Depressed, distant and asking for space. What to do now?
December 20, 2014 4:48 PM   Subscribe

I've been seeing a guy exclusively for 2 months, sleeping over 3 nights a week with nice dates. We're in a gaming group together. On 2 occasions he murmured I love you while half asleep. We never went a day without texting good morning/good night and we chatted frequently. Our dates were getting longer, and Monday morning he acted enamored. He messaged me as usual to gush about me. By the end of that day, he already seemed distant. By Thur he had still not mentioned seeing me again. When I asked if he wanted to hang out after the party or Fri, he didn't acknowledge the question. He seemed very interested in chatting about everything else but no longer seemed interested in flirting/sexy talk. We were attending a party Thur and normally he says "Excited to see you!" but he didn't even say it back. At the party, he was affectionate & seemed himself at first. When it was time to leave, he was distant, avoidant to the point of being rude, and gave a lame excuse for wanting to hang out Friday instead.

He seemed agitated. On the phone after, he said he was aware he had been acting weird but didn't realize he was avoidant at the party. He seemed sincere when he said he'd been dealing with his depression on top of stressful work week & holidays. He said I'm incredibly awesome, enjoys my company so much and was sorry for acting hurtful. "It's not you." He was his usual funny self & didn't seem to want to get off the phone. Next day, he wrote good morning. I asked him how he's doing. "I am doing okay." When I sent 2 sweet messages during the day, he ignored me but was very active on group chats. He was his usual funny self there. At 530pm, he wrote "Have a good night" which seemed like a rude way to cancel. He didn't answer his cell so I wrote:"Uh, is everything ok?" "Nah." "Do you want to talk about it?" "Nah." "Are you saying we're done?" "I'm just not in a very good mood." "Do you want to stop seeing me for good or just want space for a while? Did you mean what you said on the phone last night?" "A little space would be nice. I did mean what I said." Nothing since, and for the first time, he didn't write goodnight or good morning. Despite being depressed, he attended a lot of gaming events today, so why can't he talk to me? Is this normal for depression? Just now, I wrote "Hope you're enjoying your weekend, I'm there for you if you need anything." For those familiar with depression, what's the best way to reach out and how often? How long should I give him before I assume he is no longer interested? Is it a good idea to avoid events he RSVPs to?
posted by lohachata to Human Relations (37 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Stop talking to him. He's being a jerk and you're being a little too caring and doing so much thinking when he's being weird and avoidant.

Guys say I love you really easily, in the moment . Ppl do it to feel connected, not because they're demonstrating commitment.

DTMFA. You're a sweetheart and caring person and he's a waste of your time and effort.
posted by discopolo at 4:58 PM on December 20, 2014 [35 favorites]

He doesn't sound ready for a relationship and you sound like you are ready to date an adult. "Space" = it is over in a two month relationship, especially one that is where you are hardly in each other's pockets.

Next time though, don't have serious conversations over text - the tone is completely wrong and *always* makes things worse. No reason for you to avoid group activities you enjoy, if he is uncomfortable he can stop going.
posted by saucysault at 5:01 PM on December 20, 2014 [8 favorites]

Don't do anything. Observe.
posted by Riverine at 5:03 PM on December 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

Oh, and lots of jerks use the "I have depression" line to avoid being genuine. There is a real disease called depression, but people feel free to apply the label to themselves to rationalise their horrible, selfish behaviour (in his case, dropping you on a Friday night makes me think he has met someone else and is just keeping you in "reserve" in case that person drops him). My experience is that people with genuine depression go to extraordinary lengths to avoid making it a burden on anyone else.
posted by saucysault at 5:06 PM on December 20, 2014 [24 favorites]

It sounds like he is legitimately interested in you but doesn't want to involve you in whatever he is preoccupied with right now. Taking his words at face value will make him comfortable communicating with you.
posted by Phssthpok at 5:07 PM on December 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Don't fall into the trap of, "he's really stressed and so that's why he's being a jerk, poor thing". How people treat you when they are really stressed is a great sign of how your relationship will go. If you are two months in and he's doing this now then I'd drop it and move on.
posted by dawkins_7 at 5:10 PM on December 20, 2014 [34 favorites]

It doesn't sound like depression to me. Depression is more than being in a bad mood one evening while being social in other areas. I think you should be proceeding as if he's not interested right now and not wait. It's not right to treat people this way, depression or not.
posted by bleep at 5:12 PM on December 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Think of it this way. It's one of two things.

