Is it OK to Leave Him if There Are Clear Signs of Depression?

Should I leave him if he's depressed?So, your guy is struggling with a mood disorder, but is that a basis for bailing? Let’s get personal here. If you’ve got one foot out the door, you’re probably asking the wrong guy. One of my key values is loyalty. But before I start lecturing, let’s take a closer look at the issue at hand.

The well thought out answer to this important quandary—because it doesn’t have to be depression, it can be any emotional issue—is found in the details. Did your guy come into the relationship with depression? Is he getting treatment for his emotional issue? Is the relationship considered by both of you to be committed? Does the “L” word apply here?

If all the answers are in the affirmative, that is, 1) he came into the relationship with an emotional issue—you knew what you were getting into, 2) he’s getting treatment, 3) the relationship is committed and 4) there’s love in the air. My view is stick with him; it would be disloyal to bail.

Haven’t you heard the phrase, “For better or worse?”

Life is funny in the way that, one of these days, when the “casualty” shoe is on the other foot—and that’s not far-fetched, stuff happens—you’ll wish you’ve been sharing the sheets with a lover who lives with that phrase. It pays to live the life you’d want your life partner to live.

But life, and especially relationships, has a way of not being presented to us in a neat package.

Let’s throw in a couple of negatives.  You’re just beginning the relationship and your guy is obviously suffering with some sort of emotional issue. On top of this, you’ve got a full plate of stress in your life already. What’s more, emotional issues are very common in today’s world. Either you are, have, or know of someone in your immediate family who has suffered from an emotional issue.

In a sense, you’ve probably already been through something very similar to what you’re experiencing now. Not only is it exhausting, but it scares you to invest emotionally in a relationship that may take you down. You want to bail before it gets complicated. No, you’re not a bad person; you’re understandably protective of your well-being.

Okay, but what if you and the guy, still in the early phase of a relationship, really hit it off and he gets treatment. What if he is working hard at confronting and challenging his issues? This of course, is a judgment issue, but I side on the side of playing it out.

It’s not only that I am optimistic, but my view is based on experience and research: depression and other emotional issues like anxiety disorders, while very common are also very treatable.

Personality disorders like narcissism and borderline? Much more complicated and in a very different category. With those, proceed with caution – lots and lots of caution!

Yet another variation: you love the guy, the relationship is committed, but he is struggling with a life-interfering emotional issue such as depression or generalized anxiety and he refuses treatment. He’s not been much fun lately, or maybe he’s never really been a ton of fun. What to do?

Here’s what I’ve suggested, and usually it’s worked.  I say, “Tell your guy you want him to do something for you, and it is very important to you.” You request that he commits to one psychologist visit along with you to get a professional opinion about his emotional state. You add, “No obligation after that, going further will be optional.”

So, let’s review this complicated issue. Asking the right questions is the best way to come to a thoughtful decision. How do you feel about the guy and how does he feel about you? Is he willing to address his emotional issue with professional help, an indication he is committed to his well-being and to the relationship? Are you in a position to handle a compromised relationship, at least temporarily?

In making the decision I may lean toward the loyalty issue, but I am not you. It is a judgment call and very personal, one that takes a great deal of thought, perhaps involving consultation with a trusted friend. In the end it is your decision to make and to live with—without beating yourself up, regardless of the verdict.

Me? Full disclosure: Once upon the time I was this guy. So I may have an admitted bias. And yes, it worked out quite well. It is years later and we are still in love.

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