Dear Miss Emily:

 My boyfriend (I’m 25, he’s 27) and I have been together for over 3 years.  Lately, he has been completely stressed with work (pay got cut and they are constantly pushing them to sell more), plus he is studying to get his state license.  His daughter's mother recently got married and he feels like his daughter has a new father now.  Plus, I know he is trying to be here for me but, lately, I have pushed him away some because I have honestly taken on more in my life than I can handle.  Everything was fine with us. We had our normal arguments, but nothing major – just typical stuff.  Well, last weekend we went and saw that movie "Taken" and after that he acted completely different. He had to work the rest of the weekend, so I didn't see him.  Last Monday, when I called him after getting off work, he asked me if I was happy with him.  I told him, yeah, and kept asking him what was wrong.  At first, he just said he didn't know, then he told me he felt like he worked all the time,  neglecting his daughter and, sometimes, felt the backbone of our relationship was sex.  Then he said he knew I wanted to get married but he wasn't ready.  I also forgot to mention, earlier, he still lives with his parents. He has had problems with his car, lately, so he is having to drive his parents’ car.  Then he said he didn't want me to feel like he was stringing me along, and he didn't mean to hurt my feelings.  He said something is missing and he didn't know what.  He said he wanted to start going to church.  Then he told me that he couldn’t give me all the things I deserve, but he also knew I would never break up with him.  I told him if I were unhappy, I would.  Then he said something about how I have tried to 4 times this year.  I, of course, was so emotional I mouthed off things I shouldn't have.  Then I said well where does this leave me?  He said, “You?  What about me?”  He says he thinks he is destined to be alone.  I know he is not seeing anyone else.  He never has time.....he absolutely works all the time, then tries to see his daughter, which is rare, and then he tries to be there for me.  At the end, he said that I had other guys who wanted me, and I told him I didn't want anyone else.  Then he said I had so much going on, anyway.  He told me that maybe we should take some time just to figure out what we want.  He could barely get off the phone.  I heard his voice crack and he told me he loved me.  I don't know what to do.  I have called him and told him I am here if he needs to talk.  But he has not called me back.  I know the best thing to do is just to give him some time, but I don't even really think this is about me.  He has seemed so overwhelmed, lately, and I had been unintentionally pushing him away because I just couldn't handle everything going on.  I really don't know what to do.

--------------------------Miss Emily’s advice------------------

Boy, what an emotional treadmill you two have been on.  It sounds like the movie did set some things in motion, and it gave him some new insight.  He is spreading himself very thin, and there has been little time for both of you as a couple.  With all that's going on with him, and your reaction to it all, I think he needs to feel less pressure in his life and he's looking at ways to simplify. That said, if he were totally committed to you, and he felt you were satisfied (despite these complex issues), I don't think he would be have entertained the idea of letting you go -- for any duration.  However, you have spent 3 years with this man, and in that three years you have pretty much been letting your world revolve around his world -- a world that involves financial insecurity, work demands and, now, a threat of a new man in his daughter's life.  He knows you want more, and he cannot give it to you.  To him, that's pressure.  He feels responsible for your feelings, and it's easier for him to let you go than to keep you on this emotional treadmill with him.  Your relationship is going to spiral into a bitter one if you don't keep your words measured when you do talk to him. You can't really change the reality of this new event, and I know the frustration is driving you crazy.  But I think the space he is asking for is necessary.  Let him see how things go when you are not in his life the way you have been.  If he decides he wants you back in it, it must be with a clearer understanding of where you two are going as a couple. Yes, he has his stressful job and the threat of the new daddy in his daughter's life, but he needs to prioritize.  Give him this time to do so.  If his world is easier without you, as painful as if is, it is better that you are without him.  No relationship survives well unless each party understands that even though life can be tough,  it would be a lot tougher without that other person in their life. You, too, have to think about what you need and want out of life.  Don't try to hang on to this relationship for all the wrong reasons.