1) He's not interested in you.
2) He IS interested in you, and THIS is how he demonstrates affection. He acts cold, ignores you, appears agitated, and occasionally is nice to you.

Besides, he asked you for space. He's telling you he's not interested.

And in the future, don't text feelings. Don't ask if you're breaking up via text. Call.
posted by kinetic at 5:19 PM on December 20, 2014 [25 favorites]

It doesn't matter why. He asked you for space.

Provide the space, permanently.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:20 PM on December 20, 2014 [9 favorites]

This is textbook too much, too soon, commitment-phobic, low self-awareness, as skittish as a cat in a rocking chair factory behavior on his part.

I'm really sorry. You know how you feel and what you want. He doesn't. Take a break from the gaming group for a little while. Go no contact and, above all, do NOT "be there" for him. Be there for yourself.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 5:32 PM on December 20, 2014 [21 favorites]

One thing that is important to remember when things start hitting the fan, is that you can endlessly ponder, analyze the other person, try to construct a narrative in your head about what they are feeling and why, but it is ultimately going to be an impossible, fruitless endeavor. However, you can focus on what he is not providing right now; that is, demonstration he values this relationship and working with you to come up with a "plan" or understanding to keep this relationship alive while he goes through whatever it is he claims he is going though.

Either he is not interested in continuing this with you, or he is too immature to deal with the issues life throws at us all without imploding into a self-absorbed pile of person who is incapable of communicating with his significant other yet has no problem gaming with friends- either way, is this what you want anyway?
posted by incolorinred at 5:54 PM on December 20, 2014 [19 favorites]

Actions speak louder than words. He is, for whatever reason, not into the relationship any more.
posted by 724A at 6:21 PM on December 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think you're being a little intense with him - if he says things aren't OK but he'd rather not talk about it, and he's already asked for some space and understanding, isn't it a little bit dramatic to respond with "are you saying we're done?" and "do you want to stop seeing me for good?" (over text, no less!) If I were dealing with a difficult week and didn't want to talk about it at that moment, something dramatic and upsetting like that would be just about the last thing I'd want to hear from my significant other. And you seem to be expecting him to text you many times daily even though he's asked for space, which doesn't seem to add up - if someone asked me for space, I definitely would not be texting good morning and good night every day.

That's all conjecture, though, because I'm not the sort of person who likes space when I'm depressed/dealing with hard things, I like to talk things through with my spouse and get support from them. I know that's not the way everyone operates, but I wouldn't want to date someone who didn't function mostly the same way, because it would only end in hurt. If you thought he was worth cutting a little slack to, I'd stop texting him 5x a day and just wait until he contacts you! If not, I'd just say "sorry, this isn't working out for me, I'm afraid we'll have to end this relationship" (on the phone or in person, not via text).
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:53 PM on December 20, 2014 [26 favorites]

Had you been signalling your interest in him as much as he had been of you? What I mean is, when he mumbled his "I love you"s, did you reciprocate? And had you been telling him how enamored YOU are of HIM?

I'm just wondering if he felt like you weren't reciprocating his head-over-heels state....and eventually got tired of it. I'm not saying that's the case...I'm just curious. (And even if that IS the case, then he should just talk to you about it instead of becoming distant and making excuses....but it's something to consider.)
posted by barnoley at 6:53 PM on December 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm really sorry you're going through with this. Depression doesn't sound like the cause, it sounds like the excuse. It sounds like you would be saving yourself a lot of trouble by backing away. Because this person may use you, ingratiate you further down the road and then pull back again. This is immaturity and selfishness. I can tell you from my own experience that this has to be resolved one way or another. But it takes time.

We all have certain personality types that make us vulnerable to certain types of "toxic" people. I'm very open-hearted, so I make myself vulnerable, and I am prone to "working things out," and with intimate partners that are occasionally abusive, this can create an unbelievable roller coaster.

This also means I occasionally get enmeshed in really bad relationships (that look good, mind you) very quickly. I've had to learn how to have boundaries. Like cutting someone off, and not feeling bad about it. Or not immediately having sexual relations with someone. Or if somebody tells me they love me, that doesn't mean I love them.

