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depression and relationships

By September 9, 2010 - 2:27pm
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hello, thanks for reading my question. i've struggled with depression since i was a teenager, had years of therapy, take antidepressants, and know how to handle the dark days when they come. though i haven't been acutely depressed for a while, i feel i have a tendency towards sadness that shows itself regularly.
my boyfriend of 3 years recently confronted me, saying that when i act vulnerable and sad he isn't attracted to me, and that i need to change my behavior or it will be hard for him to be in the relationship. he's a great guy, a kind person, but not someone who has ever suffered emotionally. though he claims to understand what i'm going through, he gets frustrated when i can't give him a "specific reason" for my feelings, and thinks that my negative perspective on life is a choice - that i'm acting weak and anxious on purpose. i was surprised and hurt to hear this from him. i know that this sadness is a part of my personality, and i wonder how much he really loves me if he can't accept all of who i am. should i try to change my behavior to make him happy, or are these just fundamental differences between us that can't be bridged?

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Mood disorders are extremely hard on relationships, especially if one partner has never experienced anything similar. Many books have been written on just this topic.

Are you still in therapy or seeing a psychiatrist? Sometimes it helps to have a professional explain what is going on to a significant other or family member. Even allowing him to attend a session and hear the discussion may help.

I usually shy away from any kind of generalized gender statements, but men in particular seem to have a hard time dealing with this type of situation. They want to fix it, and it isn't fixable. It requires them to surrender to this random emotional problem and know they have absolutely no control over it. It can be difficult to be around someone who is depressed even when you understand it very well, but to see someone you care about suffering and being a person who is hard to like for a little while is very tough.

I suggest that if this is a relationship you are very invested in, try to get him to see your mental health provider with you. Perhaps your provider would recommend a book or other information for him. NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) http://www.nami.org/ has videos to help explain mood disorders, and DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=home has excellent educational resources as well.

It may be that he just can't deal with your depression. Some people are just not equipped to handle it. But it is worth trying to educate him if you are serious about the relationship. Good luck to you both, and if we can be of further help, please let us know.

September 9, 2010 - 6:47pm
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