Loving without excusing
March 18, 2011 8:57 AM   Subscribe

How do I support my boyfriend at the same time as I urge him to change his behavior?

My boyfriend has a lot of trouble acting appropriately in situations that call for decorum. He talks back at TSA, aggressively asserts his rights when cops pull him over, and sometimes has a bad attitude with his coworkers and supervisors.

I've been with him for 3-1/2 years. Last year, we moved into an apartment together in a new city. He is an incredibly sweet and loving guy, willing to do anything for me or any of our friends without hesitation. This is a big part of why I love him. But his inability to act with decorum gets him into trouble - or embarrasses me - all the time. Today, he got suspended from his job after he was written up for asking a coworker why he f---ed him over; the coworker had apparently mentioned that he was going to call in sick on a day my boyfriend was on call.

He's dejected, and I want to be there for him. Chances are this is a prelude to a dismissal, which would be devastating to him (he was fired from his last job for having unexcused absences; we were dating long-distance, and apparently he didn't do enough to clear his trips to visit me with his coworkers and supervisors).

But I also want him to realize that he bears the fault for this. Despite him having been written up for a previous similar incident, he thinks his boss "has it in" for him, and doesn't seem to understand why he was suspended. (Note: I wasn't there during any of the work incidents, but I've seen how he's behaved with authority figures in other circumstances, and I find it hard to believe he doesn't bear the brunt of the blame here.)

Two weeks ago, he called me crying on his way home from work. He had been pulled over by a cop, who was threatening to lock him up for the night after he got out of the car and demanded to speak to the guy's superior officer. I had to find him and the cop in the alley where he'd been pulled over and smooth things over with the officer, who let him go with four citations. I comforted him at the time, but I also pointed out that from what I could tell, the incident was largely his fault. He might not have known why the cop pulled him over, but he had no excuse for acting that way. When he saw that I wasn't just taking his side, he got sullen with me. The next day, he bought me flowers in apology.

He suffers from clinical depression, which he takes medication for daily. He's been in talk therapy before (with a couple of different therapists), but I don't know that I have strong evidence it's helped with this. I've read my fair share of depression literature, but I don't know how the disease might play into this. There are other signs that he's in the sway of a long depressive episode - he's gained a lot of weight, lets the apartment slide into slovenliness if I'm not around, and hasn't had much motivation to do things besides play video games recently. But in any event, I'm unwilling to accept the depression as an excuse for this.

His aggression and anger-management problems have taken their toll on our relationship as well. There have been periods where we've argued a lot, but he's gotten better about starting fights after I cautioned him that these episodes were risking our relationship; I've also gotten better - not perfect, but better - at defusing fights when I see him starting to go into grar mode.

But the troubles go deeper than that. I enjoy traveling, but I haven't taken any significant trips with him because he's never been to a foreign country and I fear that the repercussions of his aggression will be significantly compounded in a place where he might not speak the language or know the culture well. I find myself waiting till he's unavailable before I go out with friends sometimes - not because of the anger, but because if he's bored by a conversation (which happens easily, I think because of his ADHD) he checks out and starts playing on his cell phone, which really strikes me as rude. (I can read him pretty well, and when he's bored or tired, I often bring our hangout to an end so we can head home. But sometimes - and I've told him this numerous times - I'd prefer if he made some excuse and left us instead of sitting there playing Sudoku while folks are talking, or forcing an end to the evening when the conversation moves beyond quoting TV shows.) Like I said, he's a really sweet guy to me and his friends, but he's also an introvert who doesn't make friends easily; he only has a couple of them here in our new city. All of this means that the relationship has felt rather claustrophobic since we moved in together.

I don't think there are issues of co-dependence here. I have no illusions that I can rescue him from himself, and I don't think I'm at any risk of lapsing into depression myself. I have extraordinary friends, the past year I've had unprecedented professional success, I've never been in better shape, I've reconnected with my parents recently after several years of estrangement. Besides the stuff I've mentioned in this question, I'm really pretty happy. I've read the responses to a few similar questions, but felt this one was different enough that I'd love answers specific to my situation.

