Dear Carolyn: At what point do you draw a line in a relationship with someone who has depression? This person decided to stop counseling 18 months ago, and has since spiraled into a worse place, pushing away most friends. This person will give the silent treatment for weeks, then reappear as if nothing happened. I love this person. But during these weeks of silence, I am quietly and intensely hurting – something this person knows well.
At what point is it the disease, versus the person’s choices? I have been patient and loving and supportive. During the “good spells,” I get the same in return. During the “bad spells,” I get hurt, badly. – How Do I Deal With This?
Stop taking the bad spells personally.
You know about the depression, you know about the treatment lapse. You know that being close to this person means you will get pushed away periodically, and have no say in your return to the fold. Illness, choice, irrelevant; all the information is there.
What you do with it is your choice – end the relationship, or learn (if you can) to detach.
Either one beats the unhealthy route, choosing denial and hoping for change. You can’t choose well if you’re wounded, reflexively internalizing others’ actions as a response to or reflection of you.
If it helps, think of your hopes for change in terms of what someone else might be hoping: You want this person to show respect for your feelings by not disappearing on you, right? But this person might want you to show respect, too, by laying off the pressure to conform to your idea of a relationship. This is the relationship, yours to love or leave.
Dear Carolyn: I have been dating this guy who thinks I’m “so smart,” “so pretty,” etc. The thing is, I’m fine, but I’m not perfect. I see him as a nonperfect, actual human being whom I’m getting to know and wish he would do me the same favor.
I had a hard day at work yesterday, and I could tell he was surprised that I was kind of down. But, again, I’m not perfect, and I will have good days and bad. How do I let him know his expectation that I will continue to be perfect is off-putting and that, as a person, I am flawed but still pretty great? – D.C.
Say it like that.
Maybe he is doing you “the same favor,” doesn’t think you’re perfect, and is merely more free with compliments than you’re accustomed to. In that case, your complaint would give him a chance to tell you, ever-so-gently, that he’s quite aware of your imperfection.
If on the other hand his only vision of you includes the pedestal, then you have to decide whether you care to stick around on those terms.
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