It's Breaking, if not Broken: Can I fix it?
November 10, 2014 6:13 AM   Subscribe

My partner confessed to entertaining the idea of moving out, because living with me has been difficult of late and it's starting to hurt them. Is there any way back from this?

I know what the problems are:

a) I have not been managing my mental illness, which is an unfair imposition on anyone I live with and has also led me to withdraw entirely from friends and family. Since May/June, I've been experiencing extreme anxiety when in social situations that I can't easily withdraw from. Partner has been hesitant to invite people to our apartment, because I requested being able to do my own thing occasionally and not entertain as a couple. I do not have insurance, and have not had access to the medication I need. I have had trouble finding a therapist who is both sliding-scale and available after 6pm, because I'm never able to get home til then.

b) Partner and I have not been creating new experiences as a couple beyond sitting at home and watching Netflix. This is my fault - Partner has asked me to attend events with them, but I get locked up in anxiety and decline. While I have encouraged partner to socialize without me, this has been hurting them, as well: they really would prefer to have me there. Partner is concerned that because we moved in together too fast, we have lost the romance and are quickly sliding into roommate territory. It crushes me to say this, but I agree.

During the conversation, I remained calm, and asked Partner if they wanted to move out presently. I also offered to help them find a place, and make sure that they had what they needed - because this is not a healthy living situation, and I would advise any friend who came to me describing this to leave. Partner told me that they wanted to stay, and try to build our relationship back up to where it was, and then beyond. They believe that we'll make it through this. This makes me feel relieved: I love Partner very deeply, and I could not imagine my life without them. I WANT to be a better partner to them, and I am so happy that Partner is willing to try and work on things.

And while it was hard to swallow, I acknowledge that I haven't been taking care of myself. I miss my friends; I miss the kink community that Partner and I are members of. We don't even practice kink as heavily as we used to! And I hate what I've become as a result of being afraid and mistrustful of everything.

But in the back of my mind, I know that Partner has been suffering for a while. Aside from relief and determination to fix things, part of me feels hopeless, as if this is the end and I should just set Partner free, to be happy. Should it be? And if not, what are some low-budget things that we can do to start bonding as a couple again while I work on treating my illness?
posted by Ashen to Human Relations (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You don't need to be worrying about low-budget couple activities right now- that's not what you need, and it's not what your partner wants, either, not really. What you need is to get medication and treatment, and you know it. You first priority should be that, and it sounds like your partner will support you. See if you can reschedule work so that you can go to therapy during the day, for a start.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:25 AM on November 10, 2014 [34 favorites]

I'm sorry, this sounds like a stressful thing to deal with on top of your anxiety.

I think the key thing, here, is that you need, need, need, need to treat your anxiety. I hear that you're in a tough spot right now without insurance, but what your relationship needs is to see you working at bettering your emotional health. Many things can be withstood, even for longer periods of time, as long as there is an end or there appears to be a solution on the horizon.

If you're both comfortable with it, maybe involve your partner in your search for a therapist.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Your partner needs to know that you've heard him and are working on it.
posted by lydhre at 6:33 AM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have similar challenges. For starters, you need to get treatment for your anxiety (it sounds like you know this, but this is THE main way that you can help make things better for Partner, and for yourself.) This is a priority. If therapy and medication will take time to arrange, do the self-care things that help you (regular sleep, regular food, exercise, others) - but don't skimp on getting into treatment, and elicit Partner's help with this. Are you in the US? Open enrollment for ACA insurance starts this week.

To answer your question about activities, though, I'd suggest focusing on the really, really small things that may make a big difference for you and Partner. Don't set yourself up for failure by aiming for major lifestyle changes right now. What makes your partner feel loved and special? For my partner, it's knowing that I"m thinking about them when we're apart, it might be something else for the two of you. You're watching a lot of Netflix at home right now; if you're finding it hard to be out and about right now, are there little ways you can make home a special place for the two of you? I'd suggest cooking dinner - it's as cheap as you need it to be, it gets you away from screens, and it can be as low-key or involved as you want.

I tend to beat myself up about the ways I have (or perceive myself to have) let the team down, but this helps nobody (It's taken me years to start figuring out that my guilt about not doing the things anxiety makes it hard to do....doesn't actually fix those things not getting done.) So for now, focus on successes, and small things that you can achieve - and the fact that Partner wants to be with you! No 'setting Partner free' - Partner is a grownup, and you have evidence that they are being really honest with you. Trust that Partner will decide for themselves if they need to move on.
posted by heyforfour at 6:34 AM on November 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

What you need is to get medication and treatment, and you know it. You first priority should be that, and it sounds like your partner will support you.

This is what I was going to say. Your mental health has to be priority one, and solving that will give you pathways towards working on the other issues. Nothing can get fixed until that is on the path towards better functioning.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:53 AM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

It sounds like your partner has been very patient with you and it's just become untenable for them to live with your anymore if you don't seek treatment. There is no together if there is no you. You need to work on your health. If your partner needs to move on, they will. That's up to them and their capacity to handle things going forward. But either way, you need to work on getting better.

