How can we stay afloat when boyfriend is depressed?
June 22, 2011 8:41 PM   Subscribe

How can we stay afloat when boyfriend is depressed?

My boyfriend Rob and I have been together for about a year. I'm 22, and he's 25. When we met, we were both working. Now, he's not. I'm employed full-time, and just got a new, better job.

I'm pretty sure he's depressed. I don't blame him. I've been depressed before, and I know I can't "fix" him. This is a shitty situation, and the economy is horrible. It's not his fault. (I currently have a not-so-perfectly managed anxiety disorder, so I absolutely do not fault him for his depression.)

It's affected him badly. He's been out of work for about a month. In that time, I think he's applied to two jobs. He lies around all day (lack of money, and also demotivated). He says he feels valueless.

He swears this is temporary, that once he starts work again, he'll be better. But in the meantime, I'm his main support system. In staying at home all day, he gets low and cranky; if I am his first "social interaction" of the day (ie if I see him after work, he is ill-tempered and rude. He is also jealous of my new job (and gets mad when I mention anything regarding work), very sad, and very anxious. We spend much of our time together and he daily gets stuck in a shame spiral and I try and reassure him that no, he's not worthless, jobs don't mean you're better or worse than anyone, that things will get better.

What do I do? When he's on, he's great, and he's the loving, caring, kind partner I know. When he's out of it, he's at best rude and at worst just mean. I want him to do things like get out of the house during the day, apply for more jobs, work part-time, exercise, see friends during the day - but I don't say any of this, because I know it won't help, and I know it can be so hard. He is opposed to therapy and won't consider the idea. He has great friends and roommates, but they aren't around during the day, and he feels ashamed around them for not having a job.

How can I help? I know what not to do - I've been there. I listen to him, I support him, I'm on his side. I just hate seeing him so miserable 70% of the time. I'm scared that it will remain like this, that he won't get a job for a while. I know that being unemployed can wreck horrible things on self-worth. I help when there's an opening - he mentioned he wanted to volunteer on a mural project, so I saw something and sent it on to him; he ended up volunteering. But I don't want to overstep.

How do I draw emotional boundaries to make sure I'm not "brought down"? I'm in a pretty good place in my life, and I want him to be there too. I want to be with him, but staying rational and positive are really essential for my mental health. It's starting to really impact me that much of my free time is spent listening and supporting - I feel like it's crowding me out, and making me much, much, much more anxious. This sounds so selfish and horrible, but I have to take care of myself so I don't get depressed again. I feel sick even saying that it makes me anxious, but it does, so I need to draw better emotional boundaries.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (30 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
He's been out of work for about a month. In that time, I think he's applied to two jobs. He swears this is temporary, that once he starts work again, he'll be better.

You get that these statements do not compute, yes? There will be no new job to make him feel better if he's applied to two jobs in a month, right? Applying to jobs is supposed to be his full time job right now, but he's apparently not doing it.

I'd make it clear that you are willing to support him in his job search - a therapist, a job coach, a CV coach, whatever - but that you are not willing to support him in not looking for a job. Perhaps you can work with him to develop a schedule, like morning coffee and Monster searches at the local Starbucks, afternoons applying, OpenCoffee or other networking events as often as they are available. Sitting at home doing nothing is not an acceptable option, even in the midst of depression. And in fact, if this is situational depression due to unemployment, having a plan and a schedule and a shower and clothing every day will actually help to mitigate some of that.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:55 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think you need to print this out and leave it on his pillow. You've expressed your needs clearly here; now it's time to verbalize them with no regrets to your boyfriend. I live with depression, survived a suicide attempt, and I'd be the first to tell you that I am responsible for myself and my relationships regardless of how down I get.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:56 PM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Gah, unfinished post. I meant to end with: Your boyfriend can move past this, and he'll be better equipped to if he realizes how this scenario dovetails with your relationship as a whole.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:57 PM on June 22, 2011

This sounds so selfish and horrible, but I have to take care of myself so I don't get depressed again.

