The trigger for my partner's depression? Contact with his child's mother. Need solutions for both of us.
posted by anonymous to human relations (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My partner has really scary episodes of depression, and we've come to realize that they, with very few exceptions, exclusively occur when he has contact with his child's mother. He has a very fraught relationship with her---she basically took the child, left him and moved with the child to another city when he was a newborn. The child is now two, I have been with my partner for almost that long (and we now live together), and he is still getting over it.
Because she isn't local, we don't deal with her on a day to day basis so the contact is mostly email-based and revolves around disputes over visitation (this issue is being dealt with presently via ongoing mediation) or money (this is being handled, at her request, by a government agency and not by us any longer, but we still hear about it). Most of the emails, given the above two provisos, are more bluster than substance, but nonetheless, he finds them extremely upsetting.
He is working with a therapist, and we have been going jointly as well. The therapist is encouraging him to wait out the process and let things resolve through the court or through mediation. We have also been working on 1) ways for him to manage his stress responses better and 2) ways for me to manage my response to him (for example, to recognize this is not about me and to resist the impulse to try and fix him or to use logic and reason to try and talk him out of his moods). And the episodes have been getting slightly less frequent, and last slightly less long when they occur.
But I am struggling, perhaps almost as much as he is, with this whole situation. When he gets in this mood, he says a lot of disturbing and alarming things, and I am never sure how seriously I should take it, whether he really is coming to believe these things or whether it is just the mood talking. Often, he'll say things which I interpret personally and find hard to just shrug off once the mood passes (it's all on him, nobody is helping him etc. and then when I get upset, he pounces that it's proof that everybody is making it harder because now he has the situation, plus he has ME to deal with...) He'll say that he just has to accept that life is a struggle and difficult and will never get easy and he is doomed to just suffer through it (and where do I fit it to that master plan?) and he'll say he feels he is close to having a breakdown, to giving up and so on. It's VERY upsetting to me, and it seems like nothing I say bring him out of it---but then come morning, he wakes up, shrugs that life goes on, and that's it. And I still feel like I need two more days to recover from everything he's said to me.
The issue is two-fold. Firstly, there is the detail that because he has a child with her, cutting her off just isn't possible. We have to deal with her, and it's going to provoke these reactions, so any suggestions for ways to accept this and bring down the trauma level are welcome. But more importantly, since I can't manage him and can only manage myself, *I* need some ways to deal with this better. I need to either head this off at the pass, so when I see it coming, I can get him to just stop and be redirected somehow before he starts spewing the stuff that upsets me, or I need a way to cope with it better when he does (my response so far has been to try and use logic to defend myself when I feel personally attacked, and when that doesn't work, burst into tears because I can't help myself, and thereby drag it out for longer). I have occasionally been able to shut down the conversation by threatening to call him mother, but I think I can't overplay that card.
I love this guy to pieces, and when we aren't dealing with this one issue, he's funny, fun and incredibly supportive as a partner. I am in this for the long haul and don't want to mislead that there are problems or issues other than this one. I just need some better strategies. Advice, anyone?