I have been dating my boyfriend for almost a year. He has recently come into some hard times. He lost his job, was forced to move back home, and has been faced with mounting financial debt. He broke things off briefly because he said he needed to focus on himself while he was dealing with these issues. While I felt hurt, he made the right decision. A few days after breaking it off, he called to say he missed me and wanted to work on things. While things in his life were not improving, our relationship was still going well. But the past few weeks it has taken a turn. A lot of times I try to reach out to him and get no response. I don’t think it has anything to do with our relationship but because of the outside stress he is facing. When he has faced stressful times in the past, he shuts down and shuts everyone and everything out. I know this is his way of coping. He usually is back to his old self within a day or two. The longer his situation remains the way it is, the more depressed I see him becoming. And the more distant he becomes. I try reaching out to him by text or phone and don’t get any response. I leave him messages telling him to call me or text me but if he doesn’t feel up to it, it’s ok too.
If I try to give him space by not contacting him, he will call me briefly because I think he is worried I’m giving up on him. Once he sees he still has my love and support, he goes back into his shell. I know this is his problem to work out. I try to be supportive without offering any unsolicited advice. I don’t mention anything about his situation when we do talk, and try to keep the conversations upbeat. If he does open up about his issues Itry to give him encouraging words, such as I have all the confidence that you will figure everything out and I’ll remind him of another time when he was faced with difficulty and pulled through. I feel it starting to take a toll on me. As much as my mind knows not to take it personal when he ignores me, it is just a natural reaction to immediately feel hurt. I have tried just focusing on myself and going out with friends and family while he can’t be here with me. But I feel guilty when I go out without him and have a good time. At times he almost seems upset when I’m out without him but turns down my offers to spend time with him.
How can I give him space but still be supportive? If I go without calling, he’s afraid he’s losing me. If I call he rejects me. I want to be patient because I have all the faith he will get through this soon. What’s the best way to handle this situation? (age 37, from US)
I honestly think you are handling the situation quite well. You seem to understand that you can’t fix this for him and that the best thing you can do is love him through it. If he shuts you out, there’s not much you can do except be there when he lets you back in, and let him know, as best you can, that you do still support him and want to help.
The only thing I might recommend that you didn’t mention is to suggest to him that he get professional help during this difficult time. He may think that he can’t afford it with no job, but there are many agencies specifically designed to help those in need, not only with mental health issues but also with case management type things such as knowing what services he may be eligible to receive. He may appreciate you doing some of the research for him in terms of connecting him to an agency in his area.
Dr. Holly Counts is a licensed Clinical Psychologist. She utilizes a mind, body and spirit approach to healing. Dr. Counts received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Wright State University and her Masters and Doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Counts has worked in a variety of settings and has specialized in trauma and abuse, relationship issues, health psychology, women’s issues, adolescence, GLBT, life transitions and grief counseling. She has specialty training in guided imagery, EMDR, EFT, hypnosis and using intuition to heal. Her current passion involves integrating holistic and alternative approaches to health and healing with psychology.
APA Reference Counts, H. (2018). How to Support a Depressed Boyfriend. Psych Central.
Retrieved on July 15, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2016/01/02/how-to-support-a-depressed-boyfriend/
Last updated: 8 May 2018 Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018 Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.