With his worst behavior catalogued like this, I understand my boyfriend seems extremely childish - depression or not. I could also create a hefty catalogue of the things about him that are delightful. But I don't think that would help you give me advice on dealing with these problems.

I came back from a trip yesterday, and wanted to tell him a lot of this, before I heard the news that he was suspended. Now I feel like I need to balance these criticisms with support, and I'm not sure how to go about that. Your advice is much appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (41 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
"I don't think there are issues of co-dependence here."

Then why not just let him be who he is until he decides to change? And if you don't like how he is, it's not up to him to change, it's up to you to decide if you want to be with who he really is (not who you wish he was), or not.

You aren't and can't be responsible for his behavior. Trying to change him or take responsibility for his behavior is unlikely to change his behavior or make him or you happy.
posted by jardinier at 9:09 AM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

It sounds like it's beyond behavioral, in that he doesn't seem to understand when he breaks social norms. Exiting the car when pulled over, many unexcused absences, acting rude when he's not interested in conversation all look like signs of someone who doesn't really understand cues from other people.

Maybe you can encourage him to try talk therapy again, in a couples situation. This behavior affects you quite a bit, and maybe a therapist needs an insider's perspective that isn't his to help figure out where he's hitting these behavioral roadblocks.
posted by xingcat at 9:10 AM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Drop me a MefiMail. I've got some experience with this sort of situation that's best not discussed in public.
posted by thisjax at 9:15 AM on March 18, 2011

Hm, I am not his therapist/psychiatrist, but a lot of what you describe of his behavior falls in line with Asperger's. I am not sure if he was ever tested for this or if this has been ruled out, and here is not the right place to play doctor. However, literature on Asperger's has a lot on how to deal with your loved ones who have trouble reading social cues or have socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior, etc and might be of help.
posted by mooselini at 9:19 AM on March 18, 2011

I was already thinking ADHD and then read in your answer that he has ADHD. You are basically describing ADHD symptoms- what kind of help is he getting with them? There's not much point criticising him as he does not have good enough control of his symptoms to stop these things happening. He probably already feels enough shame about his behaviour to cripple him - hence depression. Sounds like it would be more fruitful to address what help he is getting for the ADHD and getting professional help to see if those symptoms can be better controlled. I would try support, and saying professional help is needed to address these ADHD symptoms and see if things can be improved for him.
posted by Flitcraft at 9:20 AM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Maybe he needs better meds. Whatever he's taking now sure aint working.
posted by freakazoid at 9:24 AM on March 18, 2011

Dude is a non-adult grownup. If you want to be a relationship with a grown-up child, that's your call, but you need to be doing it with your eyes open.

This kind of relationship will tend to go downhill very, very fast if he ever ends up needing to compete for your attention with an actual child. So bear that in mind.
posted by flabdablet at 9:29 AM on March 18, 2011 [25 favorites]

If you choose to stay with him and make a life together, you must do so accepting that he will probably always have this problem. At three and a half years, you have had ample time to survey the territory and see that he isn't likely to just outgrow this behavior on his own.

So far you can't even get him to acknowledge that this is a serious issue. In even discussing it, suddenly you're not "on his side" anymore. Well, in a very general sense you're not on his side -- nor should you be. Unfortunately it sounds like anyone who's not on his side doesn't get treated very well. If every perceived slight or misunderstanding becomes a potential disaster (not to mention actual disasters which are made worse by his reaction) I don't know how you can look forward to any sort of stability together, financial or otherwise.

You need to talk to him (at a time when he's not still in the throes of one of these incidents) and let him know how you feel. He is making you feel embarrassed, and at worst, unsafe. Those are valid complaints coming from a partner.
posted by hermitosis at 9:30 AM on March 18, 2011 [13 favorites]

For what it's worth, it sounds like many, if not all of your boyfriends problems stem from his aggression, not his depression. His depression may cause him to treat himself poorly, which is a form of self-aggression. Many depressed people end up self-harming physically but it looks like your smart boyfriend has decided to self-harm emotionally and mentally.

