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You Asked: Is His Distance Normal?

Dear Sugar,

My boyfriend and I have been together for almost six months now. From the start, I was aware that he suffered from mild depression but he happily and routinely takes medication for it. In the beginning, he was perfectly affectionate. The sex was incredible and I truly felt an emotional connection with him. He told me he did, too.

We met at work; I am a nurse and he worked on site in the maintenance department. About a month in, he was laid off and has since been collecting unemployment. He has been jobless for just about three months. He actively looked for a job for about a month, but he quickly gave up. He is being choosy — in my mind far too picky — and I feel like at this point, he doesn't have the right to do so. This is weighing heavily on our relationship. He is no longer affectionate. He is cold and distant to me. He makes no effort to hold a conversation with me, or think of things to do together. I can't explain it, but his tone has changed. He never initiates sex, and sometimes he even turns it down.

I can't take this pain much longer. I cook for him, clean his apartment, am at his doorstep within a half hour of him telling me he's lonely or misses me; I've even applied for jobs for him! I feel unappreciated, lonely, hurt, and simply unloved. What should I do? — Unloved Lauren

To see DearSugar's answer


Dear Unloved Lauren,

I'm sorry to hear your relationship has taken this turn, but I'm glad to hear that your boyfriend is managing his depression. It seems that losing his job really exacerbated this change in his behavior and while it's by no means an excuse to make you feel unappreciated or unloved, it is completely understandable. Being unemployed in times like these must be incredibly unsettling, so it's no wonder his personal life is suffering, too. You're right, he shouldn't be picky about the jobs that are out there, but that's a decision he's going to have to make on his own. You can't force him into a role he's not interested in just because it offers a paycheck.

Since he's clearly taking his frustration and angst out on you, try to open the lines of communication more. Without adding more pressure to his plate, let him know how you're feeling, but take an understanding tone. Ask how you can help, but make sure he knows that he can't overstep his boundaries. The building resentment that I hear in your tone will only make things worse so if things don't change, perhaps a break is in order so he can figure out what he wants in his future. Good luck to you.


