15. 35

    NN #33

    Excellent, thanks for posting this.  

  16. 36

    See …
    this post is common sense to me.

    I was under the impression that the kind of man Evan describes under his “for better or for worse” question is the kind of man we ladies were all trying to find.

    I thought that the hard part is that it doesn’t seem like there are an awful lot of them out there available for dating.   It seems like there are many more of the “bullet to be dodged” types in the pool.

    I do also find it interesting that a lot of the Usual (male) Suspects, who have an awful lot to say about what women should and shouldn’t be doing, and looking, and looking for, and looking like …

    have been very very quiet.   In fact, haven’t weighed in at all.

    Things that make you go “hmmmm …”

  17. 37

    I’m gonna play devil’s advocate and say that if you’re  gonna dump  a guy for not “coming through” for you in a crisis, you’d better be damn sure  he knew you were expecting something extra from him,  and that  he wasn’t having his own crisis.

    There’s also a fine line between needing support in a crisis and being a needy drag, and that line is different for everyone.

  18. 38

    SOPHIE #11:   Thanks for the response to my post Sophie (#9) – Yes, I am soooo glad that I found out that my efforts of being there for him would not be reciprocated, before I married him.   Needless to say, I was always the one who was nurturing, comforting, giving, etc. I should have seen it coming but I was so in denial.   Today, I am at peace and carefree.   A guy flirted with tme the other day asking if I have a boyfriend.   He complimented me on how young and pretty I looked.     laughing, I  replied, you know why I look so young?   Because I dont’ have a boyfriend!   LOL   Surely, I was joking.   I love men, but that’s just it, I love MEN.   Not scared, selfish little boys.

  19. 39

    Well, I’m actually not sure I agree with this article. If a woman were to try to use me as her therapist or her ATM machine, or if her life just seemed to be a downer, I couldn’t see myself sticking around. I don’t think most self-respecting men would.
    There is a line (perhaps wide and blurry) between being a worthwhile woman going through a tough time, and just a downer who dumps “too much” on the guy she is dating.

  20. 40

    Michael17, in response to what you’ve said, if

    “someone who can be strong for you in a crisis”

    translates for you into   

    “try to use me as her therapist or her ATM machine”

    then have you considered at all that perhaps it’s not the ladies’ point of view that needs some adjusting …?

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