My depressed boyfriend is withdrawing affection; I'm miserable.
posted by Teevee's Bella to human relations (66 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
My boyfriend and I have been together, long-distance, for almost four years: we began as best friends, and ended up in love.
For the most part, it's been the most fulfilling, most profound (romantic) relationship I've ever been in; he and I connect on every level that counts. He's always been an incredibly loving, affectionate, attentive partner who makes me feel like the luckiest woman on the planet; when we're together, he treats me like a queen (as trite as that may sound), and even when we're not, he still manages to make me feel like the most loved woman alive. At least he did, until recently...
He graduated college in June, and, after taking the summer off to spend with me, he began job-hunting in September and we agreed that I would move out there as soon as we could both afford it. It was a few weeks later that he commenced searching more seriously. Because he's an aspiring graphic designer in Seattle, an area saturated with graphic designers, he's been having trouble finding work and this has lead him to become increasingly depressed. (I posted about this a month or so ago; it's a whole 'nother tale of woe.)
Over the last two months, my sweet, protective, loving boyfriend has become sullen, apathetic and -- worst of all -- emotionally withdrawn. I can't remember the last time he was openly affectionate. Prior to this, in all the years we've been together, he's always addressed me using pet names -- from the generic ("sweetie," "baby," etc.) to the personal (nicknames he's given me). That's stopped completely. For a couple in a long-distance relationship, terms of endearment and other forms of verbal affection are crucial, since it's all we have to sustain us between visits.
I've remained as supportive as possible of his job search and his ensuing depression, in spite of the fact that it feels like he's pushing me away. I've turned myself inside out being girlfriend/therapist/career counselor for two months; I've also suggested actual therapy (something he mentioned himself once back when I was visiting him in October), but now that he's in the throes of this depression, he's not receptive to the idea.
Recently, I decided to address this particular issue with him (as I've already tried to discuss the prolonged depression and its impact on our relationship, mostly to no avail). I wanted him to know how I've been feeling, to understand that while he may know he loves me and believe that I should, too, a woman still needs to feel loved, and right now, I don't... and it's hurting me. His response, in short, was that his feelings for me haven't changed, that he's just distracted with job-hunt stress and things of that nature and not feeling particularly inclined to be affectionate right now. The conversation spanned a couple of nights because I'd finally reached my breaking point. After that, I noticed a couple of minor changes: he made an effort to call me earlier in the day and more often (like he had before), and he started saying "I love you" a little more frequently without being prompted (by me saying it first, every time, as I have been for the last two months) when we said our final goodnight. But he's still not using any pet names, and he still feels "off" to me. I know my guy, and I really do believe that this is about his general malaise and depression and not about me. But I miss my boyfriend. The man in his body isn't him right now and I'm tired of being the only one making any effort to keep this relationship off life-support for the last couple of months. The worst part of all is that, as far as he's concerned, things between us are fine. I'm the only one suffering, thanks to his extended bad mood (to put it mildly).
I love this man more than anything in the world; before the depression, he was all I could ask for in a partner. But now it's been two months, with no end in sight, and I'm being worn down. I feel like my reserves of energy have been depleted; I have my own stresses to deal with, so I'm doing double-duty, carrying both his and mine. Right now, the relationship feels very one-sided, with me doing all of the giving. I don't want to give up on this guy, but I need to know that there's a light at the end of the tunnel.
Any advice or insights? How can I make my boyfriend step outside himself long enough to see that he's not the only one his depression is hurting?
(This is the nutshell version, so I'm sure it probably won't sound quite as serious as it is... but I hope you can get the general picture.)