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Old 3rd August 2005, 4:43 PM   #1
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Long: Boyfriend's depression, strain of LDR, and staying "friends" - advice?

Hi all. First time poster, long time lurker. I've been reading these boards for a while, hoping for some insight into my own problem, but finally I just decided to suck it up and post. Sorry it's so long, but I'd really like some advice from the wise loveshackers if you make it to the end.

Okay. I've been with my boyfriend for about nine months. (I'm 34, he's 33.) Our relationship has been pretty intense - lots of emotion, deep connection, utter faithfulness and honesty. I've never had such rich relationship before, and, well, I'm completely in love with him. But it's also been periodically stormy, because we've both got heavy baggage. He's recovering from a long bout of clinical depression (hit bottom 7 years ago, slowly emerging), and I'm recovering from a broken marriage that ended 2 years ago, when I found out my husband had been having a year-long affair (he blamed me and left me for her. Self-esteem = demolished.) I had had a couple of dating experiences since my divorce, but it took me a while to feel ready to go again.

Well, we met online, through the personals. We flirted over email for a week and met shortly afterward. When I first saw him, it was like an electric shock - this sexy guy was also my funny, sweet email friend? Yay! He told me later that he couldn't believe it, he was excited and overwhelmed by how we connected on so many levels, that he felt like I was his girlfriend already. Within a week we both admitted we weren't interested in dating around, so we hid our profiles and became exclusive.

Okay, on to the non-schmoopy part. Big conflict: My job in his town was only for a year, and after that - well, career options in that area were scarce. I told him, he said "we'll cross that bridge when we come to it", and we stayed together.

A few months in, I knew my job would end soon and I had to start looking for other positions. I started to freak out, because my best career options were all far, far away (in the northeast US - we were in Fla.) and, well, I didn't want to leave him. But that's when the problems started. He didn't want me to leave, either, but also didn't want the pressure of thinking I would stay just for him (derailing my career). And after all, we had only been together a few months - so early to have to make these kinds of choices.

But I also thought, he's uncomfortable with expectation and planning, and if he's not really considering a future with me, maybe I shouldn't consider staying. So I asked about it, he hedged, old demons surfaced - my insecurity, his fears of both abandonment and pressure. I wondered if he was a commitment-phobe or if I was a crazy clingy nutcase. Still, he didn’t want to break up and neither did I.

Then it came out – he was worried that he was slipping back into depression. He had been feeling it, off and on, for a while and didn’t know how far down he might go. And he didn't want to drag me down too. So he was ambivalent about our future – in fact, about his own future. And if I stayed in town without career prospects, just for him, that pressure would make things worse.

So, with that in mind, I applied for several out-of-town, career-boosting but temporary internships. And then I got one: a 6-month gig in another state.

I told him. He was devastated; he said he wanted me to succeed, but he also wanted me close. I asked him if he'd consider a 6-month LDR while I'm gone, and he said he'd try. So again we stayed together – but it’s been rocky, because there’s so much emotion.

Well, I moved a month ago, and missing each other is hard - we talk most days, over phone or email, he bought a ticket to visit later this month - but I could also feel him retreating, getting distant. As it is, I tend to be more demonstrative about my feelings, and I still have insecurity flashbacks. I got scared the other day, when I sent him a sexy note and he didn't really respond for about two days. I finally asked a question that had been plaguing me - is there someone else (damn those demons)? We ended up talking for four hours that night, and I got an earful.

There isn't anyone else. But he's slipping back into depression. He's considering quitting school (grad school). He doesn't know what else he'll do. He said it probably wouldn’t have mattered if I stayed, he was sinking anyway. And now, he's terrified of losing me altogether, of making me depressed (as it happens, I have been on medication, but part of that is my own history), of me leaving him when I don't want to put up with it anymore, and of feeling pressured to act "normally" in a relationship when he doesn't know if he can keep it up or what will happen.

So: my question (and thank you if you've read this far!!).

