Woe Is Me! “My Boyfriend Is Grumpy All the Time, And It’s Dragging Me Down. What Do I Do?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“I have been seeing a guy since August; we don’t live in the same city so we meet once a month and we speak at least twice every day. I turned 30 this year and I am looking for a long-term relationship. When we met, he had just broken up with his long-term girlfriend; he was also living in a different country for the last seven years and had a lot of other complications. He is finding it difficult to cope; he was recently diagnosed with mild depression and has just started therapy. He is grumpy and I find it tiring sometimes; he often snaps at me or isn’t able to enjoy the moment. I really like him and I try to be empathetic, but I constantly find myself having to accommodate his emotions more when I also have my needs and problems. I worry about whether he is capable of loving someone or not at this point.”
— To love or let go
RN: That last sentence tells me everything I need to know: he may generally be capable, but he isn’t right now and it isn’t your responsibility to make it so. It’s an upsetting fact of life that heterosexual pairings end up in this unequal emotional dynamic. This guy seems to be carrying a lot of baggage that isn’t yours to carry — continuing to hold on will just hold you back further. He sounds like someone who needs to sort himself out first before getting into a relationship with anyone else. He has no right to snap at you for no reason, and mental illness is never an excuse to treat someone poorly. I empathize with him — but unfortunately, his mental health is not your struggle to go through. It may eventually end up affecting your own. You can maybe find your way back to one another when the time is right but for now: boy, bye.
AS: I think different difficult circumstances are overlapping here. To start off, it looks like both you and your boyfriend are facing mental health concerns — perhaps, his more serious than yours. To add to that, you’re in a long-distance relationship. So a partner’s physical presence, which can be a comfort in such times, is mostly absent for both of you. That puts pressure on the times you do meet and talk, which might anyway feel loaded with leftover resentment and longing. Meeting only once a month might also be preventing you from seeing the other sides to him — it’s possible he has happier, non-grumpy phases, but you’re just not together/talking at the time.
Having said that, I can still understand why you might be doubting the relationship or your boyfriend’s love for you. Supporting someone struggling with their mental health can be more draining than people realize. But, it is important that you communicate with him about what you’re going through, and that he is also on the same page about getting better, and putting his best effort into the relationship.
Ultimately, only you can be the judge of whether you’re receiving the love and consideration you deserve. Maybe try asking yourself — are you giving him the empathy he deserves? Have you tried your absolute best to give him time and to understand his situation? Do you still feel taken for granted? If yes, then it may be helpful to reconsider the relationship.
DR: I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Let me try to put it as simply as I can for you: while empathy is a much-needed trait, especially in the present times, you also have a responsibility towards yourself — one of self-preservation.
Now, the question is: do you really love this person and are enthusiastic about building a future with him? Or, are you simply settling because you think you’re getting “old”? If it’s the latter, I’d say navigating the present scenario isn’t worth it — for you as well as for him — and you should look for someone who will be more emotionally compatible with you.
If, however, you genuinely love this person, I’d suggest you have an open conversation with him about how you’re feeling, and how his current mental state is making your relationship unsustainable. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your own mental health to help him heal, and I think you need to make that clear to him — the conversation may be an uncomfortable one, but a lifelong partnership is bound to entail many difficult conversations; look at this as a start. I hope this conversation — and his reaction and response to it — helps you decide your next steps.
PB: Wow, this is a real conundrum. I can empathize with him, depression and long breakups aren’t easy to deal with — but taking it out on you without consideration is extremely inconsiderate. He snaps at you? What is he, a crab? He sounds like a real crab! I’m sure you’ve been empathetic and understanding as well, but sometimes help cannot be given, it can only be asked for. If he’s closed off, and you’re unsure of the future of your relationship — you need to sit down and have an honest, frank conversation. He needs to try as much as you — empathy and love are both two-way streets. But I’m glad he’s at least walking in the right direction — therapy is a great start to getting better.
But I’d also like to ask you — are you happy? Being in a relationship with someone who’s depressed is not easy, and there will be highs and lows. You must accept both; if you’re not ready for the downs of his condition then perhaps you must both move on.