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Ema22

Living Abroad & Partner's Depression

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Background: My partner comes from a difficult childhood with lots of mental illness in the family. He was pegged the "normal" one and didn't receive much help or attention because of the high needs of others in the family. As a result of this, later in life he is working through childhood trauma and trying to figure out who he is. As he struggles with identity and past decisions in his own therapy now, he has been getting more and more depressed it seems. 

To make things more complicated we moved abroad last year and decided to stay a second year despite COVID. This has made having a community here almost impossible. 

So we have a few factors working against us. I am having a hard time supporting him because many of his identity issues and depression (he says) is stemming from regretting that he got married so young, not feeling as attracted to me as before and not knowing if he wants to have children or not (which is something I want someday) and then hating himself for having those feelings because he wants to be together and he doesn't want to hurt me. He tells me that he doesn't deserve me and that he's afraid he's just going to hurt me over and over again. 

I have dealt with my own mental illness and worked extremely hard to be at the point I am today. I'm in counseling and feel very self-regulated and healthy. So I understand despair from depression and I understand how things can look. That being said, I don't know how to support him on this journey as he figures out what he actually wants , which directly affects me quite significantly and more importantly support him on his own journey of loving himself and figuring out who he is. 

I'm trying to join support groups for family members with depression. I'm trying to invest in myself and my own hobbies. But I still feel totally isolated and sad to the core about all this. 

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On 2/9/2021 at 6:18 AM, Ema22 said:

He tells me that he doesn't deserve me and that he's afraid he's just going to hurt me over and over again. 

Of course I don’t know enough about him to form an opinion, to me this sounds like depression plus attachment disorder.

What that can feel like is a constant fear of being abandoned while at the same time, wishing you would just leave him. A childhood survival skill that's now getting in the way of adult intimacy.

The cynicism makes sense, from a point of view: 1) the anxious wait for that day when you leave will finally be over, 2) reinforces the story that he's unworthy of a partner like you, which ends a confusing/uncomfortable debate and restores certainty, 3) there's a feeling of control when we can put ourselves through a torment of our own choosing--espescially if it means repeating a familiar pattern established long ago. 

"It never works out for me. Love and intimacy are for other people. I've learned the hard lessons already"-- there's no risk to being cynical about intimate relationships. Depression and anxiety for me is like viewing everything and everyone as a potential source of pain. 

I hope for him and for you that he's successful in unlearning the skill he needed to get through early childhood. Therapy is a hopeful sign cause we usually struggle to work this out alone. 

And I want to end this with praise for you, because you've been doing the mental wellness work yourself and it sounds like you're made such progress. 

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