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dating a depressive - post mortem
November 15, 2012 1:39 PM   Subscribe

I've been dating a depressive for about 4 months and just recently called things off with him because I couldn't handle all the baggage that comes with dating one - like withdrawal or detachment, in communication or otherwise. It was fine for the first couple months but when he got given longer hours at work, we communicated/saw each other less to the point where I sounded like I was practically begging him for time to meet.

One recent (rather embarrassing) incident was when I sent him an explicit 'booty' call - of which he didn't respond! I was so embarrassed I actually texted him the next morning about how embarrased I was! He surprisingly replied shortly after and told me not to be silly and that he found it sweet and kind of funny. I'd think any healthy, heterosexual man would probably be over without thinking twice! He apologized though for not responding because he was feeling 'terrible' that night.

So jump to today where I called it off with him in a text msg. I couldn’t wait around for much longer for him to even give me time so I just told him I know he’s going through a lot (with work and his depression etc..) and the last thing he probably needs is me chasing him for his time. I also told him I’ve tried to be accomdating and even told him how I did my research on depression to further understand – I still like and care about him but I couldn’t do this anymore. He simply replied with “I understand” and that’s it. A friend told me that it sounds like this has happened to him before - that people often let him down/leave him...etc.. - which makes me feel guilty. As much as I'd like to move on, I also would like to tell him that I'm here for him if he wants someone to talk to as a friend. I don't know what I should do and hoping you good people at metafilter can help a sista out. Thanks.

I don't know if this helps but we're both in our early to mid 30s. Also, we're both live in city far away from our families and have only a handful of friends nearby.
posted by brokenwitch to Human Relations (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
It doesn't sound like there's anything else you can do. He's not interested in a relationship now. You can focus your energy on getting involved in new activities and meeting new friends in your city.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:41 PM on November 15, 2012


Pick up the phone and say: I get that you're going through a tough time. I don't want to add any more stress and it seems like you need your space to work through your stuff. I'm here to talk as a friend if you need to, but otherwise I'll leave you be.

Then go find someone who's a better fit for you. I'm inclined to depression myself and sometimes I just need to be left alone. I also happen to be seeing a guy who gets depressed so it works when we leave each other to lots of space and quiet time. But if you're not getting what you need out of a relationship, it's OK to leave.
posted by mibo at 1:45 PM on November 15, 2012


I suggest you nix the "I am here if you need a friend" thing. That is likely to make both of you feel worse. (Yes, I am one of those people who still wants to be nice and supportive after a breakup. Take my word: It's generally a stupid idea.)
posted by Michele in California at 1:45 PM on November 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


As much as I'd like to move on, I also would like to tell him that I'm here for him if he wants someone to talk to as a friend.

You have needs too, and as you're you nobody else is going to help you first if you don't. Move on.
posted by carsonb at 1:45 PM on November 15, 2012


very low odds that anything good can come of trying to be friends in this situation - i would skip it and move on
posted by facetious at 1:50 PM on November 15, 2012


You have nothing to be guilty about. I've both been depressed and dated someone who was depressed and often when you're in that mind frame, it feels like nothing matters. Here are some thoughts that might be going through his head:

-I didn't deserve her and the break up was inevitable.
-I'm a terrible person. I don't understand why she was dating me.
-I'm too tired to care about having sex, but it is sweet that she wants me. I don't know why she wants me though.
-I'm too tired to do anything
-At least now I don't have to worry about hurting her feelings or disappointing her
-I've been working so much, all I want to do is sleep
-After work, I don't even have the strength to talk to someone, let alone be around another person

I would say you should move on. When I went through a break-up with a depressive boyfriend, I told him that I didn't want contact with him, so I could move on, but if he was ever feeling like he would hurt himself, I would be there in a moment's notice. He never contacted me and as far as I know, he's alive. I felt good about this decision. I didn't want him to feel like he was absolutely alone, but I also didn't want contact unless it was a life/death situation.
posted by parakeetdog at 1:50 PM on November 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


One recent (rather embarrassing) incident was when I sent him an explicit 'booty' call - of which he didn't respond! I was so embarrassed I actually texted him the next morning about how embarrased I was! He surprisingly replied shortly after and told me not to be silly and that he found it sweet and kind of funny. I'd think any healthy, heterosexual man would probably be over without thinking twice! He apologized though for not responding because he was feeling 'terrible' that night.

