Did his grief cause this breakup?

My boyfriend of 11 months is the love of my life. We met online and instantly had a connection. We always got along, had a lot of fun, and never had any disagreements. We always made a point of discussing things, knowing that without communication it wouldn't work. He was the first to say "I love you" and the first to introduce to me to his family and friends.

For the entire time that I've known him, he has been the backbone of his family. He helps them with money, with chores, fixing things, etc. They always come first, as they should. One of his older brothers was also sick. Recently, that brother got very sick and was basically put on hospice. I tried to let my boyfriend know that I would be there through it all and do anything I could, but he said he was fine. I gave him his space.

The other day, on our regularly scheduled day to hang out, he came over. I had cooked a week's worth of food for his family, as it was the only thing I could think of to do for him that wasn't invasive. He seemed annoyed. Then he said, "We need to talk." I started to cry. He first wanted a break, and when I said no, he said he no longer loved me. He cried and said he was sorry, then left. He asked his friends to look after me, sent me a text that night to see if I was OK, and that was it.

My question is: What now? I know I need to give him space, and I will and have. But is this the grief talking? This came completely out of the blue! Will he come back?

– Worried and Broken, Mass.

My guess is that your boyfriend is so overwhelmed with family responsibilities that he doesn't want to manage another person (you). Or maybe he's been feeling less excited about your relationship for a while and just hasn't had the energy to deal with it until now.

Either way, it makes sense that he walked away. If he sees you as one more responsibility -- as opposed to a partner -- this just won't work. And if he's been thinking about this breakup for a while, there's nothing you can do.

This doesn't strike me as a crazy, heat-of-the-moment-decision. He prepared a speech and delivered it. He sent the stupid "Are you OK" text. He obviously gave this some thought.

My advice is to treat this like a breakup and to allow yourself to be annoyed that he pulled the rug out from under you. The timing is awful and confusing and painful, but you're allowed to feel your own grief and anger even though you're worried about him. Please surround yourself with your own friends and family (not his), and spend some time putting yourself first. It's your turn to be someone's first priority. That's what's been missing here.

Readers? Is this breakup real? What happened here? How can she deal with this loss knowing that he's going through such a difficult time? Would he have been a good partner if his family always comes first?

– Meredith