Dear Life Matters,
I feel desperate for some help. My relationship is in constant chaos. I find myself coming into it and then wanting to back off or simply quit it. My partner is a very moody person and it feels like I am constantly being tested. I love her and when things are good, I feel very close to her, but she always seems to want to pick fights with me. I don’t think she is very happy, but she doesn’t think she needs help and if I suggest that perhaps she would benefit from counseling or medication, she becomes enraged.
I do think that she is depressed because she is very negative, frequently cries for no apparent reason and she suffers from insomnia. I am just not sure what to do about it. Unfortunately, I am close to ending the relationship. We have been together for several years, but the past few months I feel on the verge of walking away more often than not.
I am sorry to hear that things are so bad for you and it sounds like for her too. Clearly there are feelings of helplessness and none of us like feeling this way.
Depression is a serious problem and if it’s significant enough causes very real suffering for the afflicted person and for those that are close to them. The symptoms you describe are some of the symptoms of depression. Problem falling asleep, lack of appetite and sex drive, low energy levels, moody and negative thoughts including thoughts of suicide are the indicators for serious depression. Some depressed people become slow and lethargic, while others can become quite agitated and irritable. I obviously cannot diagnose your girlfriend, but if she is depressed she may be pulling you down with her and if she won’t get help then you are not only feeling helpless, you are helpless.
Sometimes the best first step is to accept our helplessness and, in doing so, begin looking for better ways to take care of ourselves. This may seem like giving up, but actually if we are truly powerless over a situation such as this, it is actually an act of courage and strength. It means that you are facing reality and from doing this you become more responsible to yourself and actually get some of your strength back. You will become much more objective in terms of what to do and, more importantly, you will not be pulled down with her.
If you want to still think of her, and not feel as if you are being selfish, then seriously consider what good you will be not only to yourself, but also to her and your relationship if you go down with her. I will tell you if you don’t already know, you will be useless to her and the relationship and obviously no good to yourself if you do not do this.
Accepting your powerlessness, in situations where you are truly helpless and cannot fix the problem by yourself, is not only a big step, it is the best first step you can take. From doing this, you will begin to get your strength and objectivity back, as I already mentioned. I realize that this seems ironic, but it really does put you in a far better place for knowing what to do.
It seems strange that doing what feels so selfish or like giving up is really taking on responsibility for the situation the way it really is. I can promise you that albeit hard to do, this letting go will lead you to your answer.
Also, there is no telling what you may have been doing to perpetuate the problem. Often referred to as co-dependency, when we cooperate with another in unhealthy ways in order to preserve or maintain the relationship, it is actually the worst thing for it and for us.
Backing off allows her to begin to see what is going on with her and what she may need to do. If you are trying to reason with her or if you end up fighting with her, there is no chance of either one of you seeing things clearly because you are really just distracting yourselves. And it is a distraction that keeps you in the chaos and drama of your unhealthy relationship. It is no good for either of you.
Simple, but not easy, work at letting go of this drama and start focusing on taking care of yourself. Step back and the answers will come to you. Do yourself and her the favor of allowing some space, quiet and light to come into your otherwise chaotic relationship.
Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Visit her at www.drbarge.com or please send your anonymous questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Got something on your mind? Let us help you with your life matters — because it does!