-Suspended from job for lashing out at coworker for perceived injustice = aggression towards coworker.
-Demanding something from the cop who pulled him over = aggression towards cop.
-Being sullen at you for pointing out his logical fallacy = aggression towards you.
-Gaining a bunch of weight, letting the house go to pot, and playing nonstop video games = (misguided) aggression towards you.
-Rude to your friends = aggression towards you. (Yes, you.)

Furthermore, he's trained you to enable his aggression. When he gives signs that he's approaching cranky, you make an excuse and you both go home, in order to avoid his embarrassing you in front of your friends. When you call him on his behavior, he buys you flowers and things are forgiven. When you sense that he is getting "grar" you diffuse the fight instead of communicating about what has you both worked up. He wins every time.

I think you need to stop thinking that his depression is the issue, or that he has an anger management problem. He is aggressive. Treating depression will make him hate himself less and aim his aggression less towards himself. Treating his anger management issues will help him express his aggression differently - but possibly inwardly. (See depression.) It's the aggression itself that seems to cause the problems, and that's what needs to be addressed if you want a figure with him.

Above posters suggest more focus on the ADHD thing which I think is right-on, and someone also mentions that he sounds like an Aspie. I think that's worth exploring too.
posted by juniperesque at 9:30 AM on March 18, 2011 [33 favorites]

"...a figure with him" should read "a future with him."

Darn spell-check.
posted by juniperesque at 9:32 AM on March 18, 2011

Now I feel like I need to balance these criticisms with support, and I'm not sure how to go about that. Your advice is much appreciated.

Support of what, though? His inappropriate behavior is apparently at the crux of the majority of his issues, and if he really can't understand how Action A leads to Outcome B, where the heck do you go with that?
posted by crankylex at 9:32 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Now I feel like I need to balance these criticisms with support.

Loving someone doesn't mean you can't acknowledge that they've fucked up. You are allowed to be angry at him for fucking up. If he feels hurt by your reaction, that's part of the consequence he faces... for fucking up.
posted by hermitosis at 9:33 AM on March 18, 2011 [9 favorites]

I can read him pretty well, and when he's bored or tired, I often bring our hangout to an end so we can head home

Also, he's a grown man, not a toddler. You should not have to manage him.
posted by crankylex at 9:35 AM on March 18, 2011 [17 favorites]

Besides the stuff I've mentioned in this question, I'm really pretty happy.

you are the best and only true judge of what is right for you in your life. that said, i used to do the "besides xyz, i'm really happy" spiel. then i found out, i could actually have the "i'm really happy" part with someone who didn't have any besides to mention.

in all of this, and your desire to support him, don't forget yourself (not saying you are, but always come home to yourself as this progresses). and that means being thoughtful about when and how to bring this up to him - his confrontational personality has been directed at external power figures (from what you say) but that does not mean they will not be directed at you if you challenge him on this.
posted by anya32 at 9:49 AM on March 18, 2011 [5 favorites]

The most supportive thing you could do for him is to tell him, "look, I do not want to be in a relationship with someone who is not making an effort to get their shit together. If you don't start taking steps to better manage your anger, depression, ADHD, and your life, you are free to continue as you have been, without me."

Because really, you are enabling him. If he does make an effort and you do start to see a change, that's your chance to be supportive.
posted by drlith at 9:50 AM on March 18, 2011 [20 favorites]

It really would have been useful if you could have described what you meant as "support." I don't understand what you mean by supporting him, if this prohibits you from noting that he's responsible for his own problems.

A made-up example: your boyfriend buys a fountain soda. He fills it up, puts the plastic lid on it, but he's lazy and fumbles a lot with the lid. He ends up not putting it on properly and then spills it all over himself. Covered in sticky soda, he says, "These stupid manufacturers! I'm going to sue them all over their shoddy merchandise!"

Supposing this happened, can you say, "Oh man! That sucks! Geez, I hate when that happens! All the same, though, I don't think it's the manufacturer's fault. I saw you put the lid on, and you didn't seal it properly."? How would he respond to that?

Most of the time, in polite society, if someone you care about screws something up and you want to support them, pointing out the fact that they screwed up isn't really nice. If I'm upset for getting a speeding ticket, telling me, "You totally deserved that, because you were going way too fast" won't be that kind.... Because I already know that. I don't need to be told that I'm at fault. Saying that would just be pouring salt into an open wound. Interacting with most people, who respond normally and take responsibility for their own actions, doesn't involve explaining to them how they are responsible.

