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My Partner Keeps Disappearing & Blocking Me Out

by Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Hi, I have been with my partner for nearly 3 years and we have been through a lot. I forgave him at the beginning of the relationship when I found out he cheated on me, but I have never managed to rebuild the trust.
He has changed, worked really hard and is a great guy in many ways BUT one thing. The biggest issue we have is when he goes out/goes for a drink. I keep on telling him that I am unable to trust him unless he keeps me posted, comes home at a reasonable or agreed hour, answers his phone if I call him late at night. But him going out often results in us arguing as he never sticks to his word and the worst thing that he does is he disappears. What I mean by that is that he would just disappear for the whole night and not answer his phone/messages. So obviously this makes me feel really disrespected as I sit there all night waiting and going crazy worrying if he is safe, if he is with another woman, if he is injured…like there are so many things that go through my mind during those dreadfully long hours until he decides to get in touch or come home.

He normally apologises and swears this relationship is all that he wants. He promises to stick to the rules and act responsibly etc. Then I have the best boyfriend for months until one day he slips again. And we go in this cycle again.

I would like to understand why he acts this way? Is he running away from problems? Is he trying to punish me for putting pressure on him because I demand much more due to the lost trust? What goes through his mind to think that it is ok to disappear like this for the entire night and not let your partner know? Please tell me because I do love this guy and when he is acting normal, we plan future etc. But I can’t continue dealing with his disappearances and the hell I go through when he just blocks me out.

I want to give him another chance but have a feeling he needs to see a specialist because he is in his early 30s and he acts so irresponsibly and selfishly that it breaks me and everything we both have worked on so hard.

Do you think this is part of his personality or some sort of suppressed emotional issues? When I ask him why he does it his answer is normally “I do not know. I just go into auto pilot mode and I enjoy myself and not check my phone as I know you are going crazy”…

I was thinking that maybe we need couples counselling, but maybe I am just hoping too much that this will change. He asked my dad a few months ago to marry me so we were moving forward into some bigger commitments and yet he slipped again and I just do not know how to deal with this.

I am not perfect, I am insecure and I struggle to trust him but all I ask for is for him to stick to his word and respect me enough to not just cut me off like this.

I know he loves me, I know he wants to be with me but I want to understand if it is me, him or us that makes he go into such modes from time to time. Thank you!

The problem may be bigger than you think. You’re about to marry a person who knowingly engages in behavior that hurts you. He knows that it hurts you, but he does it anyway. The key word is knowingly. It doesn’t seem to matter to him that you are not okay with his going out and drinking. It causes you a great deal of distress, but he is not willing to give it up. That is very concerning for the relationship.

Imagine if someone you love comes to you and tells you that something that you are repeatedly doing hurts them. It causes them great emotional pain. Would you continue to do it anyway? At the very least, wouldn’t you try your hardest to make a change so that you never hurt that person again?

He goes out because he wants to. His “autopilot” excuse is invalid. No such thing exists. His behavior is entirely controllable. No one is putting a gun to his head and forcing him to go out drinking. He wants to do it, and so he goes out regardless of how it makes you feel. It’s another way of saying I know you don’t like it but I’m going to do it anyway because I want to.

Actions speak louder than words.

He repeats the behavior because you tolerate it. He’s paid no real consequences for his behavior. He does it because he can and how it makes you feel matters little to him.

It seems as though you’re attempting to minimize, rationalize and compartmentalize this aspect of the relationship. You are effectively saying that everything else is great except for this one minor thing that if corrected, would make for the perfect relationship. Unfortunately, that may not be the case.

You seem to be rationalizing his behavior when you say that “I am not perfect. I am insecure and struggle to trust him.” In other words, if you’re not perfect, how can you expect him to be perfect too? The problem with this logic is that you’re not asking for perfection. You’re not expecting him to never make a mistake. You’re asking him to stop one particular behavior that hurts you and is bad for the relationship. That’s not an unreasonable thing to ask. It’s a very fair thing to ask.

People engage in rationalization when the truth is too difficult to face. You may be rationalizing his behavior because it is upsetting to consider the possibility that this relationship may be in trouble. You should never tolerate an individual who knowingly hurts you. That should be unacceptable to you and to everyone.

Relatedly, your insecurity about his cheating seems valid. He cheated on you, so you know that he is capable. He then engages in suspicious and secretive behavior and when you ask him not to do it, he refuses to stop. Feeling insecure makes sense in this circumstance.

There’s a famous quote that is applicable here: “when someone tells you who they are, believe them.”

Your boyfriend is telling you who he is. He is telling you that he doesn’t care that his behavior upsets you. If you want a happy and healthy relationship, then this problem needs to be rectified before marriage. Many people think that marriage will change their partner or somehow make them different or better. It will do no such thing. He will be the same person after you marry him.

If you marry him knowing about these problems, then you will have no right to complain should nothing change.

Don’t be unwilling to face the truth. You mentioned counseling. It’s the ideal solution to this problem. Couples counseling may be helpful but I would also recommend individual counseling for you. It’s important to analyze why you may be rationalizing his behavior. It will also be important to analyze whether or not this is the right relationship for you. You don’t want to learn the hard way that you married the wrong man. Divorce can be devastating, especially when children are involved.

Few choices are more important than who you marry. Dedicate yourself to learning the truth about this relationship no matter where the truth may lead. You need to know the truth because after all, your happiness depends on it. Counseling could help you immensely. Good luck and please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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