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You Asked: My Boyfriend Is Depressed

Dear Sugar,

My boyfriend has been depressed for years. We've talked about the effects of his depression on our relationship: his lack of interest in sex, his need for a lot of space, and the fact that these things take a toll on me as well. I expressed that communication is really the only thing that will save our relationship at this point, but it has fallen on deaf ears. I've always believed that actions speak louder than words, and although he says he loves me, it just doesn't feel like enough for me. What can I do?

— Worried About Him Hannah

To see Dear Sugar's answer

Dear Worried About Him Hannah,

I hope that your boyfriend is getting professional help for his depression, which can be difficult to battle alone. If he's not, that would be a good first step. If he's already working through this in some form of therapy then I think you've done the most that you can do from your end, and that's to express your compassion and your own personal concerns.

You're absolutely correct in emphasizing the importance of communication when it comes to making your relationship work; however, your boyfriend has to return that same level of communication. I'm sure that he loves you, but if you feel unhappy then all the love in the world won't be enough to make everything okay.

I would suggest letting your boyfriend know that although you want to make it work, you can't do it alone, and it won't work if things stay how they are. Come up with specific things that he can do to make a change. If he still doesn't respond then I think his actions are telling you that he's not ready to be in a relationship right now. Being able to take care of our loved ones is a wonderful quality to possess, but it's also important to do what's right for you. I wish you the best of luck!