But your boyfriend isn't like most people. Your boyfriend has a serious problem, and this problem apparently makes him completely fail to understand his own responsibility for his actions. So what counts as the appropriate, kind, and supportive way of responding to him won't be the same as what counts as appropriate, kind, and supportive for normal people who don't have this problem.

So, can you point out to him that he's actually failing to accept responsibility? Can you give him sympathy without just nodding along with his claims about bosses out to get him, ridiculous cops, etc? Agree that his circumstances are undesirable, share with his pain, but also point out how he can avoid this sort of thing happening in the future?

If yes, then do that.

If no, then why not? Do you fear that doing so would make him angry at you? Because, if so, that means there is a far more serious and dangerous problem in your relationship that needs to be addressed. If you can't even feel comfortable telling your boyfriend that he's misrepresenting the nature of the world when he gets angry and acts out (or gets bored and acts out, etc), then there is a huge communication problem in your relationship. And that's something that can be considered and worked on as a relationship problem. It's something that you should think of, not as him treating others poorly, but instead him treating you poorly. You need to think about how much you're willing to let him frighten and intimidate you.

Again, from your post, I don't really understand what the problem with giving him support but also advice is... I'm just trying to offer advice, given one way I understand your claims.
posted by meese at 9:50 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Dearest, I'll just say this once. You have an anger problem, and a lack of impulse control problem. It affects your work and your life in ways that keep you from being happy. If you want my help dealing with it, I'm totally there for you. If you want me to keep out of it, I can do that too. I love you and I want you to be the best happiest person you can be.
posted by theora55 at 9:57 AM on March 18, 2011

Just the aggression stuff sounds like a sense of entitlement that he expresses with anger and aggression. My brother is very much like this -- flipping out at perceived slights and "how dare they do that to me" and "can I speak to your manager"-- except he is 19 and had a very, very f'd up childhood. And he is growing out of it, and after the fact, you can say to him "Yeah I see how that was frustrating but don't you kind of see that how you reacted was inappropriate/they were just doing their job/you were partly at fault?" And he'll go "Oh yeah you're right, dammit. Why do I always do that? Next time I will...."

The fact that your boyfriend is unable to associate his actions with the things that happen to him is a red flag for me. He won't change unless he wants to, and he can't want to if he can't see that his behavior is a problem. Also the whole "it's everyone else, not me" is a red flag. Why should he change his behavior if it's everyone else's behavior that's the problem? When someone thinks "the world" or "their boss" is just out to get them, they are not likely to change.

So just think about that. This probably will never change. If you plan to get married and have kids, think about this behavior as it will manifest in his parenting. Think of how you feel when he acts like this -- your kids will feel the same if not more magnified since he is Their Father. Will he be playing Sudoku during your kid's piano recital? You might be able to brush this off and continue talking to your friends -- your child will be crushed.
posted by thebazilist at 9:59 AM on March 18, 2011 [6 favorites]

A couple of things:

1. Blaming it on ADHD or possibly being an aspie is not really useful, I think, because

2. The victimhood-world's-out-to-get-me/not taking personal responsibility thing is a big, nasty deal, and you're right not to want to excuse him. ADHD means poor impulse control; it doesn't make you an asshole. A non-asshole would realize that the behavior is unacceptable and part of his disease, and he would deal with it. This guy doesn't even want to acknowledge that this is a problem he needs to and can address, and gets hostile towards you when you bring it up.

Honestly, these things--particularly the inappropriate behavior at work--would be big deal breakers for me. I am trying to imagine, though, what I would do if I was married to someone and they suddenly started behaving like this. I think I would sit them down and tell them, gently but firmly, that these behaviors are unacceptable, and that if they don't get into therapy for this stuff by x date, I'd be moving out. It would be clear to me that I couldn't fix this by myself, and that we'd need professional help. If he wouldn't take responsibility for it, I wouldn't stick around.
posted by hought20 at 10:07 AM on March 18, 2011 [8 favorites]

What flabdeblet said, a thousand times over. Whatever is causing his childish behaviour--ADHD, or just a sense of entitlement, he isn't willing to change it. As long as he blames others for his problems, does he really deserve "support" for that? Don't let this man be the father of your children.
posted by uans at 10:08 AM on March 18, 2011

I understand my boyfriend seems extremely childish

"Childish" is not what comes to mind here. This dude just sounds like a mess and it is bizarre that you are repeatedly attempting to manage his behaviour.

