Sweet pain...
August 12, 2006 12:11 AM   Subscribe

I am head over heels in love with someone who is draining my life from me.

Cut to 2 months ago. I was the happiest, most energetic person I knew. I almost always felt alive and vibrant. People would regularly ask me how I had so much energy. One of those annoying people who was ALWAYS cheerful.

Then I met my now boyfriend. Tall, gorgeous, intense chemistry. Within 48 hours of meeting eachother, we were having the best maekout of my life. It literally lasted 6 hours while we madeout on every surface of my apartment.

We start spending every waking moment together. TUrns out he not only lives around the block from me, we also work for different satellites of the same company.

I fell in love, quickly.

Slowly it becomes apparent that he has issues with depression. Good reasons for being depressed (bad breakup, abusive childhood, pressure at work, etc.) but sad most of the time nonetheless.

I really love him. But because I love him so, his sadness is making me sad. I just walked home crying from his place.

He treats me very well. He takes me out to nice places and restaurants. He's smart. He has his life together financially and career-wise. It's just this aura of melancholy that pervades his life.

Me, I'm less organized financially and career-wise. I'm just holding it together. But I've always been happy, energetic, cheerful, and optimistic to the core.

I yearn to spend time with him, but I feel so drained every time I do. We see eachother about every other day. I feel like he sucks all the happiness and energy out of me. He's nice. He's just sad.

I love him, and leaving him forever would make me really sad too. He's seeking therapy and it should start in a couple weeks. I don't want to leave him, but maybe I should. Please help me.
posted by skjønn to Human Relations (31 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Get him on pills!
posted by delmoi at 12:21 AM on August 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

Anti-depressants rock. Not an easy choice or one without consequences. It's up to him, but perhaps it's time to have a talk about his depression and encourage him to continue the discussion with his MD and therapist as a team.
posted by cior at 12:44 AM on August 12, 2006

skjønn: Antidepressants probably will help, but I'd guess he'll never be a cheerful person. Good luck.
posted by lukemeister at 1:13 AM on August 12, 2006

Best piece of advice I ever heard: If you feel like you've lost a quart of plasma every time you see a person, avoid that person. It really is that simple. Sorry, babe.

via everything2
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 1:14 AM on August 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

I can only profusely appologise for how off topic this is, but your story is VERRRRY similar to the plot of an anime called Gravitation.

Except it's about the relationship between two men. And one of them has pink hair. Hmm.

The tall gorgeous guy is depression embodied, the happy-go-lucky ever-cheerful dude is often bearing the brunt of the other's depressions.

Not much of an answer for you I'm afraid, but if your fellow is starting therapy, it's a positive step. But remember he's in control of his own depression - maybe you're the light/candle/other metaphor that'll help him through it. He must be drawn to your cheerfullness, otherwise, dont you think he'd have pushed you away by now?

On the other hand, what kingjoeshmoe said: there's drainging and tolerating someone, then there's TOO draining.

Good luck!
posted by Chorus at 1:18 AM on August 12, 2006

Therapy is great and helpful, but if he's just melancholy, he probably always will be, therapy or otherwise. It could just be his personality.* Is this a dealbreaker for you?

You sound like a really loving, kind person. Listen to kingjoeschmoe and save yourself a lot of grief.

*I went through a long period of intense therapy, meds, etc. and came out with pretty much the same personality I'd had going in--cynical and melancholy. I just didn't want to kill myself anymore. YMMV of course.
posted by timetoevolve at 1:40 AM on August 12, 2006

Honestly though it's possible to 'desensitize' yourself to it and 'demphathize' with him. Rather then feeling sad because he's sad you just ignore it. But really try getting him on pills and see what happens. Or dump him.
posted by delmoi at 2:07 AM on August 12, 2006

If you tend to be affected by the emotions of everyone you spend time with, you should consider changing yourself before deciding to cut things off with this person.

If he's the only one who affects you this way, then I have nothing more to add from what others have already said.

The above is the meat of my advice to you. here's more blah blah blah if you want more detail: Therapists who buy into the concept of codependency describe one codependent behavior as over-sensitivity to the emotions of those around the codependent person. If you do a search on codependency and sensitivity, and it seems to describe you, then use that as insight into how you might want to change.