I think the greatest challenge in life is connecting with how you are feeling instead of trying to figure other people out - or trying to complement them. Listen. This guy is making you feel uncomfortable. I repeat. This guy is making you feel uncomfortable.

That's all the information you need. Now act accordingly. Communicate it, if you want to. It's a healthy alternative to, "I hope you're ok, I'm here if you need anything." If you want a trick, the next time this guy contacts you, wait three days to reply. Give yourself a chance to breathe. Or even put yourself in the driver's seat. See how you feel after three days. If you have a problem doing this, you're human. And you might suffer from codependency - I mean, who doesn't.

I'm always amazed in my own life how much attention inconsistent people draw from me. Just know that there are people that don't act this way. This guy is thrashing around. Good luck, and take baby steps.
posted by phaedon at 7:41 PM on December 20, 2014 [17 favorites]

He's told you he's depressed and asked for space. Give him space until after the holidays; this is a hard time of year for a lot of people.

"Space" means not monitoring his social activities, and not texting him with any expectation you'll hear back from him.

If you can't do that, cut ties now.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:55 PM on December 20, 2014 [9 favorites]

It's over. Sorry. He's fading on you and won't cut the cord cleanly, so you'll have to do it. Sorry again, that sucks.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:25 PM on December 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm married to a guy with full blown, diagnosed depression. Funny thing he never pulled this kind of bullshit.

When he was anxious, we discussed it and worked out a plan (like going into a bedroom at parties to read. ).

So don't text, call, email or stalk on Facebook. Get REAL busy from now through New Years Eve. Because space means you get it too.

Try to have a nice holiday. Meet with family and friends. Tell everyone that you're single.

This guy isn't together enough for you. It's alright, guys are like busses, miss this one? It's cool, another will be along shortly.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:25 PM on December 20, 2014 [11 favorites]

He asked you for some space and you kind of overreacted in an immediate and intense way; if I were him I would be acting distant as well, tbh. Stop monitoring his social media usage and obsessing over it. The whole "if you had the energy to do X then you had the energy to do Y" is a bad pattern of false equivalence to fall into when dealing with a partner who has issues like depression.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:35 PM on December 20, 2014 [16 favorites]

Ok, so this whole conversation happened over text. You texted him to ask if he wanted space, and he said yes.

Soo - was he just going to leave you hanging until you brought it up? He sounds like an Avoider - see also: canceling plans by completely ignoring them and saying "good night". (Which, by the way, is really shitty and inconsiderate.)

The issue isn't that he wants space. The issue is that he is so passive / avoidant that he can't even BRING UP the fact that he wants space, and thinks that ignoring you is a better alternative.

He knows that this is driving you crazy. That is a shit thing to do to someone you are in a loving relationship with.

(And you do seem like a caring and considerate person. There are guys out there who will love you for it.)
posted by pintapicasso at 9:11 PM on December 20, 2014 [11 favorites]

He knows that this is driving you crazy.

I did similar-ish things when I was younger. I had no idea then that it drove people crazy. They'd break up with me afterwards, and I'd be clueless as to why.

I've done some learning since then, though. So if you want to do him a favour, you could break up with him and calmly tell him why his behaviour was hard for you to deal with. He might honestly have no clue, and it might be helpful for him in future relationships. (Or even in the future of this relationship, if you decide to continue it.)
posted by clawsoon at 9:20 PM on December 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

There's no way, or need, for a bunch of strangers on the internet to say whether his depression is legitimate or not. He asked for space, so give some to him. Decrease how often you text him -- for what it's worth, what you describe sounds absolutely stifling to me, because people vary on this kind of thing and they might be okay with it until they reach a saturation point. You don't have to avoid events he is at, but you might spend more time mingling or talking to other people instead of hanging out with him.

And you should consider your own needs, obviously. It can be hard to be with a person who has depression. It can be hard to be with a person who is a jerk. It is certainly not beyond the scope of imagination that it can be hard to be with a depressed jerk, or (as other posters have pointed out) someone who is depressed and doesn't know how not to be a jerk while depressed. If this doesn't work for you, then your needs don't match up and that's that.
posted by automatic cabinet at 10:40 PM on December 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Guys say I love you really easily, in the moment

Not all guys. Very few, in my experience.