He's not a "really sweet guy" -- you'd be able to take a "really sweet guy" to another country. "Would I want this person to be a parent to my children?" is a great metric for relationships -- not because one has to reproduce, but because it makes clear what issues are and are not meaningful. As already pointed out, this boy would make an appalling father.

I honestly don't think there's good advice here beyond "run." You shouldn't spend your life being embarrassed by this guy, or having to manage him, or helping him after his repeated screw-ups. After 3.5 years you must know he is not going to change. What are you getting from this relationship besides 'a relationship'?
posted by kmennie at 10:11 AM on March 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

If you're looking to be with him long-term, ask yourself this:

Is this the man that you want to be the father of your children?

(And are you okay with your kids witnessing this kind of behavior and/or bearing the brunt of the outcomes of this kind of behavior.)
posted by k8t at 10:12 AM on March 18, 2011 [8 favorites]

I dated a guy with some similar characteristics. He could also be very nice. But I got tired of having to be the one on his side, gently trying to get him to see other points of view, and I got tired of listening to his excuses and watching him chase after drama after drama. I got tired of him being unable to hold a job for longer than a few months because of conflicts with supervisors.

He wasn't willing to accept the realities of the breakup and he made my life very difficult. All the rage he directs at other people for being wrong will be directed at you. When/if you get tired of dealing with your guy, be very careful about the breakup.

Unless this suspension helps the guy snap out of it and he realizes the need for some serious personal growth (therapy, classes, the works), you will be cast in the role of tireless nurse and sole ally against the world for as long as you are together. In some cases he may justify his behavior to himself by thinking, "Well, anon is still with me, so I must be doing fine. It's them."

As he is, this guy will always be the center of attention in your relationship. He won't put his needs aside to tend to yours. He won't consider things from your point of view. He is unable to think of anything more important than himself.

Make a mental deadline for him to get help and improve. If he keeps doing the same-old, same-old, get out.
posted by griselda at 10:15 AM on March 18, 2011 [16 favorites]

Not to pile on, but those who are gently pointing out that this would be very bad behavior in a father are absolutely correct.

I see it every day. Those who walk around with a chip on their shoulder, blaming everyone else for their problems, raise children who do the same thing. Kids will simply absorb this and turn into little entitled jerks themselves.
posted by General Tonic at 10:21 AM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

He needs to get treatment for the ADHD. It'll help with the impulsive behavior and the "checking out". I do these things too when I'm not taking my meds. I also get depressed.

I don't know what to do if he refused to get treated. I personally couldn't deal with parenting him like you have been.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:45 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

ADHD can make people act like assholes even if they're trying hard to be pleasant. It has a notable effect on social skills.

OP, if you haven't read "Driven to Distraction" I suggest it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:49 AM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Wow, he gets in a cops face and then calls you crying? I'd be tempted to say he needs to man up, if that behavior didn't sound kind of frightening.

I would encourage him to get a physical hobby, and I'd encourage you to calmly tell him you need him to take control of his life, which is in a downward spiral.

And if that doesn't change anything, DTMFA.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:03 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think he is over-compensating and you should both have counseling together to figure out ways to reach an idealize calming center to hold on to.
posted by parmanparman at 11:12 AM on March 18, 2011

My first serious relationship was with a guy who sounds similar to your boyfriend. The end of that relationship was very difficult, but I am glad it ended.

For me, my judgement became clouded because I was with the guy for years. I got used to his little outbursts and disrespect for authority. I thought I loved him so much that I was willing to put up with his childishness. After the relationship ended, I learned there was a whole world filled men who are actually kind and don't display aggressive behavior.

You mention that he's kind to his friends, but shouldn't this be something that's just expected? In other words, it's nothing special that he is kind to his friends.