He has asked, in the past, whether we'd be friends if we broke up. He stays friends, or at least cordial acquaintances, with his exes. I don't. I said I didn't think I could, because I know I wouldn't handle it well, and I don't want to be part of a pantheon of exes watching him date other people and moving on. He said it’s not like that, he doesn't want to see me dating other people either. ??? Why ask me this?

Well, the other night on the phone he asked me again if we'd be friends, but this time it was in a really desperate way - and he also said he wondered if we should break up. He was a wreck. He said he's terrified that I'll just vanish out of his life if we do break up, since I've said so. And yet he also says he can't feel *anything* right now, even for me (well, he feels pain and anger. But no joy or love.) and it's not fair to either of us, he can't give me what I want, he doesn't know if he can keep it up.

I'm broken and torn. In addition to the awful pain of a potential breakup, I can't stand the thought of simultaneously being reduced to "friend" status like his other exes. However, he said that I'm misunderstanding him and his relationship with me is unique. He said he wants me to be happy, he doesn’t want to think of me dating other people but I can do better than getting hurt when I don't hear from him and waiting around hoping he'll get better.

I said flatly that I’m not interested in dating others or breaking up. And sticking around and pretending that I just have platonic feelings toward him would NOT make me happy. I've never understood the "let's be friends" attitude to breakups - seems like you're not really letting go, particularly if it's not mutual. I want to be supportive of him, but it's so painful (though I said that no matter what, I'd never be really unavailable to him if he really needed me).

He was basically in tears at this point, saying he does and doesn't want to break up, not sure what's best, then saying okay, I'll trust your judgment. But it's shaky. I don't know what to do. I know he's sinking, he's scared of it and in pain, he says I'm his best friend - and I love him and don't want to abandon him when he needs support. But I don't understand what sort of relationship he wants with me. Does he want to ensure I'm nearby so that we can reunite if he gets better? Does he just worry that he'll lose his "best friend", or does he worry he'll lose *me*? Is it selfish or wise to want to make myself scarce if we break up? So confused.

Does anyone have experience loving a depressive person? What should I do??
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Old 3rd August 2005, 5:35 PM   #2
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I do not have any experience, but I know you love him but it just seems that you will never be able to have a stable relationship together. I know that sounds horrible but he is really emotionally unstable it sounds like. So you really want that? All it will do it drag you down...I think because of your past experience you feel very unsure of yourself and very insecure. The reason you want to make this work so bad it because exactly that you are insecure about everything and there for you will just settle. I think you need to move on I mean I know you love him but this cant be healthy.
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Old 3rd August 2005, 5:39 PM   #3
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Do a google on depression and fallout. There are good places and forums to get support for people living and dealing with depressed spouses. A friend of mine used it and said it helped so much...

Would he seek therapy? Is he on meds? If not, then suggest strongly he get some help. He can't do this alone.

BTW, I like your name! How'd you come up with it? Just curious...
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Old 3rd August 2005, 6:06 PM   #4
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Hi Beachgrl - thanks so much for wading through all that. I really appreciate it.

And I do hear what you're saying...I guess I've pondered that, too: whether I really want this much drama, is it worth it, and can I even handle it right now.

I don't really think I'm settling, though (but then, I wouldn't ). As far as I'm concerned, he's everything I've been looking for - smart, funny, gets me, I get him, sexy - well, ad nauseum. I know there are other guys out there, and I've dated some of them - but I think he's rare.

Please don't think I'm discounting your advice - I really do understand your point. And I'm thinking about it. But for the time being, I have to say I'm not planning to end it myself.

But I guess what I'm asking is, if he does decide to break up because of the depression - what does it mean when he wants to stay friends? By and large, I've noticed, people think that the "friends" after dating thing is a bunch of hooey. I do, myself. My first inclination is to assume that maybe he's no longer interested, romantically.

