I have a challenging relationship with my family and haven’t lived with them for years
PROBLEM: I have been in a relationship with a kind, caring and loving man for two years now. We recently started renting near to where I’m from and where I work. He has a long commute every day though and is finding this very difficult. I feel really sorry for him and guilty that my day is easier but unfortunately we’d never be able to afford to live near to his work. He likes his job but he really wants to pursue a career in another field, and he feels he can’t because it’s not in any way financially viable.
He has been really depressed and has finally agreed to start going to counselling, but we constantly argue about whether we should break our lease or not. He thinks we should separately move back in with our parents, but I have a very challenging relationship with my family and haven’t lived with them for several years for this reason.
I also had a bad experience in a house-share recently and I’m worried about repeating this, especially because I have an anxiety disorder which mainly presents as social anxiety. I want us to continue to work on our relationship and find a solution together, but I’m worried that it’s one sided. I know the situation we are in is unhealthy, but I feel trapped and I don’t know what to do.
ADVICE: Parts of your story will be familiar to many people – on the one hand there is the huge desire to live in your own space following a period of time house sharing but on the other there is the financial challenge of high rent. You say your partner is depressed and has begun seeing a counsellor, hopefully with time this will help him address his mental health as well as looking at his choices about what career path he wishes to take. On the positive side, you say that he likes his job and this gives him something solid in his life while coping with the challenges of being in a long-term relationship.
Moving back with your family of origin does not seem to be a viable option for you – having an anxiety disorder is a serious condition that requires you to be very conscious of anything that increases stress in your life and the danger is that you too will have serious mental health difficulties if this suggestion is taken. You both now have someone other than yourself to consider in terms of decisions and directions to take and before either of you engage in huge life choices, perhaps you should make sure you are in the best condition you can be so that your choices are good ones. This means that you and your partner have to commit to your own wellbeing until such time as a robust conversation can be had about your future together.
Being in a relationship with someone who is going through a mental health difficulty can feel lonely and isolating, and even “one-sided”, but it is important to remember that people recover and return to themselves when they get the right help. The relationship needs the “well” partner to have patience and belief so that they can be strong for their partner so that hope for the relationship’s future is not lost.
At the moment you are that “well” person and if the relationship is to survive you must resource yourself so that you do not sink with the hopelessness that often accompanies depression. Can you commit to your own well-being? To have good social supports for yourself in your life and to have good exercise, sleep and eating habits. If you can develop all these things, then you will be in the best position to be of support to your partner as he goes through this dark time.
This is not to say that nothing should be done about his long commute and maybe you could look short term at some less drastic options than moving house and location or moving back with your parents. Is it possible for him to spend a night or two a week with a friend, or even Air B&B, closer to his work? Perhaps you both could financially support this possibility for a short while so that your partner is not exhausted while addressing his mental health issues.
Making life decisions about your relationship while he is depressed and you feeling trapped might lead to further problems down the line so there is a case for slowing things down now. If your partner struggles with this conversation, it is worth considering asking if you could be invited to one of his counselling sessions so that he feels supported both in the discussion and subsequent decisions.
You say that he is a kind and loving man and that you want this relationship to work, so have patience and hope and make sure that you are in a good state to support the relationship through a time when your partner is low and suffering.