I'm not sure if he's all that kind to you. For me, spending time with my family and friends is very important. Being with someone who just spaces out and acts uninterested is very unpleasant. You should be enjoying your time with your friends. Geez.. he can't even give you a polite cue that he's ready to leave? Ugh!

In the end, I think you should focus more and how you feel than helping him. Take a long look at the relationship and really think about what you want. Do you really want to spend your life with a guy who can't keep a job because of aggression and being irresponsible? Is he someone you can actually count on to support you life together?

I'm sorry if this comes across as harsh. I was in your shoes once and the end of that relationship caused me immense pain for a long time, but now I look back and I can't imagine how awful my life would be if he was still in it.
posted by parakeetdog at 11:30 AM on March 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

Please email me. It's in my profile.
posted by desjardins at 12:25 PM on March 18, 2011

I am not of the opinion that you can change a person. You either have to accept him for how he acts or decide you don't like his behavior, point it out to him, and see if he agrees and wants to be different.
posted by anniecat at 12:30 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

What treatment is he getting for his ADHD? Pharmacologically? In terms of coaching?

I'm not unsympathetic to him because I know ADHD can intensify anger, I know it wrecks your impulse control, and I also know it can fuck up a person's understanding of cause and effect. But to me, he sounds like he's gone untreated for most of his life.

If he is getting treatment, it certainly isn't helping him with the most serious problem in his life. It is wrecking his employment. It is wrecking his ability to perform daily life tasks such as driving. It is wrecking his relationships. It is wrecking your life too.

Are you in the USA? I understand that one doesn't have to see a specialist to be diagnosed and treated for ADHD there. It really is a specialist job. So if he's getting no treatment, or inadequate treatment, he needs a specialist in ADHD for pharmacological help and for therapy. Also, some depression meds can increase anger and worsen impulse control for ADHDers, so although obviously IANAD it kinda looks to me as if all his treatment should be getting a thorough review.

I fully understand why you don't want to give up on the guy, and realizing that he acts with diminished responsibility, you're accurately perceiving that he needs more support than you'd give to Joe Average in the same situation. But the reality is that his life is only getting worse. Without the right kind of professional help, and commitment from him to change, it will only continue to get worse.

Because of his lack of insight, he may not respond to any requests that he get proper treatment. But without it, and without a commitment from him to improve, you are going to be soothing him and sorting out his catastrophes and negotiating with traffic cops, and probably worse, for the rest of your life.

Therefore, I think the only real answer is: specialist treatment followed rapidly by improvement, or DTMFA. And no more bailing him out - not for his sake, but for yours. I don't know whether suffering the consequences of his actions will help him understand them more, but I also don't see why you should suffer the consequences either.
posted by tel3path at 12:36 PM on March 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Hello anonymous. I know I am not exactly answering your question, but -- this would be a serious dealbreaker for me if he did not change. And he has to want to change - you can want want want to change him, but without his internal kick-start it will never keep.

I understand that there are many, many wonderful things about him. You wouldn't be with him if there weren't. But you are embarrassed, and probably mad, and missing out on a lot of experiences (travel-wise and otherwise) because of his temper and inappropriate behavior.

You need to talk to him. You need to tell him what you have told us. You need to tell him that things cannot continue like this and that he needs to take responsibility for his anger and his childish behavior.

You can be with someone who is awesome and cool and won't embarrass you, I promise. You need to find out stat if it is this guy or not.
posted by amicamentis at 1:50 PM on March 18, 2011

Uh, I think the ADHD stuff is a red herring. His assholish behavior may or may not be attributable to this, but the real point is:

As he is, this guy will always be the center of attention in your relationship. He won't put his needs aside to tend to yours. He won't consider things from your point of view. He is unable to think of anything more important than himself.

Do you want to live life like you're living, catering to his irresponsibility, explosiveness, and rudeness?
posted by yarly at 1:59 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yarly, with respect, it's not a red herring. All the behaviours described are directly attributable to ADHD, and, therefore, potentially treatable. The difference between treated and untreated ADHD is like night and day.