I'm not sure I buy into all the codependency therapy stuff, but I also think that people should look at all types of therapy with the appropriate skepticism and use whatever ideas work.

So, don't buy into the religion of codependency (or therapy in general), but see if some of the ideas help you get along. I actually like the cognitive-behavioral school more, but multi-modal therapies are good. You can take whatever insights help you to find dysfunctional thoughts and then use cbt to manage them, learn replacement skills, &c.
posted by bleary at 2:25 AM on August 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

You can love someone, but if they don't make you happy it's not going to work out long term.
posted by Lucie at 3:31 AM on August 12, 2006

My impression is that you already know what you need to do to stay true to yourself. If that is the case, then my esteemed advice is that you eliminate the conflict between you and you asap
posted by bullnipple at 4:52 AM on August 12, 2006

Why is it that someone with AIDS or cancer can be discussed with compassion and open-mindedness, but someone suffering from depression is a leach and a worm to be avoided at all costs? People, Americans particularly, value happiness over sadness at their peril. Sadness exists in everyone's life, whether you like it or not. Learn to deal with that fact and the world suddenly becomes a much easier place to be in.

skjonn, you met this guy two months ago, someone you say has "good reasons" for being depressed. Have you discussed his situation with anyone who's known him long-term? Is there any possibility the depression is situational and therefore relatively short-term? That would be the first step.

If in fact he is clinically depressed, and he's open to treatment, there are many many options out there. Drugs work for some, but not for all. (I found they took away my drive as well as my sadness.) The varieties of talk therapy are legion. Hell, I feel better after an hour on the elliptical machine.

Why not get more information and find out A) has he always been sad? B) is he interested in addressing the chronic nature of his sadness? C) is your own 'annoying' happiness the true source of the mismatch?

People can change. It's not going to happen overnight. If you genuinely love him (as opposed to lusting for his body or longing for some aspect of his personality that pushes your buttons), then show it. Find out what the deal is. Any human being is worth that much.
posted by divrsional at 4:54 AM on August 12, 2006 [6 favorites]

I agree with divrsional. Therapy will probably help, but it's not going to be an instant change. I don't feel pills are always the best idea, as they treat the symptoms but the problem still exists underneath. They are a temporary solution for a greater problem.

His therapist should be able to help him find what works for him. And if the first therapist isn't a good match, he should find another who is. Don't give up on him yet. Good luck, to both of you!
posted by bolognius maximus at 5:45 AM on August 12, 2006

If you love someone, do you immediately dump them when a health problem arises? If your spouse has a health problem and your first instinct is to call a divorce lawyer? Oy.

Depression is no different than a million other health problems. Give the bf a chance to see a doctor and get some meds and work through his issues.

If the OP doesn't want him, I'm sure that sure other woman will. It's your loss. I think that the OP may have some problems of her own that she might want to deal with. Life isn't always fun and games where everyone is constantly exuberant.
posted by bim at 5:58 AM on August 12, 2006

If your spouse has a health problem and your first instinct is to call a divorce lawyer?

Rarer things have happened. Not everyone is cut out to have a successful relationship with someone who has a chronic illness. And if they're not cut out for it, for whatever reason[1], the kindest thing for them to do is leave the relationship as soon as possible so the person with the illness can find a more supportive partner.

Been on the Receiving End of It

[1] I make no judgements here. People aren't cut out for it for a variety of reasons, and many of them have nothing to do with weakness of character or lack of empathy.
posted by jesourie at 6:33 AM on August 12, 2006

Love isn't enough by itself. Depression is treatable, but you need to be prepared for the possibility that, at worst, he'll always be this way or worse, or more likely, he'll at least sometimes be this way. It's fine to stick it out into therapy (and maybe see someone yourself for advice on dealing with it) just don't make any long-term commitments unless you're sure that he's either better and likely to stay that way or that you're willing to live with it.
posted by callmejay at 6:35 AM on August 12, 2006

: Antidepressants probably will help, but I'd guess he'll never be a cheerful person. Good luck.