Healthy, heterosexual men are allowed to be "not in the mood" sometimes too.

As someone who has been in that same situation, to my own great dismay, I can say that being the recipient of such a booty call is indeed flattering and nice. But when someone is depressed and not feeling like being social, no amount of seduction (or whatever) can break through. It's like being locked in jail, with a naked girl dancing on the other side of the bars saying "just come on out and get me, big boy". Denying your come-on isn't some willful thing that we depressives do to annoy you. The disease just does that. It makes things and people who would normally be pleasurable completely unappealing.

However, none of this is your fault. I just offer it as a glimpse into the mind of someone who is suffering with depression. It isn't fun for anyone, and you don't have to feel guilty for not being willing to put up with it.
posted by gjc at 1:55 PM on November 15, 2012 [22 favorites]


I agree with Michele. Trying to be friends after a breakup often doesn't work out very well. You should just say goodbye.

As someone who has traveled the lonely road of depression, yes, people leave, but that's life. You have your own needs, which were not being met. And yes, while "any healthy, heterosexual man would probably be over without thinking twice", the guy wasn't healthy. Sometimes the person feels so bad that he might not be interested in things he normally loves, even sex.
posted by darwesh at 1:57 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's quite possible that he just wasn't into you, and using the depression as an excuse. When I'm depressed, someone whom I'm into usually lifts me out of the depression, not the other way around.
posted by Melismata at 1:58 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've been in your boyfriend's shoes, depression and all, and I can say with 100% certainty that offering to be there for him will only make it worse. It's counterintuitive, but the kindest thing to do is to move on.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:58 PM on November 15, 2012


Depression is a disease, but it's not your disease. You have to take care of yourself, and I don't think (from your description) that attempting to help him will be very good for you.
posted by xingcat at 2:00 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been dating a depressive for about 4 months and just recently called things off with him because I couldn't handle all the baggage that comes with dating one - like withdrawal or detachment, in communication or otherwise.


First of all, people who have depression usually don't like to be labeled as being "depressives." People have stopped using this kind of pejorative, labeling language with people who have physical disabilities, but some folks still use it with people who have mental illness. People with schizophrenia diagnoses don't like to be called 'schizophrenics, either.' I'm not bringing this up just to correct you. I think it has something to do with the way you feel. You'll see what I'm talking about farther on.


I'd think any healthy, heterosexual man would probably be over without thinking twice! He apologized though for not responding because he was feeling 'terrible' that night.

The guy wasn't in the mood to have sex when you wanted to. You have to respect that. If the two of you don't wind up dating in the long run, you should know that this is an unrealistic response to demand of any man you date. Imagine if a man said this about a woman who didn't want to have sex with him. Just because a guy is straight doesn't mean he wants to have sex all of the time. Depression could be a factor in this, or it could be something else in your relationship. It could be also, that he's just not in the mood, or he's just not into you.

I also told him I’ve tried to be accomdating and even told him how I did my research on depression to further understand – I still like and care about him but I couldn’t do this anymore.

You've been dating four months? How long has your research been going on? It will take longer than a few months to really get an idea of depression, longer than a few months to get an idea of how it operates in his life, and probably a lot longer to get to the core of really knowing him in a romantic relationship.

He simply replied with “I understand” and that’s it. A friend told me that it sounds like this has happened to him before - that people often let him down/leave him...etc.. - which makes me feel guilty.


Well, it sounds right that you feel guilty. At least from what you've told us here, you've made some interpretations of his actions without really getting to know him or verifying with him that these interpretations are in line with the intentions he has behind his actions.

I'm not sure exactly what your question was...do you want to know if you should "tell him that I'm here for him if he wants someone to talk to as a friend" ? Of course you can do that. That's fine. It sounds like something else about this relationship is getting at you. Do you want to be absolved for how you acted? If you don't like him, you don't like him. That's fine. You don't have to like everybody. But don't blame it on depression.

