Dear V: Part-time girlfriend, part-time therapist

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Dear V,

My boyfriend and I grew up together, but we only started dating a few years ago when his ex-girlfriend left him. When I started seeing my boyfriend, his ex warned me he’s “too much to handle.” I didn’t know what she meant until now.

My boyfriend has chronic depression and has been diagnosed for years. I do everything I can to help – I drive him to therapy appointments, make sure he’s taking his meds and check in with him often.

I know he’s not doing it on purpose, but it feels like I’m the only one putting effort into our relationship. He barely calls and is MIA for days at a time. I love my boyfriend, but he’s bringing me down. What should I do?

Sincerely,

Not His Therapist

Dear Not His Therapist,

Depression, like any mental illness, is just as real as a physical illness. Remember to treat his depression like you would if he had the flu or had broken a leg and avoid becoming resentful toward him.

That said, it’s not your responsibility to be his therapist, or even his mother for that matter. Sure, it’s nice of you to drive him to appointments and help him out with his prescriptions, but remember that you’re doing it out of kindness, not out of responsibility.

Many people who suffer from depression have “peaks” when they’re productive that are followed by “slumps” that go on for weeks. Simple tasks like taking a shower or doing laundry feel like climbing mountains. Ultimately, during these dark periods, your relationship with him suffers.

If you can adjust to these cycles and learn not to view it as a sign that your relationship is failing, it will make you stronger and closer to him in the long run. However, if you find that he’s bringing you down when he’s distant and that your own needs aren’t being met, it’s time to move on.

It doesn’t mean you don’t love him or that you’re abandoning someone in need. Like your boyfriend’s ex said, it simply becomes unmanageable and affects your own mental health and happiness.

No relationship, no matter how long you’ve been together or how much you love each other, is worth sacrificing your own happiness. Sure, every couple endures bumps in the road, but if the relationship isn’t bringing you pleasure and is hurtful to you, it’s not worth holding onto.

Work on keeping yourself happy, healthy and satisfied – and care for your boyfriend second. If you find that you can’t keep the relationship going, then break it off. Be there for him as a friend and make sure he knows you still care about him, but don’t let his depression pull you down with him.

-V

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