Dealing with My Partner’s Depression

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

My current boyfriend and I have been dating for about 3 1/2 years and living together for about 3 years. We are in a band together and rely on this for most of our income. Since I’ve known him, he has dealt with minor depression. I believe it is due to having a hard childhood, constantly being passed around in foster families that treated him badly. He has always been able to deal it rationally though, until the past 6 months.

Last year we went traveling through Asia, but the trip was cut short because a member of my family had a heart attack. He chose to rush home with me, although I didn’t ask him to. After staying to help my family for a few months, we took a break because of all of the drama & sudden change. I went traveling for a month and he moved to Montreal. We had a good break and things felt fresh again so I joined him in Montreal. Things with our relationship seemed better and even things with the band were working out great, but his depression had gotten much much worse. He started seeing a therapist when I was gone, but it doesn’t seem to be helping. He skips school, closes off, loses all motivation and even talks about committing suicide because he has nothing to look forward too (even though we have plans to travel, play music, tour, built a house and have a family).

The problem is that we live together, are best friends, play music together and are building a career together as a band. When he falls into depression, which is almost everyday, I have to take over and keep working at making the money and getting things done. I feel like I can never have a day off because I am always trying to pick him up and encourage him. It is beginning to take a toll on me and I am becoming snappy and impatient with him, which makes it even worse. I find myself telling him what to do and trying to offer solutions, which is wrong, but if I don’t we’ll end up living on the streets.

I love him so much. I want to believe in him, but he has given me no reason to lately. The only thing that keeps me hanging on are: the rare beautiful and loving moments we share on a rare occasion, the beautiful music we make together and my hope for the future.

He always says: “please don’t give up on me”…I don’t want to, but I fear I am beginning to. My mother married a depressed man who treated me and her pretty badly as a child…I cannot let this happen to me, nor my future children.

Maybe there is something I could be doing better to help him. Please help me.

A: Your last 2 lines are the most telling of your whole question: You put his need first, then yours. Your desire to help comes from a very loving place, but it has already taken a toll. In the kind of relationship you are describing it seems clear that you are drawn to his potential, not his reality. Those rare, beautiful moments on rare occasions are just that – rare. If this is not enough to sustain you, which it doesn’t sound like it is, then you have to make some hard decisions.

The four things that are necessary ingredients for a good relationship are proximity, similar interests, mutual attraction and reciprocity. It sounds like you have the first three, but is there real reciprocity? It doesn’t sound like it. It sounds like you give much more into the relationship than he does. It sounds unbalanced. I would find a couples counselor near you (see the find help tab at the top of the page) and discuss your situation together. The counselor can give you guidance on whether the relationship is worth saving, or the best way to disentangle yourself.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 May 2013

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2013). Dealing with My Partner’s Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/05/17/dealing-with-my-partners-depression/