Should I continue the relationship for my mental health?

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

During a very bright time in my life I met and fell in love with a beautiful and loving woman. I was convinced that she was “the one.” After a year of exciting courtship she, sadly, began to pull away. In the last year she has become very focused on her career and would prefer to see me on a weekly basis due to her workload. She is mostly exasperated with the physical and emotional affection I show her. But at other times she can be very loving and kindhearted. She has told me that, for her, the intensity is gone and that the honeymoon phase is over… I have expressed to her many times my unhappiness with the status quo, but it leads to no change and only hurt feelings for us both. She has a take it or leave it attitude and so I have attempted to accept her and the love, which she does show me on her own terms. In the past year she has attempted to break up with me twice citing my unhappiness with the relationship, but most of the time says that she loves me and wants marriage and children and appreciates my kindness and love. Recently she has withdrawn even more due to an excessive work schedule despite the fact that we will soon be living together (at her suggestion). And to make matters worse I have found evidence that she may have cheated on me. Despite the love and affection I have for this woman, I know that the relationship is not sustainable, as she is not fully in it.

I have a chronic mood disorder which has been utterly unresponsive to either drugs or long-term therapy (both of which I am in). My dilemma is that despite a strong support system after my last break-up I became dangerously depressed and I fear that this will only be worse. Despite its dysfunctionality my relationship to her has given me emotional stability, which I have not been able to otherwise find. Do I attempt to save this relationship in the short term for my mental health? Or do I end it now and face the inevitability of another crisis? I am afraid of what the future holds for me and don’t know where to turn when conventional therapies fail.

A: Although you haven’t said it, I would venture a guess that your other breakup was something that happened to you rather than you deciding the relationship should end. I am making that assumption, because the depression you described sounds like it was exacerbated by the fact something happened that you did not have control over. If this is familiar I would take a different tack and control what you can, which in this case may be calling it quits on a mediocre relationship. As lovely and wonderful as your lover is–she has been systematically unfulfilling.

Why would you move in with a woman you don’t trust, has told you she isn’t fully committed to you, and who has tried to break up with you twice in recent times? I would rather see you get involved with group therapy in your area that will allow you to cushion the blow of the losses of the relationship. But in any case I wouldn’t wait for things to deteriorate to the point where she ends it.

Of course there is the possibility that she doesn’t want to be the one to pull the plug, but then you are left in the position of engaging in something that is disintegrating rather than flourishing. It seems unwise to move in when the relationship is at its lowest point.

Rather than wait for the inevitable distancing that will happen when your affection and caring become unbearable to her, I would do something about it now. Living together requires more than a take it or leave it attitude. I would definitely reconsider moving in and take the hit upfront. From everything you say a greater devastation is coming your way if you live together now.

If she is willing I would strongly suggest couples counseling before you attempt to move in. I think discussing these matters with the help of a professional before the feces hits the oscillator would be a good idea.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 23 Aug 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). Should I continue the relationship for my mental health?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/08/23/should-i-continue-the-relationship-for-my-mental-health/