Not necessarily true-I'm a completely dark and draning person when I'm not on meds. When I'm on my medication I am cheerful and outgoing even to the point of being described as "bubbly" by more than one person.

I absolutely recommend meds, even if he doesn't feel he needs them, urge him to at least consider it. A lot of people don't really realize the way life could be without always having a cloud over you.
posted by hollygoheavy at 6:36 AM on August 12, 2006

He sounds like an energy vampire, sucking up all your happy, cheerful core.

It seems all the advice so far has been about getting him help. You can't make him go see a therapist or take pills. Those are choices and actions that you really have no control over.

What you do have control of is your own choices and actions, so you have to decide where you want to draw the line on how much you are willing to endure.
posted by phoenixc at 6:57 AM on August 12, 2006

oops, broken link above.
posted by phoenixc at 6:59 AM on August 12, 2006

Why don't you just stick around and see how things work out? I see no reason why you have to set yourself up for this all-or-nothing decision. You seem to enjoy being with him immensely, so if you left him, you would lose that. Also, learn how not to let him drag you down with him.

If he's sad, that's ok, but there is probably little you can do about that. If you still love him when he's sad, I see no reason to stop seeing him. Just don't make it your mission to make him a happy person. If he is sad, that is first and foremost a condition he has to deal with.
posted by Herr Fahrstuhl at 7:02 AM on August 12, 2006

2 months? You're probably at the tail end of the infatuation phase. You know there's chemistry and are just beginning to learn about the drawbacks. I would stick it out for a while and see if the therapy helps. He seems aware he has a problem, that's a good start.
posted by kindall at 8:09 AM on August 12, 2006

I second the motion that one can change. Medless I am a sad sack, on meds I am pretty sanguine -and popular.

Maybe just incorporate a little space in your relationship? Getting too wrapped up too soon isn't healthy for either of you.
posted by konolia at 8:51 AM on August 12, 2006

I mean, if he's got a good life and has all his shit together, that doesn't really sound like depression, because it doesn't really sound like a problem for him.

Um, depression doesn't really follow the rules like that. You can your life totally in order and still be depressed as hell. But as has been said earlier in this thread, give it some time and let him work through it if you think this relationship is worth it. I was pretty darn depressed for about eight or nine months after my last girlfriend and I broke up but that was seven years ago and I've felt good ever since. And yes therapy did help me but mostly it was falling in love with my now wife that really cured me.
posted by octothorpe at 8:52 AM on August 12, 2006

Could this be codependence ?
Codependent people have a greater tendency to become involved in relationships with people who are unreliable, emotionally unavailable, or needy. Codependents try to control a relationship without directly identifying and addressing their own needs or desires on their own. This invariably means that they set themselves up for continued unfulfillment. Codependents always feel that they are acting in another person's best interest, making it difficult for them to see the controlling nature of their own behavior.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:09 AM on August 12, 2006 [2 favorites]

I don't think anyone can tell you whether it is worth it to stick with the relationship. It depends on how much the relationship means to you versus how much his sadness is impacting you. Only you can judge these things.

As someone who has been and to some degree is on his side of your situation this is the advice I can give you about it. First is, seeking therapy is not the same thing as getting therapy. Whether he follows through is a big sign of how serious he is. Second, change, if it comes, is likely to be quite slow and incremental. So if you decide to give his therapy a chance, it has to be in the understanding that you are looking at a process of years, not months. Third, real change is possible. Living proof here. But he will likely always be significantly more melancholy than you as others have said. Fourth, he can act to significantly reduce how much his feelings impact you. Feeling sadness, melancholy, depression is not under his control. How much he expresses/indulging it is. My feeling is that the momentary catharsis of wallowing in depression, negative feelings and cynicism - particularly inflicting them on others - in fact gives these feelings more power. I look on trying to spare my partner the brunt of my negative feelings as a natural outgrowth of my ongoing fight against them. But I wasn't able to see this until I'd made significant progress in dealing with my depression. You also have a degree of control over how much how he feels affects you.

