Coping with a Depressed Boyfriend

Written by JosephApril 20, 2015

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QUESTION: My partner of 9 years lost his job a year ago after having downloaded some pornography on his computer at work. He hasn’t had any luck since then securing new employment and the longer that time goes on without his finding a job, he’s become increasingly more depressed and hopeless. He’s gained a considerable amount […]

QUESTION: My partner of 9 years lost his job a year ago after having downloaded some pornography on his computer at work. He hasn’t had any luck since then securing new employment and the longer that time goes on without his finding a job, he’s become increasingly more depressed and hopeless. He’s gained a considerable amount of weight, his health is suffering, and he sleeps all day and contributes very little to the household maintenance.
I’m the sole provider and work up to 50 hours most weeks. Then I come home to find the house a complete mess and it’s really beginning to wear on me. I feel bad because I know he’s hurting and he’s gotten on medication (although it doesn’t seem to be doing much), but I feel like he should be helping out and doing what needs to be done around the house when I’m working. I’m beginning to resent him and have lost attraction for him. We haven’t had sex since this all came down. I hate to admit it but I don’t like being around him much anymore.
His inability to pull himself together after this length of time is beyond me. I would’ve gotten a job cleaning toilets if I had to, but it’s like he’s just given up. We lost our home due to foreclosure because of his job loss and and we had to file bankruptcy. It’s like the person I most trusted and relied on became someone else, someone I don’t like and could never be attracted to. I’ve been looking for a “gay-friendly” therapist, but not having much luck. I’m so lost and tired. Thanks for listening.

Dear Friend:
Thanks for writing and I’m sorry to hear about your very difficult situation. It sounds like your partner’s depression has taken a major toll not only on his quality of life, but also on yours. I can appreciate your feeling like this wasn’t something that you’d “signed up for” when you originally decided to commit to your partner many years ago. I can imagine you must be feeling somewhat betrayed and helpless about the relationship and what to do.

I applaud your decision to seek out some counseling for yourself to help develop some coping skills and gain some clarity on your needs and feelings and to do some problem-solving on your next steps. I also hope that your partner is getting some help for himself as it sounds like his depression has reached clinical proportions. I’m sorry to hear that there seems to be an absence of gay male therapists in your area; your choice of counselor is very important as it’s critical to feel comfortable. Have you tried “GLITSE”, The Gay Yellow Pages, or the GLBT National Help Center as potential referral resources to find a gay therapist? They might help; otherwise you could contact your insurance company if you have insurance and ask for referrals to gay-identified male therapists on their panel as they often have such specialties listed. If you still can’t locate one, I would still encourage you to seek out the services of a therapist to assist you with these challenges. You could always do mini-interviews on the phone before actually meeting with someone to gauge your level of comfort with the individual. You have every right to do that.

Before you and your partner can discuss your relationship issues and challenges, it’s important that both of you are solid and centered first. Depression must be stabilized as a prerequisite, otherwise it will pose as a major distraction and sabotager to any efforts you make at relationship repair or other decisions you make. So getting some help to work on both your individual issues will be central so you both can be more grounded and clear. It’s also important for you to set some boundaries to avoid allowing your partner’s depression to contaminate you as difficult as this may be. Learn the fine balance of how to “be” there for him without “doing” for him as there’s nothing you yourself can necessarily do to make things better for him and rescuing him is an unhealthy maneuver as well. Try to examine some of the ways you may be enabling his depression and channel your efforts more towards your own self-care and developing a vision and goals for your ideal lifestyle.

The man that you see before you is not really your partner; he’s still there under the mask of depression and that’s what you’re battling. You are not responsible for his depression; he must be the one to take the necessary steps to conquer it. Your support and encouragement can be extremely helpful though; just make sure to protect yourself and remember that you have needs too. Avoid sacrificing your happiness and continue to do things that bring you pleasure and try to include him in as much as he’s willing to be an active participant.

It might be helpful to keep a journal as a tool for releasing and processing your feelings so they don’t get acted out in the relationship and to avoid stuffing your emotions. It can also be helpful to try and remember the good times you’ve had with your partner and to bring to memory all the reasons why you fell in love with him in the first place; those qualities are likely still there, but are buried by the depression and once he gets treatment and starts taking better of care of himself and taking accountability, you’ll be able to work on your relationship if that’s your choice and the possibility of a renewed attraction and reignited spark could occur. Try to become as educated about depression as you can so that you can understand how to better navigate your life and avoid getting sucked into its clutches and how to best support your partner through this process. Stand up for yourself by being assertive, reach out to your friends for support, and keep your life filled with fun and enriching activity to keep yourself replenished.
Hang in there, my friend! I do sincerely hope that things improve for you soon. Take good care of yourself!

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