“So, yesterday my boyfriend broke up with me. By text messages. He told me he couldn’t give me what I deserve, that being joy, stability and a long term relationship. He also explained to me, a few days ago, that he has struggled with depression for 2 years now and that he has tried to commit suicide a year ago, but it failed and nobody in his family know it was a suicide attempt… I spoke with him on the phone after his messages about leaving me and when I told him he couldn’t break up with me by saying that it was the best for me because by the age of 21 yo, I think I can have my own opinion on the matter and make my own decisions, he told me he couldn’t love me if he didn’t love himself first.
I totally understand his reasoning, but… Well, I love him. And while I know I or my love cannot fix him, I want to stay with him, and to help at my own scale… I just want to be there for him when he needs me and to support him while he helps himself (by taking medications, going to a therapist, etc.). And I don’t know if I should try to convince him that being together is for the best. I don’t want to force him… I just want to love him, to be there for him and to help him as much as I can. I don’t even know if anybody else knows how much he’s struggling…
Please tell me what to do? Should I try or should I just let him go?”
I’m really sorry to hear that you’re going through this. And I’m really sorry that your ex-boyfriend is going through this.
Everyone’s respective struggle with depression is a little different. But I would strongly advise you to listen to your ex-boyfriend has to say. He is phrasing his breakup with you in a way that reflects his deep compassion and sensibility in respect of the relationship you’ve shared together. He is communicating with you that even simple things are really difficult for him, and he might not have the full emotional bandwidth available to continually be present in his side of the relationship with you.
You say that you understand his reasoning. And you probably do, logically. But you haven’t fully accepted his reasoning in the emotional sense.
Let’s start with this.
In the words of support that you used, I can sense how deeply you care for this person. You can also see and accept how your love for him will not be able to fix him. So hear yourself say that out loud, that your love cannot fix him. Only he can fix himself. And in the same way you can determine for yourself what decisions you want to make, he too is responsible for his own actions as well. So please respect his decision to end this relationship.
This does not mean that you have to stop caring for him. If you feel it rewarding, realize in what different ways you want to continue to support in his personal journey to mental wellness. Think about what that means for you, as it is a personal commitment to stand by one of your favorite humans struggle with their own depression. Once you’ve had an opportunity to settle with that vision, then tell him so. Tell him that “[you] just want to love him, to be there for him and to help him as much as [you] can.” Once you’ve communicated as such, leave that door open for him so that he knows it is a space that he can take advantage of that open door in the most dire circumstances.
He will come find you when or if he is ready. Recognize that sometimes the kindest thing we can do is to provide space and grieve for the loss of this particular potential future for reasons that were completely and utterly outside of your control. And it’s okay. It’s going to be okay.
Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.
I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at email@example.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!