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August 20, 2013 Ask Dr. Love Advice Column
I have been with my boyfriend for almost 2 years now... and lately everything around him is crashing down. i tried to explain everything will get better in his life..and it just gets worse...his car has been broken down for 4 months his sister screwed him over and he owes 4,000 to her apartments then someone stole his phone his grandma went to the hospital...thats just a few things that he is going through. I keep trying to tell him it will be okay..and now he is to the point where he just doesn’t believe me anymore he is doubting himself and I wonder what i can do to help him through these hard times. Im worried that he doesnt see the good things he has and the bad things are just dragging him down and what will happen to us if he stays so depressed. what can i do please help me.
Wanting to Know How to Help My Depressed Boyfriend
I hear that you are terrified that your relationship won’t survive his depression, hence why you want to help him feel better.
If you notice, you're the one asking for relationship advice when the person who needs the help is your boyfriend. Obviously, you can’t change someone else’s mood. He’s responsible for his emotional states, not you.
I can give you some pointers to share with him, but then he’s got to take the ball and run with it.
First off, let me say that your boyfriend is experiencing an emotional, psychological and spiritual crisis.
On the emotional/psychological dimension, it would be good for him to know that he is depressed because he hasn’t accessed his feelings of anger over life not going his way. When a person is angry and buries the anger, that feeling morphs into depression.
It sounds like he is also engaged in self-attack (you said he’s doubting himself). Self-attack is a common byproduct of buried anger. In other words, rather than turning the anger outward, it gets turned back on the self, in the form of self-blame, self-doubt and self-attack. When a person accesses the real feelings of anger, the depression and self-blame generally lifts.
Depression can also come from feeling powerless. When I read your boyfriend’s tale of woe, it occurred to me that he is rather powerless in life. Now some of the things that have happened he had no control over, like his grandma going to the hospital. But there are other aspects of his life in which he could exert more control, which would help him to feel less powerless. For example, it sounds like his car being broken down for 4 months may be due to lack of funds to fix it. Here’s where he could take stock in his life and, perhaps, make some changes that will, in the long run, improve his status in life and give him more money, which means options. For example, he might consider going back to school so that he can eventually get a better job and make more money and get out debt.
Now let’s talk about the spiritual dimension. I sense that he lacks a strong faith base. Without a foundation of religious or spiritual faith, a person can easily tank in the face of stress.
Faith provides a perspective that helps us through the hard times. For example, when your life is grounded in faith, you find it easier to accept life’s struggles. When you have faith, you know that life isn’t supposed to be easy. Life is a vale of tears. When you know this, you don’t crumble when the tough times are here. You know that life also beats us down to teach us empathy for others in pain, reminding us that many have it way worse than we do. This perspective helps us to be more accepting of the trials we have.
The hardest times are also laid before us so we can master our own spiritual lessons. Through it all, we must all learn that God and loved ones in spirit are here to hold our hands and support us through the hard times. Of course, faith also reminds us that nothing lasts forever.
Share some of my points with him. I know that this broader perspective will help him to feel better.
"If anger and fighting are ruining your dream of a happy marriage, Dr. Turndorf’s conflict resolution program is for you."
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Author of NY Times #1 bestseller Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus
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Pulitzer Prize winning author and Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School
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