Finally, Often people choose to stay with someone who subsumes them with negative emotions because of the negative impact they fear their leaving would have the individual. Every relationship, if it is to last, involves sacrifice and dealing with the negative side that every person has. But you cannot place the importance of his well being over yours.
posted by nanojath at 10:13 AM on August 12, 2006

You know, this guy may or may not be clinically depressed, but there really are people in the world who are comfortable living in a state of melancholy. Therapy, meds, less pressure at work, whatever- may not change anything about the way he responds to the world (or the way you perceive him responding to the world). If he's that important to you, you might want to examine why you take on so much of his sadness, and see what you can do to insulate yourself. Be sympathetic, but realize that you can't change his world and that it is not your responsibility to do so. Rather than having hopes about how he may change over time, see what you can do for yourself in terms of not internalizing his angst.

(Not saying that this is how you are behaving at all, but: as a relatively quiet, self contained, and occaisionally melancholic person I've always been a bit surprised and slightly offended when people blame me entirely for their mood. I do realize that it's very easy to be affected by someone who appears to be wearing a little black rain cloud over their head and I make an effort not to inflict myself on other people in that state, but at the same time I can't control how they respond to me. Spend less time with him, try to let the water run off your back, and understand that you don't have to be a mirror to his emotional state. If that's not something you can manage just yet, you may have to move on.)
posted by oneirodynia at 11:37 AM on August 12, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice so far. It's important and I should have noted that he is the only person in my world who has this effect on me. Other friends or family can be sad and I can empathize without taking on their sadness. Me and T seem to be connecting on a level where his sadness literally tends to consume my happiness when we are together.
posted by skjønn at 11:39 AM on August 12, 2006

The therapy should help, but also just make sure you have recharging things in your own life. Figure out what gives you energy -- exercise, time alone, long walks, reading, coffee with friends, cooking, whatever -- and make sure you're doing that on a very regular basis. It sounds like you're spending a lot of time with him, and that time is draining you, so make sure you balance that out with things that are good for you emotionally (even if they take you away from him).

I recommend this also because I think it's easy to start thinking that we're supposed to get all our emotional sustenance from our partner, and that expectation alone can be draining.
posted by occhiblu at 1:35 PM on August 12, 2006

It's possible to love someone who makes you unhappy because they are unhappy. You'll have to decide if it's worth it.
posted by footnote at 9:13 PM on August 12, 2006

Good luck, skjønn. The bond you have with this person sounds so intense that I can't help but hope things work out for you.
posted by bleary at 12:19 PM on August 13, 2006

How strong is your self reliance? Maybe you could work on developing a stronger sense of self, even be a little more "selfish". again, good luck.
posted by bleary at 12:21 PM on August 13, 2006

How about finding ways to seperate yourself from his unhappiness when you're together? "I'm sorry you're so sad. I wish you could find a way to deal with this work pressure without letting it overwhelm you. It sounds like your old breakup was really hard. But you don't have to feel like this."

Or how about sitting him down, telling him that it affects you, and asking for what you need? "Gosh, I feel so bad for you in all this pain. You know that I am happy to listen. But I also want to let you know that it does drain me. Is there a way that we could set aside this unhappiness you feel to spend some time being playful together?"

If that doesn't seem to work, you could get increasingly serious about letting him know the impacts it has on you: "I told you last time that this was beginning to drain me. I leave your house crying for you sometimes. I care so much about you, but still, I am beginning to wonder if I need to spend less time with you when you're feeling this because it is so overwhelming to me."

Sounds like you are voluntarily taking on his pain, then seeing him as the cause of your unhappiness. You can feel happy without him changing. You've noted the "leaving" option. Other avenues for change that are within your control:
* You could decide to hang around him but not make his suffering your own.
* He may not realize he is making you unhappy. Telling him might help.
* He may feel powerless to rid himself of depression and want to let you know how to help him or at least keep it from affecting you but not know how. If you thought of things that would help, he might be willing to change the way he behaves around you (how much he talks about it, for example).
* See how others have felt or dealt (1, 2) in your shoes.
posted by beatrice at 4:20 PM on August 13, 2006

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