But he says that's not it. And I've read enough about depression, in an effort to understand, to know that it's a whole other kettle of fish. So basically, I'm confused.
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Old 3rd August 2005, 6:11 PM   #5
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Hi WWIU - thanks. Once upon a time I studied marine science, and I love Shakespeare. So it just seemed natural.

Therapy is a possibility - he did try it the first go-round but didn't feel like it helped. But I think he might be open to it. So I'll work on that. Subtly.

But he's anti-meds. This is a point on which we definitely do not agree. I'm not sure if I should push.

I'll check out depression and fallout - thanks.
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Old 6th August 2005, 5:48 AM   #6
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Update

We just broke up tonight. Over the phone. It was soggy - crying on both sides. I'm a mess.

He said he couldn't handle the LDR. I don't understand why he'd want to give up part of his support system. He said he needs to focus on getting better, and I'm too far away, and it's too painful to be close to me but not with me.

He had bought a ticket to visit for a week next week.

He's not coming. Every time I think of it I fall apart.

I asked him why, if it's so painful to be close when I'm not there, he would want to be "friends". He said he hadn't thought it through, he just didn't like the thought of losing contact with me altogether. I said I didn't think I could do it, because every time we talk I'd just be hoping he'd change his mind, and then he wouldn't, and I'd keep getting crushed by it.

He said he'd leave whether we stay in contact up to me. I told him I'd let him know this weekend, because right now I'm in shock, and I think if I decide to go NC, I'll have to start right away. It's already too tempting to call and sob and plead and rail at him.

I guess I'll never see him again. I can't quite get my brain around it. I'm devastated.
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Old 6th August 2005, 6:06 AM   #7
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i made my ex miserable by complaining about our LDR all the time, complaining it was so hard, being so sad to be apart from him... you gotta be hurting right now but my best advice at this moment in time is DO NOTHING.

Take time to think things through. Don't make any sudden movements, plans, actions.

Any reaction you make will be fuelled by strong emotion and pain. I know what you must feel right now is panic, hurt, pain, craziness...you must let this subside before acting, and that includes any sort of contact with him.

He has been unfair to put the contact issue solely in your hands, so he can avoid any sort of responsibility.

I know a day seems like a lifetime right now, but please be gentle with yourself, surround yourself with safe, warm things...good friends, neutral films or TV shows, anything to pass the time and let yourself heal a little.

It's gonna feel raw right now so don't turn to him to make you feel better, because you may end up feeling a whole lot worse...

If I had taken this advice above, I think my experience would have been a lot easier.

You MUST leave him alone now, don't pester him, beg him. PLEASE be strong because it will serve you better in the long run. Remember your dignity.

Give yourself space and time now, away from him to gather some perspective.
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Old 6th August 2005, 8:30 PM   #8
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thank you

Hi Francis - thanks. You're right - nothing is worse than feeling you've sacrificed your dignity. I'm trying to keep that at the forefront of my mind.

And I'm trying to do just what you said - surround myself with safe warm things. Fortunately, I do have friends who always come through for me, even new ones I've made in my new city who are helping me get out and not sit at home. So that's day one.


I won't beg. It's definitely going to be hard, especially since he was supposed to visit me next week, has the ticket and everything...and of course, part of me is still hoping he'll show up. Or that I'll wake up tomorrow and it'll all be a bad dream.

But I won't say that to him.


I'm still in shock. It hasn't really sunk in. He tells me he's cried more this week than he has in the past five years. I know he genuinely is unhappy, I know he has genuinely been missing me and will probably miss me to some extent in the future. And I also HATE that that's making me hope he'll change his mind.

I also have so much anger towards him now, and I'm feeling so bitter. I guess it'll be a while before I'm ready to decide anything about future contact with him. Days, weeks, months maybe. I know anything I would say to him, right now, would come out schizophrenic (you unbelievable *********! / tell me you're still coming to see me!)

