I’ve been in an online relationship a transgender girl for nearly two years and she’s struggled with depression and self-esteem issues since she came out as trans a few months prior to us getting together. She talks to me about how her parents don’t really seem to care about her. One time, her parents were watching a show that made fun of trans folk and they leered at her when she came into the room. Another time, her mom tried to make her out to be mentally retarded to get support money.

It’s my belief that they’re basically tying her down mentally when she’s telling me thinks that she’s a failure and that she’d do them a favor by not existing (I mean over time, not right now omg call the police). Especially now that they aren’t making any real income right now. She feels useless since she feels like she isn’t emotionally stable enough to work at 17, she had to stop taking school due to stress a few months ago, and everything’s kinda taking a toll on her.

I found this website and I bugged her to try to ask about what she should do, but she wants me to do it instead. I’ve always tried to be there for her and I’m always trying to be optimistic to her, but it doesn’t come through to her when she’s in a depressed mood.

I’ve asked if I could email her parents or talk to them in a call but she tells me they wouldn’t necessarily trust me because I’m just some guy on the internet. They don’t know I’m in a relationship with her.

I want to know if there’s anything I tell her or do with her overtime to help with her issues. (From the USA)

A:  Of all the things you have written about your girlfriend I want you to focus on one thing only — for the purpose of understanding how futile your efforts are going to be. At the beginning of your 4th paragraph is your answer to everything that is going to follow: “but she wants me to do it instead.”

There are a lot of terms for what happens to those who take up the challenge for doing for others when they are not willing to do for themselves — but whatever the term the bottom line is that there will be no change because she isn’t even interested in exploring the possibility. No one can take a bath for you. And your girlfriend can’t ask you to do the work for her to help her. This will leave her in the role of a critic, rather than as the agent of change she needs to be.

Right now you are more invested in making changes in her life than she is. I would stop offering suggestions, help in searching, etc., and just listen. I’d wait until you are invited to do something — stop trying to do it for her. Only then can a genuine effort toward change occur.

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