Why would my boyfriend push me away when his life is difficult?

JuicyBest asks: My boyfriend has been having issues recently with his career, and his family angered him real bad.  I called to calm him down, but he answered me in a way I didn’t like.  I messaged him and said I pray he looks back one day and realizes he has a girlfriend that cares, but he replied that he’s not afraid of losing me.  Please, what does he mean by that?!

Hi JuicyBest –

I’m really sorry you have to go through this.  And I’m just as sorry for what he’s going through.  I don’t mean his career and family issues – I’m talking about something else.

Your boyfriend’s sounding to me like he’s going through a real depression.  Feeling low, angry, and out of touch with his own feelings about anything.  Everyone goes through these at times, but I’m seeing this everywhere lately, due to the pandemic lockdowns going on so much longer than anyone imagined.

When a person’s depressed, they’ll have other signs of it (not sleeping, or sleeping too much; sitting around not doing anything; etc.), but having job problems, and getting angry more easily than usual (even if it’s for perfectly valid reasons), are two of them. 

And one funny thing about depression is that it kind of likes to hold on to a person.  It whispers into their ear “I’m correct, so don’t let anyone talk you out of listening to me!”  And so, when you tried to calm him down, to make him feel better, Depression told him to push you away!  And then, when you reminded him that you care, Depression yelled louder “YOU DON’T NEED HER!  YOU JUST NEED ME!  TELL HER TO GO SNIFF A FIRE HYDRANT!!!” 

The really weird part of all this is that the reason he needed to push you away like that is because you matter to him.  If you didn’t, Depression might have suggested “Oh just be polite so she stops talking about this.” 

(Now I need to add, though you haven’t given me any reason to think this is the case, that addictions will do the same thing as Depression, just what I’ve been describing.  And if, say, he’s been drinking too much, it could be Alcohol whispering those same things into his ear.  In fact, addictive substances are often a way one tries to deal with Depression.  But in the long term using them for that always just make things worse.)

So the giant question here is what you should do.  And I don’t really have a good answer – it’s up to you.  Maybe you want to keep trying – to simply insist to him that he has a wonderful girlfriend who’s there for him and wants to help.  Maybe you want to step back but still be there for him when he’s ready to want you again.  And maybe you need to let him go, feeling that you deserve better than someone who doesn’t appreciate you.  Any of those might be the right thing to do, and that’s fully your decision.

The one thing I want you not to do, though, is to believe that you’re not lovable or wantable.  He’s going through a very bad phase, and that’s what’s making him push you away.  And nothing else.

Best of luck, whatever you choose!


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