So I'll say nothing for the time being.
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Old 7th August 2005, 1:49 AM   #9
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hey seachange,
hope you're hanging in there. I've a little experience with depression and this is what i think. Depression is an illness that one is not able to control, so i really dont think what he is saying/doing is really him. He's not thinking clearly because he can't. I've seen patients of mine have no reaction at all when spouses/ kids/ grandkids would come and visit them. It takes over and they are completely controled by it. I believe you love this guy and if you do support him the best way you can. Encourage him to talk to someone and try to talk to him about meds too. They are an important part of treatment. Depression is a chemical imbalance and meds can help fix it. Its amazing the turn around when the doc's find the right ones and they start to kick in. The person comes back. I think he really does love you. Its just the depression, the LDR, and everything else just pushed him over the edge and this seems like the best way to fix it to him. He's not thinking clearly, i wouldn't give up on him. Good luck.








~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Love is patient, love is kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
--1 Corinthians 13: 4-8
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Old 8th August 2005, 12:07 PM   #10
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Hi gang. I'm hanging in. Thanks for listening to me vent. This place is wonderful.

We had the "friends" talk. We agreed that neither of us is able to be friends in the platonic sense, at least not right now. He just mentioned friends because he couldn't stand the thought that I might close the door on him altogether and never want to talk to him again. He says he doesn't think I should wait because it could be a long time before he's better (which is crushing to me - although he said he hates of the thought of me with someone else, he doesn't think it's fair to keep me hanging on. But...I would rather he wanted that.)

Anyway, he was hoping to leave the door open for the possibility that if he can get healthy again, we might reconcile somehow.

Well, that's hard for me. I generally prefer to just cut ties if it's truly over, because I do believe, in general, that saying you'll stay friends makes it harder to let go and move on. I think the person doing the breaking up usually just doesn't want the other person to hate him/her - and the one being broken up with is hoping that it's not really over. Easier to just end it, cold turkey.

But like you said, sadgirl, I think the depression is talking. I think he just got overwhelmed with feeling like he couldn't handle everything that's been happening. So...I don't know. I can't stand the thought of never talking to him again either. But I also don't want to hold on and hope for something that might never happen. And I'm struggling with my own insecurities - I can't help wondering whether he'll just decide that it's easier to be in a relationship that doesn't challenge him to reciprocate (as he has in the past) than to work through what he needs to in order to be in what he calls a "healthy" relationship, something that's deeper but requires more from him.

He said, well, do you want to just give this a week, you can think about it and we'll just keep talking weekly until you decide?

Gah. Sounds like hell on earth. I said no, if we have to do this, we should do it. If you need this time to yourself, and you're telling me not to wait, then I can't just hang around hoping, opening the wound every week. You know I want to be with you. But I'd rather have a clean break than a shatter of fractures.

He kept saying that he doesn't want me to be so black-and-white about it, nothing is forever, people break up and get back together all the time. But I just don't want to feel like I'm wondering every week if I'll hear from him. I'd rather just not expect it.

So in the end, I said I wasn't closing the door altogether - as in, if he needs me, wants to talk to me, I won't just ignore him, of course I don't hate him. I love him. And although I don't know whether I'd want to jump back into a relationship and risk being hurt like this again, I might consider it someday, depending. But I'm not going to contact him, and I'm going to take him at his word and try to move on, since he's making no promises.

What he most wants, I think, is a break from the pressure of feeling like he isn't measuring up to what he expects from himself, and what I expect from him. While he's still adamantly anti-meds (sigh), I think he was considering therapy, at least. And I think he's decided not to quit school.

One out of two isn't bad, I suppose.

I can't quite believe that I might not ever talk to him again.
He said no, no - we will - but really, once the immediacy of the loss wears off, why would he try to pursue me? Cutting off our relationship is his choice, after all.

I have to just get through the next few days.

I miss him so much already. I know I should deal with it, but I feel like I just want to pack up all these emotions and put them at the back of a drawer for the next few days, weeks, months.
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Old 9th August 2005, 1:52 AM   #11
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Depression

Depression is like a dark hole. You gaze down into the hole and see yourself slipping . You dont want to go into the hole but you can feel your spirit slipping. ..

