Q: I'm in a 4 1/2 year relationship with my boyfriend and I do love him. However, I find myself at a real loss about what to do.
Background: This is the longest relationship either of us have had. We're in our early 30s and have lived together for the past 2 years. He's currently unemployed after getting a graduate degree. He's looking for work diligently in his field but it's tough. I don't financially support him -- he receives enough to cover his bills from his parents, but hates that he has to.
Last week, I get home from work and my boyfriend begins to talk to me, starting out by saying "I'm not breaking up with you, but ... " He tells me he loves me, that this is the best relationship he's ever had and that I'm a great girlfriend. He knows he should be happy, but he just doesn't feel happy or excited about us. He feels more like roommates than boyfriend/girlfriend and he doesn't want that. Well, I don't want that either and I told him as much. But I do agree that passion has been the last thing on my mind. I don't know if our libidos don't match anymore, if we're just lazy or tired, or maybe we’re just not attracted to each other anymore. And the stress from his financial situation has taken a toll on the both of us. He always shoots down suggestions for things to do because he has no extra money, even if I volunteer to pay.
I'm also concerned that he might be depressed. He's mentioned that he used feel like this before growing up, but he always cycled out of it. He's talked to his best female friend about how he feels about me and she told him he was crazy for thinking that way and that we're good together. I feel like it's his mood that affects mine. Ever since this discussion we had, I find myself second guessing everything I ever thought about us. I've been thinking about marriage with him for a while and now I'm not so sure I can see that kind of future anymore.
I hate that it sounds like I'm putting everything on him, because I know that relationships are a two-way street and what's wrong with us is a problem for both of us. I don't communicate well, or at all. I bottle everything up and try to keep things under wraps so I don't upset anyone, especially myself.
I'm terrified at the thought of breaking up. I'm terrified of being single again rather than losing him. I'm terrified that this might be the beginning of the end. I suggested we get counseling and he seemed open to it, but how does someone unemployed pay for counseling? Where do I even look for it?
I don't know what to do to give this relationship a 2nd chance that I know it deserves.
He asked me if I still got excited to see him at the end of the day and I couldn't answer him. It’s scary. So I'm looking forward to what the readers have to say about it.
– Terrified, Waltham
A: He sounds pretty depressed, and you're obviously very confused. Counseling is key, especially for you. No more repressing all of those unpleasant feelings. It's time to talk it out. You have a job so therapy should be possible. Call your health insurance company. Find a therapist. Go a few times and then bring your boyfriend.
Unemployment can kill a pretty great relationship, so it's important to try to remember what things were like before his job hunt. Was it great then? How were your libidos during his grad school years?
You should ask your boyfriend to imagine what his life would be like with a salary and a good job. If he eventually gets everything he wants, will he want you around? When he fantasizes about an easier future, what role do you play?
And ask yourself this very tough question: If you knew you could find someone else -- anyone else -- and that you wouldn't be alone, would you want to hang on to this relationship?
That question might take some real thought and discussion, so get to therapy. Then bring him as your guest, as soon as you can. The good thing about all of this is that he's willing to go, he wants to talk, he's admitting that he's just as confused as you are, and he knows that you don't have to rush to figure any of this out. And really, you don't. It's a big decision. Take your time. And stay honest. Honesty will lead you to the right decision.
Readers? Are they done or is this unemployment? Is therapy the right move? Does it sound like she's just afraid of being alone? Help.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.