Ask the Therapist: My boyfriend is spiraling out of control!

I’m 19 years old and have been dating this guy for 18 months now. We were pretty close friends for about 4 years before we started dating. We met at school and starting dating in our final year of schooling.

When we started dating he was really committed and passionate about cycling. he has been cycling all his life. He was extremely fit looking, riding every day if not twice a day and competed in races all around the country. He didn’t work and didn’t seem to really care (neither did I at the time), he was daggy but very social and had many friends. He was the life of any party and was really respectful, appreciative and affectionate towards me.

We both started uni together but at separate Universities. This didn’t really seem to matter as we made time for each other. He started working a Sunday job and started a website company but he still had time for me and time for his cycling.

In the last 4 months he started to get obsessed with money even to the point that every conversation was about money. He was offered a job with an extremely unfair boss who paid him low wages and treated him poorly. He worked there a few days a week during the last semester of University but now that we are on our university break he has been working there 5 days a week and has kept his other jobs aswell. He works from 7 til 5.30, seven days a week at his 3 jobs.

Ever since he started this job I’ve notice a change in him. He is exhausted (who wouldn’t be), moody, boring and drained. He hasn’t seen his friends in ages because he is too busy and he doesn’t cycle anymore and says he hates it. He snaps at me every time we hang out and overall he just doesn’t appreciate me or respect me anymore. He doesn’t reply to my text messages anymore and he doesn’t call me every day like he use to. It feels like he doesn’t care about us anymore and certainly doesn’t put any effort in. I feel it’s always unappreciated, unimportant and forgotten about.

Because he is drained and tired he eats extremely bad foods, like fast foods and soft drinks and doesn’t exercise anymore. He has gained weight which his friends comment about regularly, he isn’t fit anymore, he doesn’t even have time to go and get his haircut or go to the dentist. Physically he looks disheveled, tired and sad which makes me extremely worried and devastated to see how he has fallen from such a passionate, happy, determined, fit and amazing man he was.

I’ve tried to do all I can to help him. I make him healthy lunches for the week, I go over to his house when he is too exhausted to go out, I don’t get mad when he cancels on dates I have booked and planned because he is too exhausted and I don’t complain about him working too much.

The only thing that i do bring up is his cycling. It was one of the reasons i fell in love with him as he was so passionate about it and dedicated to it. It makes me terribly sad to see that he has just given up on something he has worked so hard for and was so successful in. Cycling made him extremely happy and I was so proud of him. I became extremely invested in it. I watched most races, I listened to him talk on and on about how he needed to train and was with him every step of his journey as he progressed further in it. Every time I bring up cycling he says he hates it and he is retired from it. But the funny thing is he won’t sell his bikes and he still looks at cycling magazines, bike websites and cycling social media pages. I’m wondering if that’s a sign that he isn’t finished with it?

He is nothing like the man that I originally fell in love with. Is there a way I can help him get back to his former happy self?

Lisa’s thoughts:

I can see why you would be concerned with the totality of all of the changes you mentioned!  His level of fatigue, ditching his passion, cycling, and not taking care of himself on a basic level are particularly concerning.  The change in his behavior towards you and his friends are also troubling.  He has done a 180 degree turn from where he was. 

I hear you’re trying to support him which is great.  You are being a loving and committed partner during stressful times where you’re not only not feeling reciprocity in the relationship but he’s barely got his head above water to take care of himself!  But I think more needs to happen to intervene here as he simply can’t go on like this. 

It’s hard to know what’s driving this behavior but what’s clear is that you need to stop avoiding the real topic.  His change of behavior is putting him at risk for serious emotional and/or physical (health)consequences.  

Your support of him needs to now go further than helping him to survive his daily routine.  No more picking up his slack and trying to protect him.  You must be more assertive around helping him to see what’s going on and why.  He is at risk.  Tell him you are worried because the guy you knew is disappearing before your eyes.  Share your observation that his work schedule and environment are at hand.  You are fearful for him because he is clearly spiraling out of control.  

If he resists or pushes you away, involve his family and friends in a loving intervention.  Do some research ahead of time of potential local therapists to help him detangle from it all and find the happy, connected guy he once was.   

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Lisa’s responses are not to be considered “therapy” but rather educational; her thoughts are based on the limited information available. Please seek a local individual, couples or family therapist if it is therapy that you seek.

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Lisa is offering Online Therapy and Counseling services to individuals seeking help with their marriage or relationships. California residents only to adhere to state licensing laws.