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Bow out as go-between for depressed boyfriend and his parents

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Bow out as go-between for depressed boyfriend, parents

Chicago: My boyfriend gets very depressed and basically drops off the face of the earth. His mom took it very personally when he did this a few months ago (around his birthday) and he wouldn't respond to her invitations to dinner. I tried to get him to call her, but he finds her very difficult to manage in the best of times, and doubly so when he's depressed.

His parents have since invited us to another family get-together, but when I called them about it, his mom harangued me on the phone for a half-hour about how rude it was that he wouldn't call her back. I'd already agreed to drive his sister to the party, so I can't back out now. I'm mad at both of them and don't want to be involved, but I'm not sure what to say that won't just (tick) mom off. I've already told my boyfriend that I think a half-hour call won't kill him, but in this case I can see why he struggles with her!

Carolyn: To the mother: "I understand your distress, but I am not the one you need to talk to about this, as I am not making these decisions. He is." Repeat as needed. The mother is wrong to dump her anger on you, but you are wrong to receive it. It is not your job.

To the boyfriend: "Your family is your business. I will no longer be involved in making plans with them; I'm happy to come along, but whether you see them, and what you tell them, are up to you." You will also stop lobbying him to see his family. You are not his secretary, nor are you his family's agent.

To anyone who resists the new, absolutely appropriate arrangements: "I wish I could help, but you'll have to talk to X directly."

And now, finally, to you: If your boyfriend is not taking any steps to treat, manage or otherwise combat his depression, then I would urge you to think carefully about staying in this relationship.

While it's hard to think this way when you love someone, even two people in love can get to a point where they're bad for each other. "Enabling" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but what it describes is real: It's when two people's frailties match up just right, and each of you allows the other to avoid dealing with those problems.

If he's avoiding his issues and you're avoiding yours, the arrangement you have with him is perfect: He doesn't have to deal with his hang-ups because you absorb all the consequences for him with your heroic rescues. That, in turn, gives you something external to feel good about, so you don't have to deal with the stuff on the inside that you're shoving into various corners.

And this is where another overused term comes in: boundaries. Start drawing some. No more rescues, no more rallies for the cause of calling one's parents, no more acting as the person everyone counts on while you postpone being yourself.

If you're the only thing keeping everything on track, then maybe this track isn't where everything belongs.

Bow out as go-between for depressed boyfriend and his parents 01/11/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 9:56am]

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