You may walk away from this interaction feeling the best if you take it upon yourself to learn a lot about mental illness and depression. I'm sure there are others here who can point you in the best direction for doing this.
posted by shushufindi at 2:00 PM on November 15, 2012 [20 favorites]


Here's an important question: was he getting treatment for his depression? One interesting thing about the two depressive people I've been in LTRs with is that even when they recognized that they were currently in a depression, neither of them was willing to go into therapy. The first one lacked the motivation (she would only go if I actually drove her to her appointments) and the second insisted that she was self-aware enough to know when the depression was bad enough to require therapy. (She wasn't.)

The most important thing I've learned from my experiences is that if the other person isn't willing to work consistently on their mental health, you shouldn't blame yourself for any major problems in the relationship. While it's likely you bear some responsibility (no relationship problem is ever exclusively one person's fault), please recognize to yourself that it's crazy to expect to have a healthy long-term relationship with a mentally ill person who is avoiding treatment. That's just common sense.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 2:20 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


In response to some of your comments:


Who's to say that it was the guy's depression and not the fact that he just wasn't that into you?


The thought crossed my mind when his 'moods' started and we spoke about it . He made it clear that he was into me and wanted to see me still me.


First of all, people who have depression usually don't like to be labeled as being "depressives."

I wasn't aware of this - I used that label because I had been researching and people were referring to others/themselves as 'depressives'. Okay now I know.

You've been dating four months? How long has your research been going on? It will take longer than a few months to really get an idea of depression, longer than a few months to get an idea of how it operates in his life, and probably a lot longer to get to the core of really knowing him in a romantic relationship.

I've dated a guy who was bi-polar and learned a lot from that relationship - my ex had told me not to take his behaviour personally. I guess ever since this guy told me he was depressed (which was maybe within the 1st/2nd month) I started reading up on it. And although being depressed and bi-polar are different, there's the common theme thinking you're at fault. Now with so many resources online, my research involved me going into psych. forums, and people's blogs etc... I just wanted to understand and remind myself it wasn't me personally but rather his condition.



I'm not sure exactly what your question was...do you want to know if you should "tell him that I'm here for him if he wants someone to talk to as a friend" ? Of course you can do that. That's fine. It sounds like something else about this relationship is getting at you. Do you want to be absolved for how you acted? If you don't like him, you don't like him. That's fine. You don't have to like everybody. But don't blame it on depression.


Yes - I just wanted to gain some insight really. I don't blame him for his depression at all! He's a good guy, he means well and when we were together he was very loving, caring, thoughtful etc... I guess a few days ago we were making plans about meeting up but then he started acting moody and short with me and I realized that I had it and I guess I'm not strong enough to handle hot/cold.


Here's an important question: was he getting treatment for his depression?


He wasn't while we were dating. He did in the past but according to him he was 'real bad' back then and that he's 'better' now.


I guess I wanted to be 'the one' that could 'help' him with his depression. I gave him space but at the same time made myself available to him.
posted by brokenwitch at 2:45 PM on November 15, 2012


There is a big difference between love and pity. You sound like you are confusing the two.

I have a serious medical handicap. I had a long relationship with an older man with a heart condition who genuinely understood when I was too tired or sick to spend time with him and that is one of the reasons the relationship worked. But he wasn't considerate out of pity. He just genuinely understood what it was like to be too tired to do anything, something a lot of people didn't get.

I think you didn't really understand your bf and/or there wasn't really all that much chemistry, at least not enough to overcome the issues between the two of you. I get offended when men are solicitous in a way that makes me feel pitied. If you see him first and foremost as defined by his depression, which you seem to, that's a really bad basis for a relationship.

Maybe you need to wonder why you would frame it that way. That might be the most valuable post mortem assessment you can do for yourself.
posted by Michele in California at 2:59 PM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I guess I wanted to be 'the one' that could 'help' him with his depression

That sounds like the beginning of co-dependent thinking, which is incredibly unhealthy for both parties. Depression is a disease, you can't "help". If he was Diabetic but wouldn't change his lifestyle you eating healthy, working out, and shooting insulin would not help him but may actually make him worse - either guilty for not living up to your example or giving him a false sense of accomplishment. Look after yourself; you deserve a healthy partner that is as invested in you and your relationship as you are.
posted by saucysault at 3:09 PM on November 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


Let it go, but next time you break up with someone you've been dating for four months at least pick up the phone. Don't break up by text message. Sheeesh.
posted by bananafish at 4:05 PM on November 15, 2012 [12 favorites]


"A friend told me that it sounds like this has happened to him before - that people often let him down/leave him...etc.. - which makes me feel guilty. As much as I'd like to move on, I also would like to tell him that I'm here for him if he wants someone to talk to as a friend".

