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Arundhati
Arundhati, Counselor & Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 256
Experience:  Licensed psychotherapist, Published Wellness Author
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My boyfriend and I fell madly in love and he kept telling me how much he loved me and want

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My boyfriend and I fell madly in love and he kept telling me how much he loved me and wanted to marry me. Then he slipped into a depression. We are long distance, so this is difficult as is. I've been emailing him or talking to him every day telling him I love him and how wonderful he is (since his depression is a sort of self loathing one). From Last Saturday until last night he would not speak on the phone, but texted me to thank me for checking in with him, that he appreciated me in his life, and loved me.

However last night he told me that when I referred to "us" figuring things out in our conversation (in the context of the "sweeping" changes he wants to make in his life when he gets through this depression), it made him feel trapped. He said our lives just not might converge and he was worried I'd get hurt and that was stressing him out. In the past, he's always been the one to bring up marriage and has been very effusive and positive about "us" figuring out how to be toge
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Arundhati replied 3 years ago.
Hello,

Thank you for writing in to Just Answer.

I'm very sorry to hear about what you are going through.

I read through your question carefully and have some thoughts but before I go into that, I find that you have not asked any specific questions. If you had to ask a specific question, what would that be?

You can reply here and I will then proceed to answer your question in detail.

Thank you.

Regards,

Arundhati
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

That's a good question :) I guess I have a few:

 

1. What is the best way to show him support without either emasculating him or staying away. He told me he really appreciates it when I check up on him, I have been writing 1 to 3 text messages a day to him...all very short but light either reminding him how great he is or just mentioning a light topic or inside joke. However when we spoke last night after 4 days of only text, I had a hard time not asking too much or offering too much. He seemed to get upset because I said "we" and "us" too much and said he felt trapped. This is very strange and really upsetting because up until now he has been very affectionate, has even cried because he misses me, and has told me I am his other half and that he wants to be with me the rest of our lives.

 

2. Is there anything I could say to him to help protect myself when we do talk on the phone or when I visit him? I already sent an email last night that gently suggested we not talk about our relationship until he was feeling better since that is not the root of his depression and he may hurt me. Should I do more? What if he snaps back or brings up being trapped again? He has been very worried about hurting me by being too depressed or snapping at me, and I've told him I could handle it...which I have until now. But last night, he made me cry because of what he said about being trapped and not wanting to have to choose between me and his career...he's never said anyhting like that before!

 

3. If he is still severely depressed when I visit him in two weeks, should I cancel my trip or go there anyhow? What if he tells me not to come? I know withdrawing from loved ones is a part of depression, I'm prone to depression myself, but I feel like he's creating a self-fulfilling prophesy that this relationship, like everything else in his life (in his eyes) is crap

 

I'm afraid that not going would be hurtful to him, even if he told me not to come, but that going if he doesn't want me might make him angry or tactless v. touched.

Expert:  Arundhati replied 3 years ago.
Hello,

Thank you for listing out your questions.

Here are my thoughts:

It sounds like you and your bf were enjoying an intimate emotional connection when he started pulling back, citing depression. There are a couple of things that could be happening and I want to honestly share these with you. First, it is quite possible that he is in the throes of a deep depression and feels that he doesn't deserve you and it wouldn't be fair to make plans into the future with you because he is not worthy of you - and this part of him might be making him feel "trapped" when you refer to "us" or "we". Another possibility is that he has some concerns/issues with this relationship but lacks the communication skills to appropriately bring it to the forefront and as a result he has turned to being avoidant and is consciously or subconsciously moving away from you in this way. In either case, it is clear that this is not a healthy pattern for the relationship.

I can imagine how hurt you're feeling because his depression suddenly seems to have turned against you - and you're suddenly at the receiving end. This can be a very hurtful place to be in. I would encourage you to bring this up with him. This answers your second question about protecting yourself. You absolutely have a right to protect yourself and his depression should not result in pain to you. I think you did the right thing by reaching out to him through an email and suggesting that you and he not talk about the relationship till he was feeling better. I think what is important here is gently laying out some boundaries of what is acceptable to you and what is not. I also think it will be good if you encourage him to be forthcoming about anything that might be bothering him. For example, the statement about career and choosing you - what is leading him to think that he must make a choice between you and his career, why does he think that a relationship with you means it will be at the cost of his career? These are questions you need to explore with him to understand why or what is leading to them. I would also encourage you to tell him to take some time and think through these issues, before further discussions are made about the relationship. This will lead him to take ownership of the issues that might be troubling him and start looking at them instead of pushing them away.