He may or may not have depression. I do, and some of his behaviours sound quite familiar. Depression manifests in all sorts of ways--sometimes it's easier to be social, where you can kind of blend in/fade, than it is to deal with people one is intimate with.

So maybe he's depressed, maybe he's not. We're not in his head, and neither are you, meaning he is the only one who can really answer that. The one clear thing from your question, though, is this: he has asked you for space, and you responded poorly. If I were having a bad spell (depression waxes and wanes), someone pulling that right after I've asked for space would be liable to get "yeah, it is now, fuck off." Whether or not I actually wanted it to be over. For the future: if someone asks you for space, the best thing you can do is say okay and do it.

Give him space, is what I'm saying. Maybe he's not interested anymore (though that sounds really very sudden). I don't know. What I do know is that you lose nothing by giving him the space he wants. Pressuring him to talk can easily lose you everything. So give him that space. Let him know you're concerned about him because he's important to you, and that whatever he needs you'll be there for him. Give him a few days and check in. Proceed from there.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:15 PM on December 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

What Lyn Never said. Any time a guy wants space, he wants to break up. Period. Relationships don't tend to recover from "space," and it's only been a few months and he wants out? Geez. I don't care if he's "depressed" or not, but he's suddenly lost interest in you and he's over you. (Sad but true. Guys just seem to snap like that in my experience.) I would seriously stop talking to him altogether and ignore/block him online, even if it is Christmas and you brought him a present. (Don't give him the present, take it back.) If he ever wants to come back from Pluto, he can contact you. But I wouldn't hold my breath about it.

How long should I give him before I assume he is no longer interested?

Now. If he asks for space, he's done with you. Especially when they start hedging and being cold and making up lame excuses for not wanting to see you, they're done with you but just haven't gotten up the nerve to end it yet.

Is it a good idea to avoid events he RSVPs to?

Yes. As long as you're still interested in him, I'd avoid him. Skip gaming for awhile. Too much temptation for you.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:21 AM on December 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

Any time a guy wants space, he wants to break up. Period.

Well, no. I have been myself and been the boyfriend of guys who have said "I am going through some shit and I need some space." Sometimes that is the end of the relationship, sometimes it's not. I think reducing to gender essentialism of this sort does a disservice to the OP.

The basic thing about relationships is this: when your partner asks you for something, give it to them. (Within reason, obviously.) Your partner has asked for space. Give it. Maybe it'll be permanent, maybe he's just having a bad patch and doesn't look to others for support, maybe he's just a jerk.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:29 AM on December 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think it's quite plausible that he just meant he wants to not talk to you for a few days, and it doesn't sound like you can cope with being in a relationship with someone who can want that. So either he's lying to you and you should dump him for it, or he's telling you the truth and you should break it off before you get too attached because you're not a good match.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 1:53 AM on December 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

You sound Anxious and he sounds Avoidant.

You escalated when he said he didn't want to talk about it. For future reference, save your energy. It's easier and simpler for you. Letting your anxiety get the better of you and trying to forge a deeper connection with someone who is asking for less is just way for you to end up hurt.

If you're not getting what you want from a relationship, cut the cord and move on. This guy isn't a bad guy, he's just a bad guy for you.
posted by Solomon at 2:47 AM on December 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

It's never a good sign when a person acts rudely towards you in social situations but changes their mood in private situations. This is true whether the relationship is platonic or not. Likely he doesn't want others to know he's had this thing with you because he's afraid the news is going to get back to the other girl he's REALLY interested in.

Do not answer any of his texts or calls anymore. Go cold turkey. I guarantee you he's going to call you saying he's sick or upset and needs your help somehow in order to get your sympathy. Don't fall for it. Get out now.
posted by rancher at 3:03 AM on December 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Sleeping over three nights a week plus dates plus frequent texting is a big time commitment after only two months in. He might be overwhelmed from all that and not know how he feels otherwise.
posted by gentian at 4:17 AM on December 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

I agree with most of the advice above, even--and maybe especially--where it is contradictory. Normally, I would be in the DTMFA camp except for the fact that it is the holiday season, and this time of year does a number on some people for many reasons. If you really like this guy, and see this behaviour as an aberration, you have nothing to lose* by backing off for a while and giving him the space he is asking for. Decide for yourself, without necessarily communicating it to him, how long you can wait until he comes to you. In the meantime, enjoy yourself with family and friends and stay away from events he will be at. If that deadline passes without communication, move on. If he does contact you, you can both decide how you feel then.

