Visitor's Question from a 31-40 year old Female

I have been seeing my boyfriend for a year and a half now. He came from a troubled past (in short? his father was and is a jerk) that still rears its head time to time (his father still is in his life to a very limited extent, but this isn't fun for him). He also sometimes experiences mild depression, as well as ADD; he was on medication when we first started dating, but now is not. He can also be very insecure (when I told him I loved him, his reaction actually was confusion because he didn't understand why I actually would WANT to.)

And he's had a rough, rough year. Over the past 12 months he has had employment trouble (the industry he works in is notoriously difficult) and is going back to school. Not having a steady job meant he didn't have insurance, which meant he didn't have the money for his medication -- which increased his depression. His mother, with whom he is close, had to have major surgery, and he wanted to take care of her before and after.

So in short, he's got an awful lot on his plate, and has been very self-focused for a while.

Last night I was feeling that a lot of the troubles he's having now are due to his not really being motivated to FIX them. And, his lack of motivation is starting to affect US, because one of the things he doesn't feel motivated to do is spend much time with me. A large part of this could be due to being off his meds -- but even here, he was having trouble motivating himself to get an appointment with his doctor. I have been very patient with this over the past year, trying to give him space to sort out everything. Last night was a moment when my patience had worn a little thin.

Part of the problem is that in MY past, I had an abusive ex with whom I lived for two years, and things started going downhill with us when he also stopped being motivated to take control of his life. The ex felt helpless about trying to get himself out of a rut, also got depressed, and did nothing to help himself, even though I also in that situation tried to encourage him. Instead, the ex spiraled further downward. Then, I really didn't know how to handle a situation like that (I was 22) and handled the situation very badly. I also was too close to the situation to see that he was unwilling to take care of himself anyway. Knowing what I know now about my ex, and knowing what I know about my current boyfriend, I see a lot of differences in the two situations, but there are enough similarities that a part of me does react strongly to this kind of situation.

So. My boyfriend and I had a long talk last night. I accused him of not caring about me enough to recognize that his behavior affected me too, and not caring enough to want to do something about that. We quickly sorted out that the situation was much more complicated than that, but that there still were things he could do to help himself that he wasn't doing. Finally, he suddenly admitted that part of his problem was a tendancy to sometimes be lazy -- and I said that being lazy was a choice. I said I felt that sometimes we CHOOSE to be in the situations we are in. Even if our own choices are just about how to handle a situation, to some extent, he is where he is because he has not chosen to do something about it. I went on to say that I've realized recently people often have more control over a situation than they think they have, and realizing that has helped me a lot. It sounded like this was a really thought-provoking idea for him, and he was starting to think about how "hey, maybe I could be doing things differently."

He ultimately asked for a week off -- not a breakup, not a "break," but a "let me have some solitude to think about what better choices I can make." He reassured me that one choice he would NOT be making would be to end the relationship -- what he wants is the time to focus on sorting out the employment/health situation, so then he can be better able to devote attention to me again. He just wants to really think about how to GET there. I agreed to giving him the time -- but, ironically, now that I am, I'm realizing exactly how "there" he was for me even when I thought he wasn't!


1. How do I sit on my hands and leave him alone,
2. Am I trying to do too much to fix the situation, and
3. How much of this is me reacting to my ex-boyfriend and how much is me reacting to what's really happening?

Speaking of choice, one choice we definitely both made is to stay together and work through this. I just wasn't seeing that he was, and he didn't know how TO work through it because his own situation is so chaotic. Advice
Sounds like you are doing just the right thing and for the right reasons. Your boyfriend needs your help and you are giving it to him through good advice. Your ex really is out of the picture but there are similarities, so you may be reacting to that. But you are dealing with your current reality.

Let your boyfriend have his week to sort out things. Then give him another week to show how he has changed. If nothing has changed, I would advise seeing a family therapist.

Best wishes,

-- from George
One of Your Friendly Advisors at

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