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lkk7 lkk7 7 years
I am in a very similar situation. My boyfriend of 2+ years is being treated for depression. His mother has it and encouraged him to get help. He was on the medication for over a year before we met, so I never really saw what he was like before the medication. Things have been great for us and we do have the typical peaks and valleys of a relationship involving depression. I feel his depression rubbing off on me, but have decided that I love him enough to deal with it. What I want to know is where I go from here. We have come so far in our relationship but I feel that he is constantly putting me down. Ever fight we have ends in him telling me something I need to work on and change to make this relationship work. I have done them all, even when at times I feel that it is all too much. I have worked on loving him for who he is and not pointing out all of his flaws, so why can't he? I have never known anyone with depression and an wondering if this is typical behavior. Am I so blinded by love that I can't see how bad he is treating me?
lkk7 lkk7 7 years
I am in a very similar situation. My boyfriend of 2+ years is being treated for depression. His mother has it and encouraged him to get help. He was on the medication for over a year before we met, so I never really saw what he was like before the medication. Things have been great for us and we do have the typical peaks and valleys of a relationship involving depression. I feel his depression rubbing off on me, but have decided that I love him enough to deal with it. What I want to know is where I go from here. We have come so far in our relationship but I feel that he is constantly putting me down. Ever fight we have ends in him telling me something I need to work on and change to make this relationship work. I have done them all, even when at times I feel that it is all too much. I have worked on loving him for who he is and not pointing out all of his flaws, so why can't he? I have never known anyone with depression and an wondering if this is typical behavior. Am I so blinded by love that I can't see how bad he is treating me?
LittleLady12 LittleLady12 7 years
bluebellknoll--Did we date the same person?! Wow, my ex-boyfriend was the exact same way. No help, no medication, it was just "the cards he was dealt in life." As someone who has dated someone with depression, I can say that him getting help and your support of him getting help is crucial, for all the same reasons that have already been said. I think it is possible for your relationship to work if you are both putting in the effort--he gets help and you let him know that you're there for him and, like Dear said, you need to let him know you can't do it alone and specific changes need to be made. But like melyshka said, you are not responsible for his feelings and his depression. You shouldn't stick around in fear of hurting him further or if you feel like he really "needs you" if this relationship makes you miserable. You have to think about what this relationship is doing to you as well. If you aren't happy, staying with him will not make anything any better. The last thing I will say is the thing that helped me out the most when I was in my relationship. I think a relationship (or a friendship) with someone with depression is an up-and-down rollercoaster--even if they are getting the help they need. This relationship will always be one with very high peaks and potentially very low valleys. If you feel as though you love him enough that you're able to push through those valleys to get to those peaks and be happy along the way, then you two could have a really fantastic life together. Good luck!
LittleLady12 LittleLady12 7 years
bluebellknoll--Did we date the same person?! Wow, my ex-boyfriend was the exact same way. No help, no medication, it was just "the cards he was dealt in life."As someone who has dated someone with depression, I can say that him getting help and your support of him getting help is crucial, for all the same reasons that have already been said.I think it is possible for your relationship to work if you are both putting in the effort--he gets help and you let him know that you're there for him and, like Dear said, you need to let him know you can't do it alone and specific changes need to be made.But like melyshka said, you are not responsible for his feelings and his depression. You shouldn't stick around in fear of hurting him further or if you feel like he really "needs you" if this relationship makes you miserable. You have to think about what this relationship is doing to you as well. If you aren't happy, staying with him will not make anything any better.The last thing I will say is the thing that helped me out the most when I was in my relationship. I think a relationship (or a friendship) with someone with depression is an up-and-down rollercoaster--even if they are getting the help they need. This relationship will always be one with very high peaks and potentially very low valleys. If you feel as though you love him enough that you're able to push through those valleys to get to those peaks and be happy along the way, then you two could have a really fantastic life together. Good luck!
melyshka melyshka 8 years
without getting too much into it, i have had the opposite experience as most of the posters, meaning i have been the depressed one in a relationship. all i can really say, other than the obvious [therapy and (maybe) meds AND (definitely) exercise/eating well/cutting out alcohol/drugs], is for you to hang in there. and to know, that even if he is getting therapy and other help, it can possibly take years before he resembles the man you fell for. and i know i greatly valued time alone, and i also valued time with my significant other/friends. if your bf says he loves you, he means it, but at this point, it sounds like he really can't help himself and can't show it. he simply has no energy for actions. if you love him, know that it will be a difficult road for you if you stick around. if you don't stay, remember, no matter how much you love him and feel for him, you are not responsible for his feelings. taking care of this level of depression is a full time job for him, and i'm sure for you. i know this is hard for you, but you do have the duty to be good to yourself first. also know that taking a step back, or even a break may be good for you two. when he's in a better mental space, he will be more like the person you fell in love with, and even better. as my mom always says, "you must be happy first before you can find more happiness with someone else." i have learned this the hard way. take care and good luck.
melyshka melyshka 8 years