jazzytummy jazzytummy 8 years
One other thought.. I come from a medical family, and my sister and mother are both nurses. I can tell you from experience, most nurses are nurturing, caring people, it is their nature, otherwise they wouldn't have chosen that field. It is highly commendable that you chose a profession that by definition involves caring for others that need help. Now it is time to care for yourself.
Muirnea Muirnea 8 years
I agree that affection is a very important part of love. Actions speak louder than words...I absoultely live by that saying. It doesn't matter how many times you say you love someone, if you don't show it, it doesn't mean a thing. You can talk all day long and not mean a thing. And having true clinical depression can be considered a disease, it's not just a simple "sad feeling" like most people get. So it's not something that this guy can just change. He's not choosing to ignore you and not make an effort, he literally CAN'T do those things. It's not something he can just make more of an effort to change and then it will be ok. Maybe he needs different medicine or something, who knows. This is something he will always have, so I think you need to decide if this is something you want to deal with forever. And if you decide that he is not the guy for you, you are not quitting. It would be unfair to both of you to stay and be unhappy. It's ok to end things that need to be ended, it's not giving up, it's just realizing what needs to be done and doing it.
Shadowdamage Shadowdamage 8 years
I think there has to be a line between being supportive, and letting someone's emotional needs run ramshackle over you. As for where that line is, its up to each person to decide. Myself, I could only deal with that maybe a month or two then I would start to get particularly pissed off, especially if he isn't also helping around the house, etc. We did go through something similar when my bf was between jobs, waiting for Uni to start back up - everything was on my shoulders (mostly, it still is) and I did get really short tempered sometimes. But what kept me going was that: 1)he never, ever took it out on me 2)he always helps around the house or asks "do you need me to do anything" when he is at home 3)he always understood why I felt the way I did, and put up with a lot of anger on my part with dignity and patience It goes two ways. Of COURSE I have sympathy for what your bf is going through - to a point - but I also believe part of being an adult is knowing where to draw boundaries on your moods and reactions so that you aren't "punishing" an innocent person either, especially one who simply loves you and is trying to do the right thing. Don't give him a hard time about sex, etc, I will say that as pressure is the LAST thing he needs. Just give him space, and see if things can improve. If they don't....and he can't handle this any better, then...I don't know. I think at some point I would actually have to leave. Just being honest there.
AlexE70 AlexE70 8 years
dbcvt, affection is a VERY important part of love. It's a way of expressing it. You are NOT being too needy, you're just conveying what you feel, and you DO have needs. Emotional needs. They have to be met. If you feel you have exhausted all options in trying to resolve your differences and nothing has changed, then it's time to move on. And don't think of it as quitting or giving up. Think of it as doing what is right for YOU.
dbcvt dbcvt 8 years
all of these comments have been so incredibly helpful (and more are welcome, if you want to give your 2 cents!), but jazzytummy so far yours has been the one i feel most comfortable with. none of you know me, or my boyfriend, or the depth of the situation, and because of all that its probably hard to give good advice, but every single response has made me feel better. I feel so alone in this situation and its so comforting to hear people validating my feelings and at the very least understanding what im going through. i guess the two problems that i feel most stumped about are "when is it ok to quit?" and "is he right - does affection really not have anything to do with love? am i being too needy?" when we first started dating i just had this FEELING about him, that he was going to be around for a long time. i decided he was worth fighting for. but i'm growing so exhausted. I HATE quitting, giving up, especially in relationships. but is there actually a time when thats the only thing left to do?
jazzytummy jazzytummy 8 years
dbcvt- Read what you just wrote..."he blows off my feelings of frustation, neglect, and emotional exhaustion". Let me ask you... what more can you do for this person right now? You say he makes no effort to change his situation...ok, then, what does the future hold? I can tell you... more misery for you. You have done everything to be supportive, and he is giving nothing in return. I appreciate he has a problem, but it is his problem to face. Right now, you are just collateral damage until he gets better. You need to start thinking about your own emotional health. It may be that you are feeling guilty about leaving when he is down, maybe you are worried he will hurt himself if you leave, I don't know, but that is not a reason to stay. Unless he gets help, you are in a no-win situation and you are circling the drain. Sorry so blunt, but it is the truth.
dbcvt dbcvt 8 years
this is MY letter. i HAVE tried to talk to him. he says affection isn't the definition of love. he acts enthusiastic about jobs that i suggest he apply for but days later when i ask about it, he blows me off and says he never followed through. he's been on antidepressants the entire time we've been dating, and for years before. his sex drive was great the first month or two. i KNOW that his depression has resurfaced because of the unemployment but he makes no effort to change it. i try talking to him all the time. he gets angry with me and tells me affection has nothing to do with love, that he knows he needs to find a job, and he blows off my feelings of frustration, neglect, and emotional exhaustion.
AlexE70 AlexE70 8 years
This is another one of those classic situations where communication is a must, but is often ignored or flat out avoided. If you don't see a future in the relationship, then you should leave. No reason to torture yourself needlessly. But if you think there is still potential to salvage what you have, then "talk." That's one thing I hear a lot at work. Both women and men tell me about their relationships and how their partner is behaving weird or unaffectionate, or distant. And when I ask if they've sat down and seriously talked with their partner about it, 9 times out of 10 the answer is usually "no." Honestly, talking can save a relationship if you're willing to make that one last effort. I see it on a daily basis.
Ghana_Princess Ghana_Princess 8 years
the same thing happened to me..but it was my boyfriend of the 4th yr he found it real hard to get a job..he then decided to start something on his own, but it was real hard gettin it started..i had to support him both financially and emotionally and it took a toll..he totally changed his attitude 2wards me and was mean to me...he was always irritable and hard to was a very trying time..if you are a person of Faith ..this is the time to turn to your faith..but it takes a huge toll on the relationship..bcos he wasnt like dat be4 i attributed it to the unemployment..but finally we broke up...we got back 2gether 6mths after..and i think the break was a great help..
sparklestar sparklestar 8 years
Is he really worth this?
crackaddict crackaddict 8 years
I hate it when people say BREAK UP WITH HIM its not that easy, you probably are quite fond of him. I agree with first reply, wait till he gets a job (he will have to at some point) and see if his mood improves.