Medications in the long run don't seem to help( not for all )
. Therapy at best can help some .

But the most important thing to realize is that is an illness.

I have found it takes great * work * to keep from slipping into the hole. Some patients don't have the strength and end up shutting down. Some spend their entire lives battling depression . I have battled with this for a long time.

The best advice I can give you is to listen to what he wants right now. If he wants to be alone , leave him alone. If he wants you to come visit and you want to take the investment in your precious relationship. go visit him. If he wants to just email for awhile , then email with him.

But make it CLEAR that you know he is hurting but you WILL live your life. He needs time to sort this out and let him know you care. He may lose you but he has to help his depression first. Then he can work on the rest of his life. Take time for yourself too. He has to know he needs some help right now
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Old 17th August 2005, 1:56 AM   #12
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Nearly Identical Situation - Need your insight

Dear Seachange,

Your situation is nearly identical to mine. In one entry you said you were afraid that he was simply not romantically interested anymore but that you had researched depression. Do you believe that it was a cop out or truly the depression? That is my huge conflicting stressor in my relationship - he says it is because he wants to get his life together. I moved away and he said he did not want me to go but that he did not want the pressure of me staying for him because he was not confident in his situation. We are technically broken up but talk (usually cry and fight) on the phone 3 times a week. Please help!


Sharee
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Old 17th August 2005, 5:02 PM   #13
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some changes

Hi Sharee. Well, there have actually been some changes to my situation since I last posted.

Two days after we broke up, he called and said that he's been so tormented by this breakup, and, in short, that he thinks breaking up isn't the answer and he wants to try to work it out with me. He said - and I guess this might be relevant to your situation, Sharee - that he wanted to try to find a way for us to communicate without all the fighting.

(Happily, he acknowledges that a lot of the angst between us did come from him, in a way. But now that we're communcating more calmly, it's eye-opening for me to finally see the kind of pressures we both put on each other, even while having the best of intentions and caring deeply about each other. I don't know whether we really can work it all out, but it's good to be able to talk about it.)

Anyway, he had already bought a ticket to visit this week, so he decided to come after all.
He just arrived today.

I don't really know what's going to happen - seeing him again today...well, I'm very very happy and excited but also I feel cautious. I think there's an aura of carefulness around us both right now, and I don't know how hard it'll be to get past that.

He's here for a whole week though. So maybe that'll be enough time.

I suppose I'm worried because when he gets distant it is hard to know whether it's truly depression or just that he's less interested. He says it's not that, that he is definitely interested romantically - but even now, with him here, I'm not sure. There's some constraint there, and I think that in spite of himself he's putting a lot of pressure on this reunion, so I'm not sure if this will be a make-or-break-us situation.
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Old 17th August 2005, 6:55 PM   #14
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Hmm

It's hard to say if it is good or bad in your case and of course I wish you the best. Mine I think is doing pills and alcohol on top of everything else and I think he is choosing to do that over concentrating on us. Still I get insecure and think it is me!
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Old 18th August 2005, 8:58 PM   #15
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Depression

Depression is a true mental illness...an imbalance in the brain.

It is a disease.

If your boyfriend really has this disease then he has a life long fight ahead of him.

If you wonder if he's interested , he has already told you that he is...

He does need your support.

This disease is no different than any other.

It can , if left untreated , totally incapacitate him. Its a life long struggle until the proper therapy or medication is introduced.

Many anti depressants cause sexual dysfunction and perhaps your bf encountered this ( or worries about it ) and is reluctant to take medication.

He is not playing a game if he truly has depression.

Its up to you to decide if you want to help him through this.

If he does NOT have depression and is using it in some way to excuse him self ( which this does not sound like the case ) then you need to get to the bottom of this and find out by him getting a diagnosis for true depression.
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