without getting too much into it, i have had the opposite experience as most of the posters, meaning i have been the depressed one in a relationship. all i can really say, other than the obvious [therapy and (maybe) meds AND (definitely) exercise/eating well/cutting out alcohol/drugs], is for you to hang in there. and to know, that even if he is getting therapy and other help, it can possibly take years before he resembles the man you fell for. and i know i greatly valued time alone, and i also valued time with my significant other/friends. if your bf says he loves you, he means it, but at this point, it sounds like he really can't help himself and can't show it. he simply has no energy for actions. if you love him, know that it will be a difficult road for you if you stick around. if you don't stay, remember, no matter how much you love him and feel for him, you are not responsible for his feelings.taking care of this level of depression is a full time job for him, and i'm sure for you. i know this is hard for you, but you do have the duty to be good to yourself first. also know that taking a step back, or even a break may be good for you two. when he's in a better mental space, he will be more like the person you fell in love with, and even better. as my mom always says, "you must be happy first before you can find more happiness with someone else." i have learned this the hard way. take care and good luck.
almost-famous almost-famous 8 years
@ ONE SONG Read ALL of my advice in order to understand what I said. Thanks.
almost-famous almost-famous 8 years
@ ONE SONGRead ALL of my advice in order to understand what I said.Thanks.
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
Thanks blue. I have to say I have learned a lot about myself going through this with my boyfriend.melizzle you're dead on, support is key!I mean I get everyone's advice about "don't get trapped" but like anything else posted on here (advice situations) it's hard for anyone to give TRUE advice unless they know the WHOLE story and I'm sure there is much more going on then just the broad post.Some people think I'm crazy for sticking it out, others are very supportive about whatever I choose but in the end I go with my heart and if things work out amazing and if not well, I walked away with a better knowledge of myself and what I deserve/expect out of life.I think in the end no one can really tell you how to handle this, but yourself.
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
Thanks blue. I have to say I have learned a lot about myself going through this with my boyfriend. melizzle you're dead on, support is key! I mean I get everyone's advice about "don't get trapped" but like anything else posted on here (advice situations) it's hard for anyone to give TRUE advice unless they know the WHOLE story and I'm sure there is much more going on then just the broad post. Some people think I'm crazy for sticking it out, others are very supportive about whatever I choose but in the end I go with my heart and if things work out amazing and if not well, I walked away with a better knowledge of myself and what I deserve/expect out of life. I think in the end no one can really tell you how to handle this, but yourself.
bluebellknoll bluebellknoll 8 years
I dated a guy who suffered from depression and it was the hardest relationship I'd ever been in. It really took a toll on my own happiness because he was so down all of the time. He refused therapy and meds - his excuse was that the depression was a part of his identity because he had had it since he was a teenager and was afraid to let it go. We eventually broke up...thankfully it was mutual. (I had tried to distance myself from him a couple times before and he would freak out so I reluctantly stayed). I think Aimeeb's advice is absolutely right on. I think you should follow your heart but you shouldn't sacrifice your own happiness either. Whatever you decide, I wish you MUCH LUCK!
bluebellknoll bluebellknoll 8 years
I dated a guy who suffered from depression and it was the hardest relationship I'd ever been in. It really took a toll on my own happiness because he was so down all of the time. He refused therapy and meds - his excuse was that the depression was a part of his identity because he had had it since he was a teenager and was afraid to let it go. We eventually broke up...thankfully it was mutual. (I had tried to distance myself from him a couple times before and he would freak out so I reluctantly stayed). I think Aimeeb's advice is absolutely right on. I think you should follow your heart but you shouldn't sacrifice your own happiness either. Whatever you decide, I wish you MUCH LUCK!
melizzle melizzle 8 years
He needs to get professional help ASAP. I've been in a similar situation before... this sounds quite serious. Be supportive and encouraging.
melizzle melizzle 8 years
He needs to get professional help ASAP. I've been in a similar situation before... this sounds quite serious. Be supportive and encouraging.
onesong onesong 8 years
"You're only making matters worse, by acting like your needs matter as well." Um, that's crazy talk. This has been going on for years, and now, yes, her needs matter as well. As everyone else said, he needs a therapist and possibly anti-depressants. He also might need more exercise and sunshine and hobbies, but basically what he really needs is the desire to help himself. You, unfortunately, can't do it for him, as much as you might like to. So, hang in there as long as you can, but don't let yourself be trapped by his depressive cloud. Good luck!
onesong onesong 8 years
"You're only making matters worse, by acting like your needs matter as well." Um, that's crazy talk. This has been going on for years, and now, yes, her needs matter as well. As everyone else said, he needs a therapist and possibly anti-depressants. He also might need more exercise and sunshine and hobbies, but basically what he really needs is the desire to help himself. You, unfortunately, can't do it for him, as much as you might like to. So, hang in there as long as you can, but don't let yourself be trapped by his depressive cloud. Good luck!
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