That doesn't sound selfish or horrible at all to me, it sounds mature, rational, and like you have healthy self-care habits. Sacrificing your own well-being for your partner to the point of physical or mental illness is not what I would call "unselfish" -- I'd call that "too much." Also, depression *can* be very contagious.

How do I draw emotional boundaries to make sure I'm not "brought down"?

Depression is an illness, but it doesn't make it okay for him to be ill-tempered, rude, and *mean* to you, get so jealous about your job to the point where you can't even mention it, or otherwise make you feel like shit about good things in your life. The emotional boundary I think it would be good to start with is not allowing him to mistreat you, period.

He is opposed to therapy and won't consider the idea.

I think it is wonderful that you are caring, supportive, and understanding. And depression is hard to handle, and it's clear he's having a tough time with it. But you can't help someone who is *completely refusing* to deal with the problem. I think sitting there day after day trying to comfort him, and have that be the *only* way he's dealing with the problem, is unhealthy for both of you. Your role is to give the amount of support that you can reasonably, healthily give. You can't be his therapist. You can't be his self-esteem. You can't be his lifeline. That's too much to ask of you.

I think there's a little too much from you here, and not enough from him. Look, he's mentioned something very concrete that is making him depressed, making him feel valueless and ashamed: that he's not working. If so, then at minimum, he should be doing some work, any work at all, even if it's consistent unpaid volunteer work. If he's not doing that, it's completely unfair for him to just dump all this on you.
posted by Ashley801 at 9:03 PM on June 22, 2011 [17 favorites]

When my husband is depressed (and he's been majorly depressed/semi-suicidal twice now), the only thing that gets *me* through it is him having a plan for pulling himself out. It doesn't have to be a big deal - just SOMETHING that I can look towards and tell myself things won't be like this forever.

Your boyfriend's "plan" of getting a job and miraculously feeling better is not the sort of thing I'm talking about, because what if it takes him a year to find a new job? What if he finds one and still feels shit?

Right now, my husband is pretty bad, but he has made a doctor's appointment for next week. I'm telling myself I just have to help him make it until then. Presumably he will then get prescribed some medication (like last time) and then I will tell myself I just have to help him make it for three or four weeks until the medication kicks in.

If your boyfriend won't consider therapy, he presumably won't consider anti-depressants either, but maybe you can at least get him to make a medical appointment to check that nothing is physically wrong. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and various diseases can all cause sadness and lethargy that look a lot like clinical depression and it's worth ruling those out.

If he sees a doctor, he might trust THEIR advice about things he can do for himself.

Other things you can do for yourself meanwhile is to make sure you keep your other networks strong: take one night a week where you go out with friends and do something fun. Have people over for dinner, even if it means your boyfriend pleads a "headache" and goes to bed early.

Do fun things for *you*. See a movie. Eat your favourite treat. If you exercise regularly, keep that up and don't feel tempted to skip it (or other things you would otherwise do) because you are worried about your boyfriend at home. I've been there and it won't help him for you to end up feeling awful too.

If your relationship is otherwise good, you should also be able to ask him outright for things that will help. My husband is currently spending most evenings lying on the couch staring at the ceiling, but I can ask him to give ME a backrub, or make us a cup of tea, and he will do it gladly - paradoxically I think it kind of helps him to feel wanted.
posted by lollusc at 9:06 PM on June 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Seriously, leave him until he gets his shit together. You don't have the time or the emotional energy to put up with someone who can't get his shit together enough to look for jobs, or to find someone to help him (as in a therapist) get his shit together so that he can look for jobs.

If you do have the energy to, well then he's gonna take advantage of that. He has shown no desire or will so far to find a job, why do you think he's going to start tomorrow given how you have accepted his behavior so far.

You are young, don't waste your time and energy on this.
posted by TheBones at 9:07 PM on June 22, 2011 [13 favorites]

Help him develop a plan and a schedule. Depression saps energy, and both will help. Get exercise with him, and spend time outdoors. Understand that depression causes "irritability" which may be severe crankiness, and can be tough on relationships.
posted by theora55 at 9:11 PM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

You are young, don't waste your time and energy on this.

