By Erin Osman
“My boyfriend is going through a depressive phase at the moment but it only seems to show in our relationship. He laughs and smiles with friends or strangers, but when I try to talk to him I feel like I’m having to entertain him. He seems uninterested and unaffectionate. He rarely says ‘I love you’ even when I say it to him too … I mentioned this to him kind of, asking ‘are we good?’ and making it clear something’s up. But he says we’re fine. I don’t want it to affect our relationship, but I don’t want to be putting all the effort in with nothing given back. How should I accommodate him when he’s like this?”
Firstly, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Being there for and supporting someone you love when they’re going through a depressive phase must be awful, and you have my deepest sympathies.
My advice would first be, of course, to try and point your boyfriend in the direction of professional help. While I have no doubt that this is far easier said than done, you are not a therapist. It is not your job to have to ‘accommodate’ him. There are professionals who are paid to do this work. Of course you can support him and be there for him, but there comes a point where you have to let that weight off your shoulders and accept that you can’t solve this yourself. It really is something only he can work at.
That aside, I want to tentatively suggest this: whilst I’m no doctor, depressed people are not exclusively depressed around only their girlfriends. It strikes me as unusual that your boyfriend is acting this way only around you. Is a symptom of depression really to not say ‘I love you’ back to your girlfriend?
It sounds as if he’s being extremely cold, as if he’s emotionally checked out. He doesn’t seem to have stopped to consider your feelings by the sounds of the way he’s being towards you. Of course, this could be a manifestation of his depression. Or perhaps he might feel closest to you, and therefore feels as if he can act this way around you.
As tedious as it sounds, communication is always key. It’s a difficult position because you don’t want to sound unsympathetic, but really try and tell him how you’re feeling. Your feelings matter as much as his, so if you’re unhappy, sooner or later you’re going to have to confront the situation. His coldness towards you can’t continue if it’s making you feel like shit.
You deserve to be treated lovingly, and it seems right now as though you aren’t being. Hopefully, this is temporary, and once you address it, his behaviour might change. It sounds as though you value your relationship and want it to work, so be patient with him. But be firm also about your own needs and the way you expect and deserve to be treated. Don’t neglect yourself by trying so hard to help him.
Your situation is a difficult one. On the one hand, you want to be as sympathetic as you can to your boyfriend who is suffering from a depressive phase, but on the other, you need to acknowledge your own needs and honour them. Remind yourself that you don’t deserve to feel unloved and that it is not your job to accommodate someone else.
Kisses, Aunt Angela x
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