Giving Them Space?

Question

Asked by Serafina

Giving Them Space?

I have been in a long distance relationship for two years with a man who lives in Germany. I live in London. During the first year everything was great - a lot of fun, seeing each other lots, great sex, talking about our futures etc. However at the start of Year 2, my boyfriend became withdrawn, pushing me away, not being able to have sex (since Sept last year), very miserable, scared about the future (does not want me to move to Germany, does not think he will find a jobin London (which is not true as he has perfect skills for London) etc. It did not matter what I tried to do - he kept (and keeps pushing me away) although he says often he loves me.

It is hard being apart because I cannot help him make appointments to see counsellors or doctors. He did see a counsellor but did not like the experience saying nothing was happening. Although I told him that counselling does take time to work he has given up on it. He has promised to see a doctor because he now realises things are not right with him and maybe getting some medication to lift his mood will help him. I live in hope. I am tired of him telling me he is not normal and is strange - this is not true. I keep trying to explain to him that he is not the only person in the world to feel this way.

I have been following the advice from sites like this which say that as the partner of a depressed person one of the best things you can do is to focus on yourself. I have been doing that more now. Taking trips on my own to places I have always wanted to go to (e.g. New York), taking photography and singing courses, seeing more of my friends etc. However, I feel so so lonely and often question how much longer I can cope with this. I want to get married and have children - I want a future with my partner even if he has depression - I believe that we can work with this in the same way one has to cope with any other illness.

Over the last year I have made the mistake of constantly wanting to talk to him about it, wanting to be with him and generally being in his face about it. I like to talk things through a lot and he hates that. So, after he asked me not to visit him this summer (that's when I decided to hell with it and I would go to NY on my own), I have not been in contact much. He had a meltdown a few weeks ago and we spoke then and he constantly reassured me he loves me and feels guilty about being unable to do normal things to make me happy. He feels a lot of pressure and stress to make everything perfect for me. He feels that he is not good enough for me.

Over the last two weeks I have not spoken to him (no calls, no SMS, no e-mail). I felt I needed my own space now to work on other parts of my life. I am convincing myself that this is the right approach - giving both of us space, but I am worried that this may not be working. I have no idea if he has sought medical advice - I pray he has done. I am not feeling too scared to contact him in case he tells me has not seen a doctor! I do have a bit of comfort that the last time we spoke he told me had started to go back to the gym, had made an appointment to see a doctor and had taken up golf!!

So - does anyone have any views on how I should give him space even though we do not live together??? Whether not speaking to each other (or at least me not contacting him and waiting for him to call me when he is ready). I love him very much. He is a great guy when his spirits are up. This is so hard. I am not sure how much longer I can cope with this. I know the future of our relationship rests with him seeking his own help.

Thank you for reading.

Serafina

Answer

Hi, Serafina -

Wanting to talk with him about his behavior is not something to blame yourself for. You need to communicate with him directly and get your own insight into his feelings - relationships depend on that. He wants to avoid talking (that's common in depression and for a lot of men generally) because he can't yet bring himself to do something about his condition. It's not about you but a reflection of his wanting to isolate himself. The idea of perfectionism in his relationship to you is another way of setting up impossible goals. Not meeting them supports his self-contempt and belief in his helplessness. From my experience, when in this state, a depressed person is too self absorbed and overwhelmed to have a real relationship.

I think you are doing the right thing in standing back from trying to help him and looking out for your own welfare. Making clear to him what you need and and that his behavior is driving you away might give him the wake up call he needs to get treatment. He's trying to have it both ways now - isolation to avoid intimacy and the emotional support of a relationship. But you know it can't be all about him, even if he doesn't.

John

Answered by John Folk-Williams