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Suzanne, Therapist, LCSW
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 919
Experience:  Experienced in treating trauma, relationship issues, co-dependency
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I have corresponded with you over the years with questions.

Customer Question

I have corresponded with you over the years with questions. I have a new concern for my daughter. She has been seeing a guy since April, who by the way courted and asked her out for months before she agreed to see him. He was doting, and cooked for her, took care of her when she was sick, etc. However, she started to notice he could get very down and depressed. He opened up a little, but she has never met family--none of them. He rarely talkes about them. We are a very close family. In the last month, he tried to kill himself and called her in the middle of it to say goodby. She went to him and talked to him for hours. He went away for a few days--I assume for treatment. When he came back, he then told her he has 1 maybe 2 kids. Now he is only 20. His reasoning for not telling her was that he was afraid she would leave him. She has stood by him but he continues to pull away at times and then the next day he will call and say he is sorry and it is him, not her. He did not get her anything for her birthday on Monday. He tells her he loves her daily. Is it possible the depression and his guilt of the past eats away at him and makes him keep his distance? She is the the type of person who would stand by someone through anything and she really loves him.
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Suzanne replied 7 years ago.

Thank you for writing to Just Answer.


There are some real red flags here, and I hope your daughter will proceed with extreme caution.


1.The drama of the suicide attempt with the middle of the night phone call to say goodbye--that was a play for attention: if a person wants to die, they don't call people up and tell them about it first.

2. Keeps a large part of his life secret -never talks about family.

3. Doesn't know exactly how many children he has

4. Went away for a few days, but you don't know where

5. Ignored her birthday

6. Continues to pull away even after he says he loves her.


As her mother, surely you have some concerns about this relationship, or you wouldn't have written to us about it.


As a loving person who would "stand by someone through anything" it is very important that she is careful who she gets involved with.


Yes, he could be having guilt about the past, but why would that excuse him ignoring her birthday?


His push-pull behavior and lack of closure concerning his past, in addition to his tendency toward drama rather than rational discussion make him a poor relationship risk. Having children that he isn't involved with tells you something about his character. He has made two women pregnant, and walked away from them, and he's only 20.


The severity of his behavior and symptoms mean that he needs professional help. This is not a problem that "standing by him" will cure.


Please advise your daughter to take very, very careful precautions against pregnancy and to not make herself responsible for someone whose behavior is so erratic.


You are right to be concerned about your daughter: she's in a situation that has a lot of potential to cause her heartache.

I wish you both the best,






Customer: replied 7 years ago.
I totally agree with your decision. She is a very bright girl and she is very "smart" about sleeping with a guy. My concern is that she is looking at it as he is opening up and sharing small amounts at a time of information and the guilt of him hiding it from her caused him some of the emotional stress. She does at all not blame herself for any of his emotional baggage. She is trying to find a positive I think. I also forgot to tell you that his brother overdosed 7 years ago and died. And this boy also contemplated suicide one time before.
Expert:  Suzanne replied 7 years ago.

A history of suicide in the family raises the risk of suicide in other family members, according to studies.


He may need trauma therapy to deal with his brother's suicide. EMDR can be very helpful in such situations. My guess it that it is this larger issue, mixed perhaps with survivor guilt --rather than guilt over withholding information from your daughter that is triggering his responses.


It can be very tempting to want to act as a surrogate therapist, especially when she is "rewarded" by his small opening up attempts. All my experience as a therapist goes into my advice that he needs professional help--and that is doubled now that I hear there was a completed suicide in his family. Here is some information on EMDR and how to find an EMDR therapist. One of the reasons I feel that EMDR might be helpful in his specific case is that the client doesn't have to do a lot of talking for it to work...and he seems to have trouble in this regard.


He sounds like a deeply troubled young man--I hope he gets the help he needs.


Customer: replied 7 years ago.


Also, he is training to be a basic EMT. All of his depression--or the last serious bout--came about after he lost a boy in a drowning. He also spends a lot of time at a fire station volunteering. I personnally feel he is trying to find himself. I am not sure about the family situation. All he says is he doesnt see his parents much, his family was destroyed by his brothers death, and his sister cuts his hair when he needs it. He also spends a lot of time with an aunt. My initial thinking is that he is afraid to get involved with her because of all the baggage and he is never sure what will set him off and he does not want to bring her down. He told her he will never let her see him angry. I have told her all that you have said to me a million times.

Expert:  Suzanne replied 7 years ago.

It sounds like he is trying to work through his issues by being a 'rescuer"..which is admirable, but will trigger his loss issues and survivor guilt over and over. I really hope he can get himself some trauma therapy...especially the EMDR I told you about.


(It's also pretty common for families to drift apart after a suicide, so his lack of talking about them seems more reasonable now that I know his history a bit more.)


I hope our conversation has been helpful, in at least supporting what you've been saying to her.


I wish the both of them the best,