I think it's over?
Last weekend I told my boyfriend of two years that his habit of going silent and cancelling plans when he’s feeling stressed out makes me feel unimportant and insecure. I said I was trying to understand him better and wondering if there were other ways we could handle things. The conversation was poorly timed, as he’d just received scary information about his health, so we agreed to talk again when we were both calmer. A few days later he sent an email saying he needed time to focus on himself and work on his goals without worrying about disappointing me when he wants time alone. He hoped I wouldn’t be upset about putting our relationship on hiatus. I responded that I understood what he was dealing with and had hoped to be a support and part of his life, and was sorry he felt our relationship had become a burden but of course he didn’t need my permission to break up.
He struggles with anxiety and depression in general, and has been caring for an ill parent who is likely to die soon. We’re both in our 50s with more than average baggage (I’m four years out of an abusive marriage and recently dealt with my own mom’s death and my teen son’s substance abuse and suicide attempts). I have deep feelings for this guy, he’s gentle and patient and funny and we have a lot of fun (not least in bed). We’ve both suggested ending things before, either when he’s overwhelmed with everything, or I’ve overreacted to small slights (like canceled plans). Usually after one of these events I extend an olive branch, we both apologize, and we move on. I really don’t want to end things, and I get that asking him for pretty much anything right now feels like too much and adds to his stress pile, but it’s hard to keep getting pushed to the sidelines. Is it possible to salvage this?
—On the Side