I don't have much to say but don't do this. If you love someone, you fight for them, you live for them, you don't give up on them at the first sign that they aren't perfect.
posted by notion at 9:12 PM on June 22, 2011 [10 favorites]

Notion, it's not that he's "not perfect." He's being rude and mean to her, and not working to solve the problem, and she is only 22, and so he's probably not the person she's going to wind up with anyway, so -- why waste her energy here? If he were struggling but doing his best, that'd be one thing. But he's not.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:22 PM on June 22, 2011 [13 favorites]

you don't give up on them at the first sign that they aren't perfect

"ill-tempered and rude...jealous of my new job (and gets mad when I mention anything regarding work), very sad, and very anxious...daily gets stuck in a shame spiral and I try and reassure him...he's at best rude and at worst just mean"

This isn't shart marks in the unders or being sloppy with doing dishes; this is daily trashing of his purported loved one's day. Dude is depressed, okay, some sympathy is called for, but dude is also rude and mean. Only a year into a relationship, at 22, 'cut him loose' is quite reasonable advice, especially with the quite reasonable "I have to take care of myself so I don't get depressed again."

If he can't treat you decently, if he can't agree to get help -- leave. I speak as an ex-depressive. Sympathy is called for but the "just mean" stuff is -- well, yeah, welcome to your boyfriend, the mean guy. I cringe at all descriptions of partners that involve 'does these terrible things when he is not being the guy I know and love' -- this rude fellow, this's the boyfriend now, this's part of him. It's okay to call a mean depressive a mean person, and his depression does not mean you have to use a different metric for ending a relationship. If he was treating you like this and he wasn't depressed, would you stick around?
posted by kmennie at 9:25 PM on June 22, 2011 [21 favorites]

If you love someone... you live for them,

Don't ever, ever do this.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:31 PM on June 22, 2011 [51 favorites]

We spend much of our time together and he daily gets stuck in a shame spiral and I try and reassure him that no, he's not worthless, jobs don't mean you're better or worse than anyone, that things will get better.

When people say they're opposed to therapy...but then put a burden on their partner to reassure them constantly and poke them to take action -- they're putting their partner in the role of pro bono therapist. Of course, some reassurance and "cheerleading" is important for both partners to do in a relationship, but it sounds like he's not doing this for the OP and it feels like her *entire* role in this relationship is to play therapist.
Everyone with depression needs to care for themselves using the proper channels (therapy, medication, exercise, nutrition, journaling, SOMETHING) and not lay the burden on someone else.

I would leave, especially with your history of depression (I'm a member, too!). Do what's best for yourself.
posted by sweetkid at 9:31 PM on June 22, 2011 [12 favorites]

I don't have much to say but don't do this. If you love someone, you fight for them, you live for them, you don't give up on them at the first sign that they aren't perfect.

I completely agree for me, even for me 5 years ago, but that would put me at 33 and 28. When you are married, or in a very committed relationship, you don't give up on it that easily, regardless of your age. If you ARE committed to him, then you WILL fight for him. If he's committed to you, though, he wouldn't act the way that you have described- he'd do the same thing- fight for you (and for himself).
posted by TheBones at 9:32 PM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Put on your own oxygen mask first!

Enjoy your new job. Be positive. Stay positive.

If he can't come along for the ride - ditch him. let me tell you why...

It's OK to be a bit depressed sometimes. However. Getting downright mean is not OK, even when you are feeling low. (I get a little mean sometimes with the wonderful Mr. Jbenben when I am super super stressed, but I am always very sorry, it doesn't happen often, and I immediately take measures to make sure I don't stay in that mood.) If your guy doesn't immediately take steps to correct his downward spiral, step away. Step away.

Boundaries and self-preservation are your friends here. I can't nth that enough.


If your forward motion doesn't ignite him to move forward too, then this isn't the partnership for you.

