My depressed boyfriend is hiding behind a smile
Dear Dr Nekia,
My boyfriend is really depressed. He hides it from everyone else but when we are alone I can see that he is not happy. He has told me there’s a lot going on in his head, but assures me that it doesn’t have anything to do with me or our relationship.
At first that made me feel better but I am becoming more and more sad for him. I hate that he hides behind a smile and it is taking more and more effort to get him to do things together as a couple. He is just so content with lying in and watching movies while eating takeout or some other kind of junk. How can I get him motivated again? He refuses to go counselling.
Dear Depressed Boyfriend,
Depression is a state of being, and often very lonely. It does not matter the amount of love and affection that you offer to someone who is depressed, this will not cure them. Chances are, they may not even recognise the support that is being given and if they do, they often have trouble accepting or processing it.
On the other hand, having a strong support system can, over time, be a great help and asset once they learn how to believe in and trust themselves and others again.
However, supporters must be very careful not to support the depression itself. Depression is much more than a psychological or mind disorder, it involves physical and emotional parts of the whole person as well. This would explain why your man seems less motivated. Depression can be very daunting for anyone but it is especially true for men, who generally feel that they need to be strong for everyone.
The more inactive a depressed person is, the more withdrawn they will become. Many consider their condition to be embarrassing and hopeless; this is why they are so dead set against seeking help. Depression also tends to be a very private disorder. They hide behind a smile to avoid anyone getting wind of their unhappiness.
I would urge you to continue to bring up the topic of seeking help. He can talk to someone one-on-one, get involved in a support group or, should he wish to keep his identity completely private, arrange for counselling on the phone or the internet. Just make sure that the therapists are qualified. It does not seem as though your guy is severely depressed, but it is best to sort things out before he gets to this point.
Educating yourself as much as possible on depression will prove invaluable to both of you; loving someone with depression can become frustrating, consuming and draining. Oftentimes a change in diet, introducing exercise or curbing negative habits can provide a good platform for recovery.
If he refuses counselling, you could seek help on his behalf. Speak with a professional who can guide you through dealing with depression. They can give you targeted strategies that you can implement at home. In this way your guy could indirectly reap the benefits until he is ready to seek out services for himself. Just remember to take care of yourself also.
Dear Dr Nekia,
I seem to be only able to date one person at a time. My friends think that I am crazy and say that I should play the field until I meet someone special.
I just do not have the time and energy to put into multiple people. And I wonder how can you see if someone is special or not if you are busy giving everyone else attention? My friends tell me that I get attached to people too fast because I focus on one person, too much, too soon. Is there a correct way to date? Am I doing it wrong?
One At A Time
Dear One At A Time,
Some people prefer to play the field while others choose to play it comfortable by dating one person at a time. Which you choose depends on your personality, dating goals, morals and lifestyle. For some, the dating scene is a fun and exciting hobby where they meet and, casually get to know, as many attractive people as they can.
For others, dating is much more specifically geared towards finding “the one”. Either way you will most definitely go through a series of dates before you find what you are looking for.
Do not let your friends push you beyond your dating comforts unless you are unsure of what you are doing or you see that your dating style is not working for you. Beware also, that you may be doing nothing wrong and just need to be patient until the right person for you comes along.
Dating one-on-one does have the benefit of being able to give one person enough attention to truly get to know them and develop a potentially sound connection.
The down side to it is that you run the risk of prematurely going all in, or falling head over heels. Just don’t forget to have fun along the way and to set personal boundaries that will prevent you from giving too much of yourself too soon. Instant connections do exist but they are rare. Even when they do happen, care needs to be taken so you don’t expect too much from new love interests.
Becoming attached too soon can scare away someone that you really like if they perceive your eagerness to be clingy, desperate or needy.
So yes, dating one-on-one and falling for almost everyone is unhealthy, but it also allows you to discern if someone is compatible or not is completely OK. Just remember to set boundaries, take your time and be honest with and realistic about the people who you choose to date.
• Want relationship advice? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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