Will love tear us apart?
March 26, 2013 5:38 PM   Subscribe

I'm experiencing a very tumultuous time in my relationship with my partner of 4 years. I don't know what part of our relationship problems are due to his ADHD, general depression on both our parts or incompatibility. Where can I go from here? What questions can I ask myself and him to get a clearer idea of the origin of our problem?

We have a history of being very loving and kind to eachother, but over the last 6 or so months our relationship has changed. Things that were once positive progressions towards marriage have now become burdens on him and he's expressing that he is giving up too much. I love him very much and he says he loves me, but I cannot tell if his lack of doing what he says and his hot and cold attitude towards me is him pulling away or a sign for me to break things off with him because he doesn't want to crush me. He and I are both in therapy now, although not couples therapy. Since he started he seems even more depressed, uncertain and not the person he was even 3 months ago. I haven't been in therapy as long as he, but I already feel more optimistic and know what I need to work on and working towards it daily. We talk about these things and the conclusion is generally unresolved and thrown back to perhaps we are just very damaged creatures. I want to get out of this pattern and support him while taking care of me. He seems to want to be alone to seethe in his sorrow.

Where can I go from here? What questions can I ask myself and him to get a clearer idea of the origin of our problem?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know that I can actually answer your questions, but this is maybe a (micro-) parallel to your problem:

tonight was the first night of some sort of martial arts course which turned out to be a mix of exercise, mindfulness and something else. At the end, we were meant to relax - and magic a smile onto our lips - by thinking about the wonderful carefree life we lead as 6-7 years old. I was 6-7 years old when the most egregious abuse of my childhood happened. When I looked around, everybody was smiling blissfully, probably sort of experiencing for the first time in years the "lightness of being" of childhood, whilst I was close to being re-traumatized (weirdly, I knew these things before, but for some reason the setting made them more vivid).

Maybe this is what happened to you and your boyfriend: you feel re-energized, whilst he is (possibly for the first time) re-living some trauma, or near-trauma.

If something like this is the case, I don't really know what an answer is to your question. It can be a lonely or solitude-inducing thing, re-living past hardships. Maybe the best thing would be a combination of patience, honesty and demands for honesty? Who knows what he has discovered in therapy, maybe he needs to chew on it a bit on his own before sharing. But maybe coupled with a clear view of what it is you need/ want/ hope for, with no pressure, but also not postponed sine is the best way for you.
posted by miorita at 6:17 PM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

You say that he seems like he just wants to seethe in his sorrow. But what does he say that he actually wants, now and in the future?

You seem pretty clear about what you want, so tell him that. Ask him what he wants, and whether it is similar enough for you two to work on getting there together. If he has no idea what he wants, he's either very depressed or trying to get you to be the bad guy that dumps him.

One word of caution on therapy - I found that I initially felt a Lot worse, digging through the past and feeling damaged by how messed up I was. But after awhile I came to be a much happier, healthier person - a million times better for that hard work. So it may be that he's just suffering through that initial tough stretch. Ask him, he should have a sense. Try to make it as much of an ongoing conversation as you can.
posted by ldthomps at 6:21 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

During a calm moment, ask him to go for a walk with you. While you are walking, tell him that you are here for him during his tough time, but you need for him to set the boundaries. Does he need more or less space? Should you put off talking about marriage for the next 6 months? the next year? More than likely he won't give you the answer that you want to hear and he knows it, and that may be where the tension is.

I would rather know a painful truth than a thousand gentle lies.
posted by myselfasme at 6:36 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

What does your therapist say? You have talked this over with your therapist, right? Can you get the two of you a couple of sessions of couples therapy to have a talk about things?
I'm not surprised he feels worse with therapy, sometimes it is hard. Sometimes these things take time. Only you know how much time you can give to him.
As far as questions, I'm wondering if you two have talked about what he means by "giving up too much." And what you mean by "working towards it daily."
posted by SyraCarol at 4:56 AM on March 27, 2013

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