I know because I'm divorced, but very happily married to Mr. Jbenben now. The right partner grows with you. I mean it.
posted by jbenben at 9:35 PM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

It's only been a month. The first few months are difficult. I'm sure this will last a few months. Getting jobs in this economy is slow and coming. Eventually though it will happen. Its a process he needs to go through. It's almost like this is his grieving state-- give him time to heal and eventually he will become motivated again to look for jobs, network, send out resumes, and eventually interview and land a job.

Unemployment is a very sensitive time in someones life. Jobs/Professions/Careers really define who people are sometimes. You see more and more today especially people reminding others that net-worth does not mean self worth.

If he still hasn't picked up the slack in another couple weeks, mention something to him. Give him some options to go out with you or ask his friends to make time to meet up with him. It's nice when someone else makes the effort to you. Its probably a good idea to give him some space. It will allow him to think about what he really is interested in, wants to do, what he might change in a new job.

I see a lot of people commented on just leaving him - it doesn't sound like that was even an option to you and just before you take other peoples advice before your own think about how he was before all of this. If it gets worse, aggressive destructive then maybe I would suggest leaving him until he gets his act together, but its these times where you both can be there for each other and give each other support.
posted by melizabeth at 9:52 PM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Well, I don't think there's anything wrong in you forwarding him material that may be of use to him - such as the volunteering opportunity. That's good. Give him more of that stuff.

He might want to do things but doesn't know where to start because he is overwhelmed by his situation.

He should also be out of the house from a networking perspective - new friends, new job opportunities. If the associations with the old friends/roommates cause angst, meeting new people who essentially don't know him can be a good thing to do. That also helps shift his social focus from you.

There is also nothing wrong with you wanting to look after yourself - always ensure your own health and wellbeing before attending to that of your SO. You both don't want to go down together.

But as his partner you are allowed to support him and encourage him to get better, not in a co-dependent way but in a healthy, independent way. Encouraging someone to stand on their own feet also sets up boundaries (I believe in you but I cannot do it for you). It is ultimately up to him what he does with it (and then ultimately where your relationship goes).
posted by mleigh at 11:25 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

You are young, don't waste your time and energy on this.

Right, just like if he had cancer, or IBS, or heck, even lazy eye: DTMFA!

Depression is an illness. It is treatable. The loving, kind partner is still there. Help that guy come back.
posted by amoeba syndrome at 11:32 PM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Sounds like you're offering help and support.

He needs to help himself.

I'm not saying DTMFA, but he needs to start treating you right, and he needs to get off his butt and start applying for jobs. I'll bet he doesn't bother to clean up or cook, either. In other words, his share of the workload is yours, to boot.

I want him to do things like get out of the house during the day, apply for more jobs, work part-time, exercise, see friends during the day - but I don't say any of this, because I know it won't help, and I know it can be so hard.

You need to say it, and he needs to do it.

Guess what? If he starts getting out, he'll feel better for doing it!

Activity is magic stuff for depression. Hard to do, but must be done.

Don't be his whipping post. If he doesn't start helping himself, AND treating you right, you need to back away and get some distance to preserve your own sanity.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:42 PM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

No, dumping a guy who with an illness that impacts your own health is not like dumping someone with a cancer. Dumping a guy with an illness that causes him to be rude, mean, and get *angry* when you even mention something they are jealous of, is not like dumping someone with a lazy eye. Dumping a guy who is doing zilch to overcome his illness and relies on you as his sole source of support is not like dumping someone with IBS.

I don't want to leap to saying dump him since that doesn't seem to be at all what the OP wants. But it's messed up to lay that kind of hyperbolic guilt trip on a 22 year old girl, when it comes to her boyfriend.
posted by Ashley801 at 11:44 PM on June 22, 2011 [18 favorites]

How committed are you to your boyfriend? I wouldn't just dump him right now. There are some constructive suggestions here, about how the situation could be improved. This may not be the person you're going to spend the rest of your life with, but it could be, too.

