Trying to support parter after being pushed away for the second time. This time seems worse - not sure what to do.
I was dating a guy for a year. He has always been open about having depression and anxiety. I don't hold any of the issues we experience because of this against him and I never have - sure, being in a relationship with someone suffering hurts sometimes. The lack of intimacy sucks. But it’s not like anyone asks for depression or anxiety and the good times we have together more than make up for it.
A few months into the relationship he broke up with me because he said he had been unhappy with everything in his life for a while and didn't know how he felt.
He contacted me 5 days later and suggested meeting up to talk. At first, he seemed sure he wanted nothing to do with me. I said I understood but that I was blindsided because we were, from my part, very happy. We talked through a few things bothering him (that were irrational for the most part) and 3-4 hours later, we were back together. He apologized for jumping the gun and said when he feels like his mind just races with negative thoughts.
Fast forward to about a month ago. He calls me and says the same sort of thing. He said he's unhappy, doesn't know why he gets so irritated, and needs to be alone and figure himself out. I was hurt and texted him afterwards telling him I respect what he said but that I love him and would always be here. 4 days later he sent me a text saying:
he does love me
he's undeserving/unworthy of me
he hasn't been able to do anything that week
the worst part of this is he thinks he's broken my trust
we can meet up and talk if I want to
I responded saying he hadn't broken my trust, I love him, and that of course I want to meet up. His reply was pretty cold - confusing because he was the one who had reached out. When we met up, he said he couldn't be in a relationship right now because he can't feel anything and doesn't know what's wrong with him. He also said he was afraid that I'd go through the rest of our relationship wondering when this would happen again. Maybe the fear and guilt of that thought was a deciding factor to end it?
He texted me about 30 minutes later apologizing and to make sure I got home okay. I spent the next week researching this shitty illness and came to the conclusion that if this is what we have to deal with, fine. I love him and I’m not giving up.
After two weeks of no contact, I stopped by to pick up some things. Seeing him was weird. He said something like, “you know you can still talk to me.” I’m sure I looked shocked/confused because he suddenly seemed to regret saying that. A few silent seconds went by and I heard him mutter something about me parking my car (I was just stopped in the road). I’m assuming so we could talk. Before what he said registered, cars were behind me trying to get by. He quickly said uh never mind thanks for bringing my stuff. And walked away.
I feel like I'm being tugged in directions I didn't even know existed. I do not suffer from depression and I know researching vs experiencing are entirely different. I don't know what to do or how to take anything he says. No one seems to understand why I'm not just like oh well, not my problem, time to move on. I don't want to - why I would give up that easily on someone who never gave up on me when I was dealing with issues. He is the most loving and caring man I have ever met when he is not going through periods like this. And although he thinks he is bringing me down, he isn't. Of course I feel awful that the person I love has to deal with this, but his feelings aren’t contagious.
I know I will eventually be okay no matter the outcome. But I would love for him to be in my life more than anything and I'm willing to wait. I know I can’t fix anything for him but I love him unconditionally and that includes this part of him.
I've thought about contacting him to make sure he's okay. I want to be there for him as a friend right now. I’ve also thought about seeing if he wants to go grab something to eat or watch some TV. However, I don't want to contact him if it's only going to make things worse.
Some questions I have:
What's with the back and forth on the contacting/no contacting issue?
Am I wasting my time? I know that's an unanswerable question but I guess I'm wondering if there's any chance he’ll come back like he did last time.
Has anyone dealt with a partner struggling and had something similar happen? If so, what was the outcome?
Has anyone suffering from depression done this to a partner? If so, what's the best thing they can do for you? Completely leave you alone? Reach out every so often?
Is it okay to reach out as a friend?
Any response, advice, or suggestion is unbelievably appreciated.
The situation sounds so confusing and emotionally exhausting too. You really love him and want to find a way to be in his life. And at the same time, it's also important for you to have clarity on what the boundaries of the relationship might look like, if you were to keep in touch.
It's really common for relationships to break up and get back together again. When a partner is experincing depression, sometimes their feelings of low self worth and withdrawal can impact how close they want to be to others. It makes sense that if he isn't feeling so good about himself, he might not want you to see that side of him, or he might not feel deserving of the relationship. The episodic nature can also play into the push/pull dynamic. It can feel really confusing for you on the other end.
There are absolutely no rules around the best way forward in terms of whether or not to offer your friendship. It can be tricky to move into the friendship space so soon after a break up as often it can leave us feeling confused and hurt. If you feel ready to move towards a friendship though, it could be worth offering that and seeing how it goes. It's possible he might not be open to it at this time or maybe the kind of contact he is feelig up for at the moment, is less frequent than you might like. Being open with him and asking him how you might be able to play a role in his life moving forward could be a useful way to start the conversation.
You might be interested to read experiences of other member's who have talked about supporting their partner with depression here and here
Beyond Blue have also written a good article here on supporting a partner expreincng depression.
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