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She's depressed and so am I

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  October 1, 2009 10:05 AM

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Coping with depression is depressing. Help.

Q: I've been dating someone for a little over a year now, and she's the love of my life. I've dated quite a bit and it didn't take me long to realize she's the one I want to spend the rest of my life with, and I know she's on the same page. We live together, we've talked about marriage, etc.

The problem is, she suffers from SEVERE depression. She's seeing several different specialists, and she's on several different medications, and nothing seems to be a permanent solution. It's progressively gotten worse since we started dating. She's currently out of work, which means she sits around the house all day with nothing to think about except being depressed. She won't spend time with people, won't look for work, won't answer friends' phone calls, etc. She just sits at home in front of the TV and waits for me to get home, and when I do, she's almost always down, and it's gotten to the point where I almost don't want to come home on some nights.

I believe (and so do her parents and friends) that I have been completely supportive through all of this. I want her to get better, and I can't even think about the possibility of living without her. However, I can't imagine living the rest of my life and being happy if she's not going to get better. She's told me several times, I'm the only good thing in her life, and that's too much pressure. Am I being selfish for wanting to be happy myself? I don't know what to do, help!

– Frustrated, Boston

A: F, you’re not being selfish -- but I think you know that.

I have to wonder how long she has been depressed. You’ve been together for about a year, but do you feel as though you’ve ever seen her happy? How well do you know the real her?

My advice: therapy for you. You need help figuring out how way to cope within this relationship. You also need to examine why you decided this woman should be your life partner despite the fact that she needs you much more than she should. I’m not saying that your love and commitment isn’t real or that it’s flawed, but you should consider whether her intense dependency has inflated your relationship’s level of intimacy.

We’ve had a few letters here from people who have been afraid to leave sick significant others. Usually, those people are only sticking around because they feel guilty. They want a way out. In your case, you seem to want to stay. And that’s fine. But you need to develop a plan -- with a professional -- so that you can manage your relationship without allowing your partner to continue a self-destructive cycle.

Use the therapy for you as much as you can. Ask yourself (and this professional) whether the relationship would have the same weight if your girlfriend didn’t need you as much. You should also consider how you’ll feel if she ever gets happy. Her happiness might change everything. You might feel like you’re dating a different person.

My point is, you’re only a year in, so you’re still getting to know her. And the “her” you’re getting to know isn’t really her. It’s a version of her that you hope goes away. Be a good friend to her and take care of yourself. You don’t have to end this relationship, but please, get your own help and start trying to answer these questions before you make commitments based on fear, need, and guilt -- as opposed to love. And keep her family in the loop. They should understand and appreciate that you’re trying to keep it real.

Readers? What are the letter writer’s responsibilities here? Is there hope for this love despite the depression? After a year, should the writer be making this type of commitment? Share thoughts here. Letters to the right.

– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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