I agree with Darling Bri that living for someone else isn't ever a good idea. Don't do that. What you can do, however, *if* you do in fact love him enough to want to, is to try to help him with concrete ideas, or lay it out for him that he needs to be making some concrete efforts.

Should he make those efforts, post-your-conversation-with-him, it's worth continuing to try. If he doesn't, then I'm with TheBones.
posted by bardophile at 2:01 AM on June 23, 2011

I would suggest something like this:
Internal work: Determine clear boundaries. Decide how many infractions are allowed. (E.g. "One rude comment per day. 20 maximum per month."; "At least 4 job applications per month.") Decide on course of action if rules are broken. ("If X is broken I will move out", "if Y is broken I will leave for the evening", "if Z is broken I will break up with him".)

In other words, build yourself a concrete framework of reference. Do this in writing.

Apply boundaries to boyfriend. It is acceptable to tell people "Do not talk to me like this.". You don't need to give him the precise quotas. It's enough that you get the message across. You don't have to make 100% sure that he understands or accepts. When you have reasonably elucidated the boundaries, then stop. He'll probably resist and argue and pretend that the boundaries aren't reasonable. Doesn't matter - this is what you need and want.

Be strict, and follow up on what you have decided. You will probably fail to be 100% strict, but that's OK - this type of process will give you a framework to work from.
posted by krilli at 3:45 AM on June 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

Fuck your loved ones, fuck the poor...

A great bit of oratory for those who enjoy teh dramaz, but this little monologue is a derail that doesn't even have much of anything to do with the OP's situation... What a peculiar lack of empathy for the OP, and what a strange defence of somebody who is poorly behaved on so many levels.

OP, you are not obligated to stay with a man who is treating you poorly, even if there is an explanation as to why he is treating you poorly. If he had "cancer, or IBS, or heck, even lazy eye," and was refusing treatment, and was using "cancer, or IBS, or heck, even lazy eye" as an excuse to be mean to you -- the advice to look at leaving would still stand.
posted by kmennie at 4:28 AM on June 23, 2011 [6 favorites]

It's time for you to have some words. Be gentle, because depression tends to add "because you are a wretched human being" to the end of every sentence, and you don't want that.

You want to make it clear that you love him (you do, right?) and you think he's great, and you want him to be happy and you want to make this relationship work, but he has to put forth an effort, too. Relationships are between equals, and they require work from both people, and a huge part of that work is working on oneself. No one person can be another's entire support system. Things cannot go on the way they currently are. You need him to put some serious and sustained work into getting himself healthy. You don't expect him to get better instantly, but you need him to get better eventually, and that's not going to happen without his work. And you know how hard it is, and you don't want to nag or micromanage or make him feel worse, but you also know it's hard to get the momentum to do this alone.

Ask him what he'd like to do about this, what he'd like you to contribute (something reasonable, and more concrete than "be there for me"), and what he considers a reasonable timeline for progress. Outline an agreed-upon course of action for the next month or so, preferably with some objectives or goals. They can start out small; they might have to. If possible, have him take action immediately, so he doesn't say "yeah I'll work on it" and then brush it all off. If he agrees to therapy, call a therapist right then.

He might react by thinking the easiest route is to hide his feelings from you, or downplay them, or try to swallow them. Thinking that you might not understand, or he might upset or burden you if you knew how he really felt. Preempt this by emphasizing that you want him to feel comfortable sharing anything with you, and feeling whatever it is that he feels, but you are not going to be able to fix or even comprehend everything, and it will help him to have another outlet - a close friend or, preferably, a professional.

And address the rudeness. Bring it up when you talk to him about taking care of his depression. Afterward, whenever he says something cutting or mean-spirited to you, calmly point it out with something like "hey, that's a hurtful thing to say." It might be just one of his old defense mechanisms surfacing under duress, and he may not even realize he's doing it.

I have been through some crushing, awful bouts of depression, myself. I am forever in favor of fighting for the sake of a depressed partner, and providing compassion and support. But I am also forever in favor of personal relationships being healthy and mutually beneficial. If you can't have that, it might not be a relationship worth fighting for.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:19 AM on June 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

My advice will assume you're pretty committed. If this isn't a serious relationship, you're not under any obligation to stick around so he doesn't feel worse.

