Q. My boyfriend and I have been living together for 5 years. The first two years were good, we went out, had fun. Three years ago he lost his job and since then he has struggled to stay in another job long enough. He started staying up late drinking and smoking weed more and more, until it became every day. Now he only occasionally gets up mid afternoon, doesn’t wash, won’t open the curtains, and does nothing in the house. I do it all. We don’t go out together anymore, we don’t socialise or have friends over. We’re not intimate and we hardly talk. I rarely go out with my friends and when I get home he’s in a mood and won’t talk to me for days. I’m paying all the bills including his mortgage. I’ve told him I can’t go on doing this for much longer and he just shrugs his shoulders. I think he’s depressed but he refuses to see his GP and won’t talk to anyone about it. I don’t know what to do anymore.
A. From how you describe your boyfriend, I’d say he is going through depression. His confidence is low and, like so many people, he may feel he’s not good enough. Loosing his job triggered all his feelings of inadequacy sending him plummeting into a depressive state. And he now sabotages recovery by drinking and smoking weed and hibernating. He would benefit from a diagnosis and help from a medical professional but you can’t drag him to his GP surgery against his will. Unfortunately you’re not able to fix him either. He needs to want it for himself.
You can’t change or control how he chooses to spend his life. You can however, change how you react and respond to his behaviour. I understand you want to support your boyfriend when he’s at his lowest and equally you’re also becoming part of the problem. By being so supportive, paying all the bills including his mortgage, tiptoeing around and curtailing your social life to appease him, you’re helping him stay in his ‘cave’.
How would you like it to be different?
You could start by creating a spreadsheet and detailing all the household expenditure – all the bills you’re paying and his contributions (if any). Sit with him when he’s not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Show him the spreadsheet and ask him what he thinks. Then tell him what you’re willing to contribute, on what terms you’re prepared to continue the relationship and what you expect of him. Be clear of your boundaries. Give him an ultimatum if that’s what you want but whatever you decide, stick to it. Be mindful that you’ll only be able to address one small step at a time – him agreeing to see his GP would be a good start.
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