Monday, February 6, 2023

Ask Amy: Boyfriend refuses to get mental health treatment. Can I leave?

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Dear Amy: I have been with my boyfriend for five years. He always plays the victim – the world is out to get him and it’s everyone’s fault. He is depressed, anxious, constantly negative and constantly complaining.

He has been unemployed for years due to being fired from multiple jobs due to his attitude and performance issues. I have been patient because he has had a lot of trauma in his life. He loves me and treats me well.

I have stayed this long because I believe that mental illness is like physical illness and is not a reason to end a relationship. Lately, though, I’m just emotionally drained. His negativity and victim mentality drags me down and drains me of any positivity I have in my life.

His bad attitude and refusal to take any responsibility is too much for me. He does not believe in therapy and thinks that the bad experiences he has had are unique to him. I’m not in love anymore. He is not open to changing his attitude or getting help from mental health professionals.

If he has always been good to me, is it wrong to break up with him just because I can’t handle his constant depression and negative attitude? When is mental illness a reason to end things, versus staying in a relationship and being supportive?

In the Fence: You take a compassionate attitude towards your loved one, whose negativity seems to be killing your soul.

Not “trusting” therapy to treat trauma is akin to not trusting antibiotics to treat a raging infection. Therapy is not a faith practice; it is treatment. It is wound care for a deeply wounded psyche. In your situation, you would not be leaving this relationship because of your boyfriend’s mental illness, but because of his refusal to seek treatment for it.

I assume your presence in his life is positive and helpful, but it shouldn’t be your lot to sacrifice and tear your soul to support someone who refuses to try to reclaim his.

You may ask yourself: Does your presence help him heal? Are things getting better for him? For you? Or is your relationship of codependency holding you both in place?

Therapy is definitely needed – I highly recommend it.

Dear Amy: When I read your column, it seems to me that there are many people who are going through divorce after 40 or more years together. This trend of divorce after a long marriage makes me very scared to get married.

I have been in a wonderful relationship for the past four years and we are talking about getting married when I finish school. But I still have this terrible anxiety that in 40 years we will get divorced.

How do I stop this feeling? I know 40 years is a long way from now, but it just makes me feel so scared. I can’t imagine life alone after being with someone for so long.

My boyfriend and I have amazing communication, which is more important to me than anything else. We never go to bed angry and listen to each other when we are sad or happy. But how do I stop this feeling of anxiety?

Scared: Keep in mind that people writing to me are sharing their problems. This is not a statistical predictor of your prospects.

Not to scare you further, but here’s what awaits you over the next 40 years: sickness, loss, sadness, grief, exhaustion, confusion, anger, sorrow.

And also stay tuned for happiness, joy, beauty, light and beauty.

It is all the things of life. What Poe called “the fever called alive.”

When you marry someone, you literally go inside. You love him through it all and are loved in return. Common sense can get in the way, and if it does – good for you! But keep in mind that fear is the worst reason not to take the leap.

Keep talking. As long as you do, you’ll be fine.

Dear Amy: I was moved by the question from “Still sad,” as well as your response. This man was slowly being surrounded by his mess, which as you both noticed, was a response to his grief.

In retirement: I have received many offers of personal support for Still Grieving, and while I do not directly connect readers to each other, I hope that he is strengthened and inspired by the generosity.

©2022 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency

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