It's not unusual for people to fall COMPLETELY apart after being fired or laid off -- men in particular. In my experience, many people need 1-2 months (4 to 8 weeks) to just cope with the trauma before they can start to cope with LIFE again. If he has no mouths to feed other than his own, I would let the lack of motivation and house-leaving and so on slide for a while -- but I would tell him this. I'd say, "Look, you're coping with a lot, I understand, I'm not going to bug you about it for a while, but in four more weeks, you're going to have to have a Come to Jesus about this -- no more lying around in your bathrobe killing pixels all day, no more moping, etc. So regroup, eat terrible food, surf the web all day, sleep endlessly, but in four weeks you gotta get back to being a grown-up." Not in those words, but that's the idea.

Then when it's time to return to Coping With The Universe, I would make non-negotiable that he spend four hours a day looking for a job (8 hours can be a little much, and a little discouraging), that a minimum of X resumes a week go out (so "looking for a job" isn't just "surfing the web"), and the other four hours involve some combination of housekeeping, cooking, exercising, leaving the house to see friends, volunteer commitments, etc. And he can either stop (constantly) dumping on you and start socializing again OR he can see a therapist. Full stop. It's nonsense to claim to be "opposed" to therapy but to lean so heavily on your loved ones that you're driving THEM to therapy. That's plain selfish.

"if I am his first "social interaction" of the day (ie if I see him after work, he is ill-tempered and rude. He is also jealous of my new job (and gets mad when I mention anything regarding work), very sad, and very anxious."

This nonsense has to stop, and I'd tell him so in no uncertain terms. I get that what's probably going on is that he feels like shit about himself so he turns that emotion outward and lashes out at you. But, geez, he needs to use his words to accurately identify his emotions and cope with them (and talk about them with you), rather than sublimating them into rudeness and anger and jealousy because those are "easier" emotions. And, again, if he can't manage this? He can do therapy or he can STFU. Being in a shitty life situation is no excuse to PERSIST in lashing out at the people you love or in treating them badly, once it's been pointed out to you. And if you can't help it? That's a job for a therapist.

Many people who are coping with the trauma of being suddenly unemployed do better with someone else handing them a plan -- their head is spinning so fast they can't make decisions, there's too much, etc. This won't work with everyone, but a little laying down the law and tough love can be very helpful. I also assume that he will probably agree with you that he DOES need to commit to job hunting four hours a day and sending out 10 resumes a week and so on, he just needs someone else to lean on him a bit about it. You may find it easier to do the leaning than be a non-stop sounding board for unhappiness. (You may also find this just makes you feel like his mother and he acts like a recalcitrant child, in which case, ugh and reassess.) But making a plan together and him feeling like he has a commitment to YOU to stick to the plan may help him do so ... and feel better about himself, like he's accomplishing something.

I'd also ask yourself AND him, if you're in this together for the long haul, is this how he's always going to cope with major life adversity? Shit happens and is going to happen, and if he not just collapses but refuses support (therapy) and becomes mean and lashes out, that doesn't bode well for a time when you have two kids and a disabled dog and something in your lives goes horribly wrong. Twenty-five is young, he's still learning to cope as an adult with adult problems. But it's something to think about.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:31 AM on June 23, 2011 [10 favorites]

No one person can be another's entire support system.

I think this should be the kernel of what you say to your boyfriend.

"Rob, I love you, but I can't be your only support system. I can't be the only person you talk to every day. I can't be your therapist. I can't be your career counselor. I won't be your punching bag. You need to find other people and activities to fill your life with - in addition to me - while you get better and find a new job."

I also really dig what krilli said about boundaries.

I also think it is important to note that being unemployed can be especially demoralizing. I wouldn't go into some draconian "You Must Apply To Four Jobs A Day Or I Will Dump You" bullshit, because that will only make things worse between the two of you.
posted by Sara C. at 5:50 AM on June 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

I'm 22, and he's 25.