And I know it's tough, the motivation to do so when you feel despair just isn't there...but you gotta do it. Ask for help in doing it. I'm sure your partner would love to see that happen and would help.
posted by inturnaround at 7:01 AM on November 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

You might very well feel a little better if you and your partner just formally make time to talk with each other, maybe on walks. Commit to this, and it might give you just enough energy to take the next step or steps - finding a therapist or whatever.

Just talk, about anything. To another person. It's better than nothing, and you have someone conveniently living with you who loves you who would probably love to talk to you :)
posted by amtho at 8:13 AM on November 10, 2014

But in the back of my mind, I know that Partner has been suffering for a while. Aside from relief and determination to fix things, part of me feels hopeless, as if this is the end and I should just set Partner free, to be happy. Should it be?

Partner's a grownup. Let them decide when it's hopeless and time to be free. They've told you that it isn't that time yet. Stop second-guessing them.

And ask yourself whether part of your feeling of hopelessness/wanting to just set Partner free is really just wanting to follow the easier-seeming path where you don't need to do the hard work of fixing things. Sometimes it seems easier to be free of interpersonal complications and just huddle together under the proverbial blankets with that bastard menage-a-trois of Anxiety, Depression, and Me.
posted by drlith at 9:04 AM on November 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

Also, if you've been on medications that have a track record of helping you in the past, I would prioritize getting your prescriptions and getting them filled over finding a sliding-scale therapist. If it is possible to schedule an appointment with your old provider, scrape up the cash and just DO IT. If that's not possible, it may be an option to pay cash for an appointment with a convenient local GP that offers Saturday hours. Paying cash for medical services really, really sucks when you're already broke, I know. But it's also a really important priority, because losing your job or destabilizing your housing situation would cost you a lot more in the long run.
posted by drlith at 9:23 AM on November 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Get on the Exchange, it may be free for you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:23 AM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think you have a good shot at working this out. Your partner cares enough about you to talk to you about this and work towards a fix before things go too far. I was in a similar position recently and my domestic partner didn't give me any warning whatsoever. One day she simply announced that "I can't do this any more" and three days later had a new place.

In my case my partner wasn't as supportive as I would have liked because she felt I wasn't tackling my illness in the manner that she would have. I miss her desperately, yet I find that I'm improving in leaps and bounds now that I'm not doubting the steps I've been taking to get healthier. Are you getting the support you need?
posted by fredmounts at 10:56 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, you two might be able to fix it! The fact that your partner is willing to stay (living with you and in the relationship) is a good sign. It's also promising that you are willing to commit to taking care of yourself and addressing your mental well-being. It's important that you prioritize this over everything else, including the relationship.

Is it possible for your partner to move out and for you two to stay together while you work on getting the support you need to address your mental health? If the living situation really isn't healthy, but you two still love each other, maybe it would be best to live separately for a while.

Some suggestions for the short term, if you do continue living together:

1. Solo & Couples counseling
2. Make sure that you do at least 2-3 things every day to address your mental well-being
3. Make sure you do at least 2-3 things every day to address you *physical* well-being
4. Both of you could start doing some solo things, for fun. Perhaps sounds counter-intuitive, but it will make your time together more valuable. Go see a movie -- alone. Take a walk. If you can afford it, take a yoga class. If you can't, do a yoga DVD (or youtube) by yourself. Read a book. Talk about it when you're together. Hang out with your own friends. Take a breather from each other.
5. Do a "date night" once a week.
posted by Gray Skies at 2:55 PM on November 10, 2014

I have begun soliciting the help of family members who have supported me in the past, in terms of locating a therapist and maybe even paying for my treatment. Given all the trouble created by my mother not taking care of her illness, they are eager to help me NOT destroy my life and relationship in a similar fashion.

I believe my partner when he says that he'll stay for now. But I'm afraid of losing him over this - and frankly, I will be anxious about that for a really long time, until there is a clear end to this rough patch I've created.* But whether he stays with me or not, I do need to become well.

Thank you for your answers. I needed to see them.

*I want him to be happy and comfortable even if it means not being with me, but it also hurts and nearly losing him as it were is scary to me. I had imagined spending my life with him.
posted by Ashen at 9:12 AM on November 11, 2014

Regarding update: I think you need to separate living together (right now) and your relationship. Perhaps you can stay under the same roof during this rough patch, but it is also totally possible that y'all can spend your lives together but also live apart temporarily. Your fears are normal, but don't let them take you over right now. Whenever you start to freak out about "what will happen" with this guy, remember that the priority is your health. *Your* health. If he's the right guy, he will hang in there.
posted by Gray Skies at 8:30 PM on November 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

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