*Of course, all of this depends on you being at peace with such a break. There is no reason you "should" be. Many people are just not up for dealing with such behaviour from a lover and it is up to you to have your own back in this and be honest with yourself about what is healthy for you. The holidays come around every year, as do stressful situations of all kinds, and it could well be that your coping styles are just incompatible.
posted by rpfields at 4:28 AM on December 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

He was enthusiastically communicating with you and sleeping with you and then abruptly went ice cold on you without really speaking honestly about it. Honesty would be acknowledging where your relationship was and how he needs it to change, rather than giving dubious excuses and pretending that you guys weren't as close as you had become. So it doesn't really matter why he's acting this way, even if there are legitimate, non-manipulative reasons for this change. He's jerking you around and he doesn't seem capable of mature communication. Save yourself a whole heap of drama and move on.
posted by Kimberly at 4:59 AM on December 21, 2014 [7 favorites]

Stop monitoring his social media usage and obsessing over it.


I think you two got too close, too soon. Nobody's fault and that is the kind of thing a relationship can correct for but the whole social media thing is really, literally taking away any healthy sense of space in the relationship. Date more people and interact with them in person.
posted by BibiRose at 6:57 AM on December 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Sounds to me like it's time for some Baggage Reclaim for you, sweetheart.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 9:43 AM on December 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

This sounds like the sort of thing someone would do if they were suddenly presented with a potential opportunity to get together with an ex that they're not over. My gut feeling is that there's someone else in the picture that he's not telling you about.

Back off and wait and see what happens in case I'm wrong or better yet just DTMFA because this is a shitty way to treat you regardless.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:40 PM on December 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: He had responded to my text Sat with "thanks, you too." And then today he messaged me asking if I'm going out of town for Christmas. Then asked if I'm doing anything tonight, and I told him that I have some shopping to do so I'm not sure if I'm going to tonight's gaming event yet. So he said,"No problem, you seem to have a lot going on so we'll catch up some other time. I'll leave it up to you to let me know." So I'm going to see what happens next time we can catch up.

I also just remembered something. During the time I was dealing with the breakup of my 10 year relationship several months ago, I went through a period where I just lay in bed for days , sleeping and barely eating. I forced myself to go to work and dragged myself out to gaming events because I knew isolating myself was making things worse. I know depression doesn't excuse his poor behavior, but at least it's feasible that he's been socializing more than usual for the same reason I was, meaning he's not necessary lying about it.
posted by lohachata at 4:07 PM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was dealing with the breakup of my 10 year relationship several months ago
Everyone is different, but personally I have found that taking a good amount of time - more than a month or two - is essential after a big-deal breakup. Ten years is a long time.

You may want to evaluate whether or not you want to be in a relationship right now - any relationship, not just one with this guy. Taking some time to get to know yourself rather than spending that time trying to figure someone else out - that would probably really benefit you. I know it would benefit me.

Best of luck.
posted by sockermom at 6:35 AM on December 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Hey guys, mystery solved. I attended an event the day he reached out to me. We wound up talking for hours and it turns out that during the phone conversation that I thought had gone well, he actually felt much, much differently about it, especially after he had the chance to mull it over overnight. There were several other issues I brought up, perceived by me, that I left out of this post. He said he thought things were going well with us, so he felt hurt and caught off guard when I started telling him all these things I thought he was doing wrong, based on assumptions. This was on top of the depression he's been going through, so he knew he had to step back and think. Feel things out. He agreed he went about asking for space poorly. I understood what he was saying, I was told similar things by my ex boyfriend, that sometimes I can sound accusatory when bringing up issues even when I mean well. We talked about his behaviors as well, and after many hours talking, we made up. He's been acting like his normal self all day. Basically, things seem to be back to normal. He even had the same enamored look this morning that he had on Monday.

I agree that it's best to take time alone after a long relationship, but I didn't expect someone to pop up this soon. I don't want to lose a potentially good thing.
posted by lohachata at 4:02 PM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

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