You're rationalizing this like you're a 38 with two kids in tow. DTMFA.

You seem to be smart and to have your shit together. Boyfriend is depressed and rude. Sadly, it's not your problem.

Of course your predicament reminded me of this Louis C.K. bit, sorry.
posted by falameufilho at 5:58 AM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Your post sounds very healthy and you should try to see your responses and fears and feelings as being healthy ones (that's how they seem to me) rather than feeling guilty. Try to sit down in a quiet place rationally one day and think it all through. Think about yourself and him as two other people, and what you would advise that person that is you, and what you would want for that other person.

I am a writer and am friends with many writers and deadlines seem to help in ways nothing else does. Perhaps in your own head, or in conversation with him, you might suggest some sort of timeline for things; if he doesn't see a shrink by X time, or if he doesn't begin seriously looking for work by X time... depression seems like an endless series of days; it might help for him to put things in a time perspective.

If he is mean to you, do you point that out to him in a no-nonsense way? I think you should think about doing that; he should know that he cannot treat you this way and that you won't put up with it.

I was married to a wonderful man who was also an alcoholic; I never really mentioned to him that the drinking was harming the marriage, except for a few times, but he was so touchy and defensive at those times, that I never brought it up again. Not surprisingly, we are no longer together. In retrospect, I have wondered why I wasn't more active and didn't take more steps: insisting he go to AA or else I'd leave, things like that. Instead, I was very passive, pretended it wasn't happening, drifted away from him, grew more and more anxious, and finally left. I wish I had brought our problems up to the level of mutual consciousness, no matter how hard it was for us to address it. At least it would have given him a chance to see how deeply it was hurting us, and me, and him. It would have given him a chance to repair things. In retrospect, he says he wishes he had done more, too, to save the marriage. So now we both have regrets because we were too afraid to speak about it.

So sit quietly, think about what the smartest, sanest, healthiest version of yourself would do; talk to him about it, no matter how hard or painful it is. And then follow through on whatever you talk about. He should hold up his end, and you should hold up whatever you determine to be your end.

I don't think you should dump him, but I think you should speak honestly to him, lovingly; try to stick by, but don't hurt yourself, especially if he becomes more cruel.
posted by Clotilde at 6:22 AM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

I suffer from depression and my SO does as well. While neither one of us is an effervescent bundle of joy when we are going through the worst of the blackness, we maintain not just civility, but kindness to each other. I can come home surly, whiny and cranky and while I may talk to him about people I wanted to kick on the bus, I do not direct this negativity at him. He may be quiet, withdrawn, lethargic and very bleak, but he has not once aimed any of that negativity at me.

I would make this very clear to him. If you are a team, then he needs to treat you like one of the team - no attacks, no snipes. And half of a team does what they need to do to maintain the health of the team as a whole - his mental health is affecting the dynamic of your little group and he needs to address it with whatever tools he can get. The panacea of the job might not fix his depression, but certainly feeling bleak and worthless is not helping in the job searching. It's hard to sell yourself to others when you are kicking yourself in your thoughts.

Good luck. Please keep us updated.
posted by 8dot3 at 7:13 AM on June 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

Leave the situation. But leave with love: make it clear that you're not leaving because you don't care, but because a relationship takes two to make it work, and he's not in it, since he simply doesn't have his shit together. Tell him that you love him and if he wants this relationship to work, he has to get it together and be a real partner to you. Then leave. Maybe he'll get it together, maybe he won't. Not your problem. Not your decision. Take care of yourself, because he sure as hell isn't.
posted by clockzero at 11:11 AM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

I suggest saying that you want to have a discussion about your situation.

The first words out of your mouth should be I don't care if you have a job. I'm 100% behind you. But I need you to be nice to me when I see you--I know it may be hard to notice, but you have said some hurtful things about me and my new job. I need your support in what I'm doing and I promise support from me as well.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:19 PM on June 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

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