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How can I handle his dark moods?
Hi Dr Pam,
I’ve been with my boyfriend for almost two years. I do love him but he is very strange and is often quite depressed. In the beginning of the relationship, I actually liked his slightly dark side and the fact that he was more sensitive than most men. Now I realise that his mood swings and constant negativism is not due to his ‘sensitivity’, but some serious self esteem issues and depressive tendency.
I’ve tried to make him seek professional help but he keeps telling me that I should love him the way that he is and not ask him to change. I tried to be understanding but one day I got so fed up and told him that I don’t want to be with him anymore. He took it really badly and told me that if I ever mention breaking up again, he’ll try to ‘end his life’.
I am extremely worried about him and don’t want to upset him, let alone be the reason for him to have suicidal thoughts. Also we don’t live together so when we do have evenings or weekends it’s better but I worry about him when we’re not together.
However, this current situation is having a massively negative effect on my life and I need to put an end to it. I have an eight-year-old that I share custody with my ex, and this has been a big strain.
How can I solve this without hurting him too much?
Dear “I’m extremely worried”,
He’s put you in an extremely difficult situation and underlying his suicidal threats lurks a deeply manipulative trait. The first thing I want to say is: as this is having a “massively negative effect” on your life you need to act now to stop yourself being dragged any deeper into his psychological problems.
But how to act when you’re a decent human being, that has loved someone, and obviously doesn’t want them to come to any harm? There’s no easy answer to this but here are some good starting points:
*The most important thing is you don’t involve your child in this. I’m sure you realise this and you’ve said as much! And I can imagine it is incredibly stressful keeping it from her. But the last thing a child needs is to know their parent is involved with someone with serious difficulties.
*If you feel there’s any future with him, tell him you’d like to go to relationship counselling with him. Although he said No to his own counselling, he might go with you as a couple. This is definitely worth a try if you think there’s hope for your relationship – if he gets help in this way for himself.
*You might immediately think, “But this isn’t fair, I don’t have anything wrong with me!” The fact of the matter is you are now feeling badly having been dragged down by him. And whatever happens some ‘talking therapy’ may help you get your confidence back to move forward – and perhaps move on without him.
*At the same time as discussing whether or not to have couples counselling you need to clearly state to him that you’re very unhappy he’s expressed some suicidal ‘ideation’ as suicidal thinking is called. Explain that you can not be entirely responsible for the direction your relationship takes and responsible for his well-being. Make clear that things have got to change in a positive way as it can no longer continue like this.
*Hold your ground and don’t let any overemotional response on his part throw you. Keep calm and re-state these things to him. Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated off of this path.
*At the same time you really must confide your worries in a trusted friend or family member. I don’t like to think of you struggling with this on your own. This is a very big, frightening situation that can isolate you if you don’t ensure you keep communication open with loved ones.
*If he continues to react negatively, and makes more threats, then get in touch with his family over your concerns and tell them you cannot cope on your own. After two-years together I’m hoping and assuming you know his family (but then again obviously he doesn’t know your family). Let him know you’re going to get in touch with them.
To protect yourself in this situation you must let others know what’s going on – do not be coerced into keeping it all secret.
Finally, I don’t wish to alarm you in any way but I think it’s terribly important you keep aware of his moods and threats – and don’t feel you have to shoulder all of this. Ultimately he cannot keep you a prisoner of his threats.
There may be a time when you simply have to call it a day and move on to protect your emotional well-being having informed his family of your concerns and that you’re leaving him. Your emotional well-being is incredibly important especially as a parent.
I wish you the very best, Dr Pam x
Dr Pam’s brand-new book is: THE LAWS OF SISTERHOOD – The girlfriends’ guide to successful dating and finding the one is out now: http://tinyurl.com/nmmrs43
Dr Pam is also on twitter @drpamspurr
Also visit www.drpam.co.uk