snow-flake snow-flake 8 years
I completely agree with otaku when she says "he's simply in a place where he can not feel certain emotions because of the depression." This couldn't be more true...don't blame yourself, but try and understand how utterly hopeless he may be feeling. His depression was most certainly exacerbated by his job loss.
gooniette gooniette 8 years
Obviously his actions aren't something you will tolerate without resentment. Break up with him and offer to be his friend, but stop trying to be his mom by telling him how to live his life. It's not healthy and it's something he has to figure out for himself.
Mesayme Mesayme 8 years
I wouldn't want to make him spiral by abruptly breaking it off. But I definitely would. Just not sure how. I've been through this and ended up with a manipulative, stalker. One thing I could safely tell you to do, is to stop everything you are doing and speak to him only when spoken to.
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
"And since you can control how he feels" I meant "can't control how he feels"
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
Yeah I doubt his aloofness has anything to do with you and all to do with him. It be that like some men he found a sense pride in his job and with the loss of it there was some loss of self worth and some obvious depression. And since you can control how he feels, you may want to assess yourself and see if your are being too judgemental if you where out of work in this economy and you had someone treating you like a child ( babying you) how would you feel? I also would suggest that you start treating him like a man and not a child that may help him a lot more than cooking and cleaning.
Janine22 Janine22 8 years
I would say stop cooking and cleaning for him. You could cook for him occasionally, but I agree with the other girls that you are doing way too much for him and it sounds like it's starting to make you feel resentful. I found that when my fiance was unemployed, he also became very depressed. I think that with men their ego and sense of self is very much tied to their job/career. Don't run to him when he is upset, and don't apply for jobs for him, that is his responsibility, not yours. You are mothering him, which probably doesn't help him too much because he already feels ineffectual and insecure and less manly because he doesn't have a job. (probably also related to his lack of a sex drive). Let him know that you are there for him if he needs to talk, that is about all you can do right now. Hopefully once you stop trying to control his job hunting, he will realize he needs to take some more initiative himself. Normally, I would say talk to him about how you are feeling and why you are upset, but I think in this circumstance it might just make things worse. If things continue for too long, then you may just tell him that you need him to do certain things more often. For example, talk more, show more affection etc.. But make sure it is not accusatory or blaming. But I think generally, you need to create a bit of distance between the two of you, because he is taking you for granted because you are doing too much for him. Good luck to you.
karlotta karlotta 8 years
I once dated a guy who was totally amazing for the first three weeks of our relationship, then fell into a sudden and brutal depression. I hung on for nine more months until I realized his downward spiral was making another victim: ME. Little by little he distanced himself, and I didn't have the means to understand why, so I took it personally, and it was very painful because he'd come over or call and tell me how much he cared about me, but then acted all aloof and screwed up (and so utterly uninterested in sex!). When he finally admitted why he was acting this way, I took it upon myself to make him better (along with his shrink and meds and even shock therapy by the end...) - yet you can't fix someone who is really mentally broken down, so I strained myself in vain for months and ended up in therapy too! It takes a huge toll, and I don't mean to sound selfish, but unless you're in a very stable, long-lasting relationship with a partner you've known in happy mode and has given you years of their normal self, it is only self-destructive to stick around through a "new flame" 's depression. Not that you should drop him like a hot potato, but definitely distance yourself emotionally and start considering other options (dating other people, concentrating on yourself and your own life... etc). He needs to figure out on his own anyway, because if you're acting like a crutch (and it sounds like you are, at least a little), his motivation in getting better won't be as strong as if he knows he's alone with his demons. So... of course you can't leave like that, but please make room for your own mental health, and keep your energy for your own endeavors. I'm only saying that because... been there done that. And the result ain't pretty on your own heart at the end. It took me a while to recover - if I ever did entirely.
otaku otaku 8 years
i disagree with a point that sugar made. she said "...clearly taking his frustration and angst out on you...". that couldn't be farther from the truth. he is not taking things out on you. he suffers from depression. if he's taking things out on anyone, it's himself. he's not denying you sex and love, he's simply in a place where he can not feel certain emotions because of the depression. i think you need to do a lot of thinking for yourself. some people are just not cut out to be in a relationship with someone who has depression. if you can't handle his down time and you feel like it's something to do with you (which it's not, it's ALL about him) then maybe you need to be with someone different.
skigurl skigurl 8 years
the correct answer is: break up with him i'm not always quick to suggest this, but i dont think this sounds healthy and it hasn't been that long save yourself
Ac2366 Ac2366 8 years
I would break it off as well. I have been in a similar situation and it was miserable. If you really care about him and see a future with him at least take a break and let him get his life back on track. Don't allow him to become too dependent on you.
katiedid0985 katiedid0985 8 years
It sounds like his depression is rebounding due to his loss of unemployment, hopefully he's still seeing a doctor and if he's not you might want to suggest it because a doctor could help him through his unemployment and maybe get him to start applying for jobs again. It also sounds like you're doing waaaaay too much for him, which is only making it easier for him to continue in his current state. I know you want to help someone you care about through a tough time, but it's only going to make you resent him if you keep doing so much for him. I agree that you should talk to him about this and find out what reasonable things you can do to help him (like look over his resume etc. but NOT actually apply to jobs for him) through this period, but you'll have to set some ground rules that he has to actually be trying to make himself feel better and get a job. If he refuses to do anything to fix his situation you may have to leave unless you want to become his mommy trying to fix everything for him (which you can't).
RockAndRepublic RockAndRepublic 8 years
Please stop trying to rescue him and understand that he's going through something that alot of us are dealing with. You can't expect things to just be okay.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
anti depressants? are a sex drive killer which means he cannot help it, as is any stress including being unemployed. if he has given up? than you need to step away and tell him that you cant , at 6 months in, become a mother to him. I would break it off if it were me.
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