You can also articulate that he is welcome to discuss all these concerns openly with you, but until these are worked out, it is best to put the relationship on hold. This will give him a clear message that it is not ok to be avoiding you while at the same time receiving love/attention from you. That he must make choices and decisions and cannot leave you hanging and waiting.

If he is still severely depressed in 2 weeks I would recommend putting a hold on your trip because it seems clear that particular issues are at the core of his depression. Until these are addressed it may not be a good idea to visit him.

I hope I was able to answer all your questions. Please let me know if you have any clarifications/thoughts.

If this was helpful please consider clicking on the "accept" button as experts are not credited for their time or service otherwise.

Thank you.

Regards,

Arundhati

Edited by Arundhati on 1/28/2011 at 1:00 AM EST
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I'd like to clarify things a bit so you can give me a little clearer advice.

 

One thing I know absolutely is that he has a severe chemical depression that gets set off situationally at times. He told me when we first met that the skeleton in his closet was his bianual bouts of severe depression and he's always said he'd be devastated to lose me. He'd ask if I was sure I'd want a "loser" like him.

 

I stayed with him two wonderful weeks (until the 15th of Jan). He got a ridiculous deadline that stressed him out right before I left, and he was tearing up the day before and day of my flight home. I know at least the job thing set him off and it went down the hill from there.

 

A while back, we talked about what to do when this happened, but obviously not enough. Back then said he'd want me around...but who knows.

 

Do you really think I should break up with him right now? I honestly don't want to since I love him and I think it could drive him into something suicidal at this point...that's the kind of severe depression he's experienced in bouts since he was in his 20s...and he tried once early on. But I do want to figure out how to survive this depression myself and not get dragged down. I told him last week he could tell me anything that was bothering him, but I wish I hadn't since I know he is loopy right now. I just want to make sure he gets through this, I give him some support, and I don't get walked all over in the process. I don't think I can survive him saying something cruel again...I've never seen anything like that from him before..not even a glimmer.

 

I appreciate your encouragement to stay off topic in terms of the relationship, but presuming I don't tell him I'm leaving, should I tell him very strongly next time he lashes out and hurting me, or is it better to let him get the thought out and hear from me later like this last time?

Expert:  Arundhati replied 3 years ago.
Hello there,

Thank you for the additional information. It does clarify things.

I don't think you should break up with him, given the connection you both feel for each other. For now, I would recommend giving him more space, so that the depression can pass, while you stay supportive as much as you can without getting hurt yourself.

For the long term, I do think though that this pattern (his falling into a depression and then that depression sort of turning against you instead of seeing you as an ally) cannot lead to a sustainable fulfilling relationship. That is why, I think it is important for him to take some steps to address this issue - e.g. therapy, consulting with a psychiatrist. Without any professional help or support it may be hard for him to address this issue by himself. And without his addressing it, it is likely to come up again and again and cause rifts in your relationship.

You raise a very important point about not getting bogged down yourself. If you're prone to depression yourself this can be a major challenge. That is why, I would encourage you to seek professional support as well, if possible. Therapy, especially, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can give you the tools/techniques to not get influenced by his depression.

To answer your last question, I would say that he needs to know how you felt when he made his last comment. In other words, he needs to know your feelings - this is important, as otherwise without that knowledge he might come out and say more hurtful things in the future. He needs to know this though in a way that doesn't put him on the defensive, so I would recommend saying it to him in an objective, neutral, calm sort of way.

Again, for now, apart from gently telling him how hurt you felt when he said what he did last time, I would encourage you to continue being supportive as much as you can until he feels better. Once he does, I would recommend addressing this issue - as without addressing it, it could turn into a pattern where he turns avoidant whenever he is confronted with a challenge (especially if he gets positive reinforcement from you in the form of support, care etc.).

I hope this offers a helpful perspective. Please do let me know if you have questions/thoughts.

Please also consider clicking on "Accept" if this was helpful, as experts are not credited for their time or service otherwise.

Warm regards,

Arundhati
Arundhati, Counselor & Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 256
Experience: Licensed psychotherapist, Published Wellness Author
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