Yeah - people tend to peel off in droves when you're seriously depressed. It feels like being abandoned at your absolute worst, and I know this from my own personal experience, and from listening to a whole lot of strikingly similar stories from my fellow clinical depression sufferers. The depressed person feels like a pariah, and the people who split almost always talk about feeling really guilty for not living up to some ideal of care for a fellow human being in bad shape.

It's not your fault, and it's not his fault. Each of you is doing the best you can here in a very shitty situation. There's no magic phrase or action to make it easier. There's only a 'right thing to do' here for each of you separately, and you've done it for you.

Move on without any further contact. He needs professional help. You need a relationship partner. Those needs don't match up. It's nothing to beat yourself up about. You're not going to be able to fix it by trying to be his friend, where you'll hit the same withdrawal, the same detachment, and the same unreachability as you did in your romantic relationship. You can't give him what he needs right now, and he can't give you what you need right now. Move on, hon. Best of luck to you both.

-on preview: I'm with bananafish on this - a text message break-up after four months is definitely not good. But in his current state, honestly, it may have made it easier for him. I know that when I'm depressed, I answer - or even manage to CHECK - my phone, voicemail, and emails approximately NEVER. Which, come to think of it, might in part also explain the lack of immediate booty-call response.
posted by involution at 4:23 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


For people with depression and anxiety sex can be, depending on the context, a really stressful undertaking. If you care about pleasing your partner and there are factors (unusually hard times, meds, self confidence, body confidence) that are making it hard for you it's a pretty big blow. No one wants to think of themselves as sexually inadequate, perhaps men especially.

Women seem often to take refusal of sexual offers as lack of attraction and react defensively, and then things can get uglier and even more humiliating ("What the hell, are you gay?", etc.).

Also, sexual concerns are difficult to bring up when confidence is low so a lack of direct communication could just be shame.

Not saying this guy is your responsibility or that you behaved poorly or anything, just seconding that the actions and reactions of people under the heavy influence of psychiatric disorders are rarely quite what they seem to be on the surface.
posted by TheRedArmy at 5:26 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


You can't fix someone. Let him go.

Also, sometimes men don't want to have sex.
posted by ead at 6:55 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've been depressed and i've been in relationships.

Don't offer to be there for him.

It sounds mean but its for the best because anytime a depressed person can twist others words around to make themselves the victim of something and an object of pity, they will. It's a symptom of the disease.

The way to behave is more like 'once you get your shit together, and you CAN get your shit together, maybe we could go for coffee'

I wouldn't expect that call to happen anytime soon, but sometimes it can be helpful for someone in that situation to have an external reason for getting help.
posted by softlord at 7:27 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


You broke up via text message? Leave the poor man alone.
posted by pompomtom at 9:30 PM on November 15, 2012


Thanks for everyone’s comments. Yes I’m an ass for breaking up via text but I did try more civilized ways (ie in person/phone) but his busy schedule wouldn’t allow it and I couldn’t wait as the situation worsened. If I could I would have handled it differently now but what’s done is done.
posted by brokenwitch at 3:16 AM on November 16, 2012


Sounds like this is over. Let things close up.

I also would like to tell him that I'm here for him if he wants someone to talk to as a friend

Don't do this. You two are not friends right now.
posted by French Fry at 6:20 AM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Now with so many resources online, my research involved me going into psych. forums, and people's blogs etc... I just wanted to understand and remind myself it wasn't me personally but rather his condition.
A friend told me that it sounds like this has happened to him before - that people often let him down/leave him...etc.. - which makes me feel guilty.


It seems that your research was really, at some deeper level, a way to soothe your own insecurities rather than help the guy in any way. If you were interested in helping him in some way then yes, you would research depression but you would also be more aware of how this one individual with depression behaves, what's his baseline if any, what does he like to do/not do when he is going through something. It doesn't sound like you reached this point in the four months. The responses saying that "its not your fault" (which is a no-brainer!) would surely make you feel better given your insecurities.