As someone who has been in a 4 yr relationship in a similar situation I think I'm pretty knowledgeable to give some advice. First off I think you need to push him to get help, it took me over a year to convince my boyfriend and even after a yr of medications and some therapy things seem to of gotten worse and not so much better. I can honestly say I have lost a bit pf myself to him and his illness but deep down in my heart I feel like that little bit is worth it because I feel standing by him will pay off in the end. I think some relationships require more sacrifices than others and for those who have never had to really do that will find it hard to understand. Also do you really know how deep his depression runs? People think "Oh everyone gets depressed..." but I mean a depressed phase at one point in life is nothing compared to people who deal with severe depression for many many many years. Those people often develop very hard walls to break down, unhealthy coping skills and many many other things. So please if/when people say "everyone gets depressed..." and try to make little of his issues try and remember it might not be that simple. I'm turning 26 so the older you get and loving someone in these shoes it gets harder. They have a hard time thinking about future things such as marriage and so forth, so you need to be okay with that. I think in the end you need to follow your heart. Things like the lack of intimacy can be hard but you also need to try and put yourself in their shoes. I think you need to set your own realistic expectations of what works for you, not what others might say. Do you think he's worth hanging in there a little bit longer? If so, do it. Also I think trying to better UNDERSTAND true depression can give you some clarity and reassurance that's it's not you and maybe better understand him. It takes two to communicate and you're very unaware of what he is going through so you'll just be as blinded trying to what communicating with him is all about. I recommended going to sites like www.dailystrength.org and other sites and reading/talking to others suffering with depression. It's helped me a lot over time...
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
As someone who has been in a 4 yr relationship in a similar situation I think I'm pretty knowledgeable to give some advice.First off I think you need to push him to get help, it took me over a year to convince my boyfriend and even after a yr of medications and some therapy things seem to of gotten worse and not so much better.I can honestly say I have lost a bit pf myself to him and his illness but deep down in my heart I feel like that little bit is worth it because I feel standing by him will pay off in the end. I think some relationships require more sacrifices than others and for those who have never had to really do that will find it hard to understand. Also do you really know how deep his depression runs? People think "Oh everyone gets depressed..." but I mean a depressed phase at one point in life is nothing compared to people who deal with severe depression for many many many years. Those people often develop very hard walls to break down, unhealthy coping skills and many many other things. So please if/when people say "everyone gets depressed..." and try to make little of his issues try and remember it might not be that simple.I'm turning 26 so the older you get and loving someone in these shoes it gets harder. They have a hard time thinking about future things such as marriage and so forth, so you need to be okay with that. I think in the end you need to follow your heart. Things like the lack of intimacy can be hard but you also need to try and put yourself in their shoes. I think you need to set your own realistic expectations of what works for you, not what others might say. Do you think he's worth hanging in there a little bit longer? If so, do it. Also I think trying to better UNDERSTAND true depression can give you some clarity and reassurance that's it's not you and maybe better understand him. It takes two to communicate and you're very unaware of what he is going through so you'll just be as blinded trying to what communicating with him is all about.I recommended going to sites like www.dailystrength.org and other sites and reading/talking to others suffering with depression. It's helped me a lot over time...
hotstuff hotstuff 8 years
You mention that he has been depressed for YEARS but you don't mention him getting any help! Nothing you talk about do or say is going to help him, as you can see after all these years of depression. He needs PROFESSIONAL help and maybe even medication. If you still want to be there for him he just needs your support. People who are depressed truly can't help it. It's not like they can just shake that feeling, no matter what their loved one says. He needs to speak with someone who is an expert in helping people with depression. Sorry but the relationship problems that you are dealing with will not go away until he can get the help to deal with his depression.
emalove emalove 8 years
I agree completely with the advice Dear Sugar gave. "Being able to take care of our loved ones is a wonderful quality to possess, but it's also important to do what's right for you." Please don't forget that. As difficult of a time as he's going through, your needs and feelings DO still matter. One person's feelings/needs are NOT more important than the other in a relationship. Not a healthy one, anyway. I'm sure this is a very difficult situation to be in...all I can advisse is to do what feels right for you.
ninjastarlett ninjastarlett 8 years
I liked the way Dear phrased it... tell him you want to be there for him and you want to make it work but you can't do it by yourself. Suggest therapy, or even couples counseling, to show that you want to be there to support him. If he can't accept that, then he is the one pushing you away.
aeschere aeschere 8 years
the only way this can get better is for him to get some help. without it, this is going nowhere! he can't help it, and i'm sure he doesn't want you to feel this way! once things start looking up for him everything will be much better. it's your choice whether you want to hang in there with him or not. I know it must be difficult.
aeschere aeschere 8 years
the only way this can get better is for him to get some help. without it, this is going nowhere!he can't help it, and i'm sure he doesn't want you to feel this way! once things start looking up for him everything will be much better. it's your choice whether you want to hang in there with him or not. I know it must be difficult.
almost-famous almost-famous 8 years
You can back off and give the man some space like he asked for. What's the problem anyways? I mean everybody gets depressed one way or another, so I take it you already felt this feeling before right? I would ask him to go to a therapist and seek some type help. You're only making matters worse, by acting like your needs matter as well. Sometimes in relationships, the other person's feelings are going to be put out there more than the other. Just like right now, its all about him and making him feel wanted and loved by you. But you've seemed to have forgotten that. I know you've tried to help honey, I know. Sometimes getting out of depression is gonna take more than just,"I love you!". So just try to seek help for him and forget about not being intimate for a while or so...
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