I think the real point is whether or not he can or will change, which can only happen if he actually gets effective treatment. Also, if he's lived a long time with no treatment or ineffective treatment, his personality will have grown around the neurological dysfunction in a lot of ways which may make the challenge greater. So I doubt that it's going to be as easy as just swallowing a pill and doing a bit of reading. But I think it's worth a try.
posted by tel3path at 2:25 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

IANAD of course. Speaking from an end user perspective. Opinion worth what was paid for it, etc.
posted by tel3path at 2:26 PM on March 18, 2011

n't think there are issues of co-dependence here. I have no illusions that I can rescue him from himself, and I don't think I'm at any risk of lapsing into depression myself

But you are enabling him, such as smoothing out the incident with the cop. Which means your life will always involve "taking care of him" when such things happen, which are more likely since you're protecting him from more dire consequences. Just like with addiction, if he sees he can get away with this behavior he's less likely to change, and only he can change his behavior.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:35 PM on March 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

You are a good partner and you are very self-aware and aware of what's going on with him. As I'm reading this, I'm thinking what a complicated project you've taken on. This doesn't sound like regular supportive back and forth between the two halves of a couple. You're hauling a heavy load. As someone else pointed out, you should not have to "manage" him. What would I do? Insist on therapy, and searching and searching until he finds the right one. Meds without therapy for where he is emotionally just sounds like a ridiculously bad idea. Kindly but forcefully, it sounds like it's time for you to set some ground rules.
posted by FlyByDay at 8:10 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

I wish I knew how old you guys are, just to have some context.

"... and (he) hasn't had much motivation to do things besides play video games recently."

Seriously, that's the part that made me really worried. I think you are so loving and caring and mature. Ultimately right now, this person is not your match. You are carrying the burden here for both of you.

Solve that or not. I just wanted to point it out.

We all have hurdles and obstacles in life. We all take a bit of a snooze now and then. I'd feel better for you if he were more motivated to solve his issues on his own.
posted by jbenben at 11:01 PM on March 18, 2011

While an under-managed attention deficit could certainly be a factor in all of these behaviors, I think there's still something troubling in how he responds to the additional stressors of an attentional disorder. As someone with an attention deficit myself, I can empathize with his having difficulty staying engaged in social situations when the topic of conversation doesn't particularly interest him, but I'd never take out my smart phone and start doing crossword puzzles when out with my girlfriend and her friends.

Having ADD doesn't make me not interested in other people, it doesn't make me have a narrow range of conversational topics I enjoy, and it doesn't mean I wouldn't be aware of the message I'm sending when I check out of the conversation in such a demonstrative way. I also understand what it's like to get overwhelmed and frustrated easily, but it comes out as getting flustered or 'short' with co-workers, not inappropriately aggressive. People with attentional disorders can often be inadvertently rude, but what the OP describes in her boyfriend sounds more like a pattern of willful small anti-social behaviors.

As for the OP's question about how to deal with her boyfriend's actions... unfortunately, this sounds more like a situation where the question is to what extent you can accept and deal with this aspect of your boyfriend, than what you can do about it. If, between the traumatic experience with the cop and getting into trouble at work, the negative consequences of his behavior don't prompt him to seek change, I don't know how much you could do.

My recommendation would be to actually start doing less. In terms of managing plans with friends or refraining from travel, etc., figure out the level you'd be comfortable keeping this stuff up for the long haul, and don't accomodate any more than that. Don't bite your tongue when it comes to pointing out when he's brought things on himself unless you're sure you can just let it go. Don't put up with more sullenness than you think you can manage on a week to week level. Essentially, speak out about the things that bug you when they happen enough so that you never feel like you're building up resentment.
posted by patnasty at 1:44 AM on March 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

First of all, you sound great. Really great. You come across as kind, insightful, articulate and you listed out the ways in which, in fact, you've never felt better, including professionally! I wish someone had said to me what I'm saying to you: You've got no ring on your finger, no mortgage and no kids. You are healthy and happy. Don't bind yourself to this man's issues, it is not too late to keep them from becoming your issues. You have grown past him. Please consider that the question,"How can I support him?" is the wrong question.
posted by thinkpiece at 9:22 AM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

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