People who do this-
I still like and care about him
don't do this to the one they care about-
So jump to today where I called it off with him in a text msg.


- which makes me feel guilty. As much as I'd like to move on, I also would like to tell him that I'm here for him if he wants someone to talk to as a friend.

Is this really about wanting to tell him you are there for him because you care about him or wanting to tell him that so that again, you can feel better and less guilty?
He wasn't counting for your help before you came along, and he certainly wouldn't need your help after you have moved along. Be glad in knowing that the guy, depression or no depression, deserved much better and will now be able to find that in life.
posted by xm at 6:57 AM on November 16, 2012


.. I did try more civilized ways (ie in person/phone) but his busy schedule wouldn’t allow it and I couldn’t wait as the situation worsened. If I could I would have handled it differently now ...

Wow.

Maybe read up on relationships instead of depression?
posted by xm at 7:02 AM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I guess I wanted to be 'the one' that could 'help' him with his depression

I understand this impulse. Jesus, do I ever understand it. But, as you can probably tell from my tone, I've never had anything resembling positive results come from it. Your status as his ex, especially his recent ex, especially an ex who dumped him, categorically excludes you from the set of people who can help him. The only thing that will happen if you try is that you will both cause each other a lot of pain. The best thing you can do here is walk away.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:10 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


don't be his friend, be your own friend!! move on, meet some new people and get involved in some new activities or hobbies or whatever. i have been where he is, and also where you are, and in both situations the best thing we could have done was just stop contacting each other 100%. you think offering your friendship will make you feel better or make him feel better, but it's way more likely to generate more pain here.

it's not your job to help him, especially since you're his ex. sure it would have been better to dump him in a more personal way than a text but i think that's probably ok if you've already tried to talk to him in a more personal way and he wasn't willing to meet you or talk on the phone. next time at least write a nice long thoughtful email instead of a text message!
posted by zdravo at 7:24 AM on November 16, 2012


Just a few thoughts, here.

First: it is okay to move on. People need to be compatible, and you two obviously are not, because of his depression, or because of other factors, or a combination of the two. No blame needs to be assigned.

I was so embarrassed I actually texted him the next morning about how embarrased I was! He surprisingly replied shortly after and told me not to be silly and that he found it sweet and kind of funny. I'd think any healthy, heterosexual man would probably be over without thinking twice! He apologized though for not responding because he was feeling 'terrible' that night.

So jump to today where I called it off with him in a text msg.


Second: you need to start communicating by voice instead of text message, as text messages are among the least intimate ways to communicate that exist in common usage. If you want a relationship of intimacy, you should be operating within a space that facilitates intimacy. So if you're concerned about distance and aloofness in any relationship, that's a change that you should consider making.

I'd think any healthy, heterosexual man would probably be over without thinking twice!

This is an unfair generalization, as out-of-date and insensitive as "I'd think any healthy, heterosexual woman would probably be happy to cook and clean for me!", and you should make a conscious effort to think of men as people, not as oversexed children who jump at any chance to have sex that they can get. An adjustment in your attitude here -- which comes off in this post as infantile and controlling -- will serve you and your partners well in the future. After all, men aren't dogs that should be euthanized (in a relationship sense) just because they didn't fetch the ball once.
posted by davejay at 8:09 AM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think folks are being a little hard on you here (speaking as someone with depression who also has a depressed partner and who also uses "depressive" on occasion). I think it's great that you read up on the disorder and that you tried to find a way to cope with it. It's very painful, to feel like you're running after someone and begging for his attention; truthfully, I sometimes feel that way when my SO is depressed, and I have to remind myself that his problems have nothing to do with me. So you tried your best to make it work and when things didn't get better, you broke up with him. Totally appropriate, I think. Yeah, text isn't the best way to do that, but I understand why you did it--you'd run out of resources by that point, it sounds like, and couldn't take any more. You kept trying to make contact with him--laying your heart bare, especially with the booty call message--and being rebuffed.

The thing to do now is take care of yourself. I bet this relationship beat up your self-esteem a bit, so take some time for yourself, talk to some friends, and heal. I wouldn't communicate with him again. He needs professional help.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 9:32 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


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