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Am I toxic or actually setting healthy boundaries?

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  • #351882
    Aizhana
    Participant

    Hello guys, I’ve just now joined this forum after reading a couple of very insightful threads and replies.

    Here is my story.
    I’m 26 and I’ve been dating my long-distance boyfriend for a year and a half. He’s very loving and supportive of me as I have a long history of depression, self-hate and anxiety, I’ve been always open about it (I had just gone off meds when we met and regularly go to therapy). Work problems and this quarantine took a toll on me and I just recently started taking meds again, and he obviously knows this too.
    We don’t fight often and I could probably count more “serious” fights with one hand only and they rarely lasted longer than a night. Last night, however, was one of these nights. He is obviously feeling overwhelmed by quarantine himself, as he has no job nor family where he lives; he was feeling pretty down last night and wanted to order take-out to release some of the stress, but he feels overly-guilty about spending any money (even for groceries) and eventually didn’t – but refused to eat anyway. And he only has one (very tiny) meal a day. I supported him during this process of thought, I tried to offer options, I offered to pay for his meal if that was the problem, I only got no’s but kept trying to help. He repeatedly said he didn’t want to eat anymore (had not eaten the whole day) and he just wanted to hate himself and whine and do nothing. It took almost two hours for him to get up and make a sandwich – but, after all the work it took, I flipped when he said that said “sandwich” would only have ONE slice of bread as “using two slices is just plain wasteful”. It was not nice and I know it, but I just said “okay fine” and had to take a break from him for 1 hour. He did not message me so I wasn’t “ignoring” him per se but I just felt like I needed distance so I wouldn’t fight on the heat of the moment.

    We did fight later when he accused me of disappearing and I explained why: I put a lot of effort in supporting him and he really just wanted to whine and hate himself, it was basically him hurting himself and I could only stand so much without getting a bit angry and it takes a toll on me as well as I am human, and that sandwich comment somehow was the last straw. I have limits and somehow feel like I find myself more in the position of a mother than that of a girlfriend (when he’s here at my place I stress a lot over providing decent food for both of us at every meal since he does not know how to cook despite living on his own). To him, I sound like I put myself on a pedestal and feel superior to him. I’m genuinely just trying to help and yes, I get a little frustrated when I see that he’s the one who does not want to help himself first; I love him but I already have to deal with my depression and force myself to take action for my own good, so seeing him just refusing to do the slightest effort and just wanting to whine for hours is very tiring for my brain, especially after hours of trying to help him.

    He says he understands but that this means that he can’t trust me with these emotions and that I make him feel guilty for just wanting to whine. To be fair, he often overreacts to frivolous things such as a game on TV or videogames, saying he hates himself and sometimes physically hurting himself when throwing a fit. I don’t like him hurting, of course, I also realize I can’t help even if I want to, so to me it seems when he’s like that we just both end up in a spiral that hurts us both and makes both of us angry and frustrated. I would eventually push him to get some help when he can afford it, but in the meantime, I just realize I can’t be his therapist and hurt myself in the process. I can listen to him, I can try to help, but I can’t stay and listen to him actively wanting to hate himself and do nothing to solve his self-hate.

    We made up but ultimately did not “solve” this issue, as I understand it’s not short-term.

    Is this wrong? Is this denying basic love and support to him? Is putting my mental needs first selfish? I feel like I need this boundary for my own good but I also feel guilty about it…

    #351956
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Aizhana:

    “Is putting my mental needs first selfish?”- no. It is selfish to want another person to put his or her mental needs second. It seems that he is selfish for this reason.

    “Is this denying basic love and support to him?”- listening to him “whine for hours” is hurting yourself. He is hurting you when he whines for hours. Hurting is the opposite of love and support.

    If he wants to express his emotions, why not set a time limit: five minutes?

    anita

    #352026
    Valora
    Participant

    To me, it sounds like you’re setting healthy boundaries. Putting your mental needs first isn’t selfish, it’s self-care. There’s a very big difference. Selfishness is putting wants first. Self-care is putting needs first, and self-care is even more important for you when you’re already suffering from depression and anxiety. It’s ultra-important, actually, so no, not at all selfish. Like you said, you are not his therapist, you cannot be his therapist… and him treating you like a therapist will only drag you down.

    It sounds to me like his actions are toxic to both of you. He doesn’t want to eat much, which is very, very unhealthy and is only contributing to his depression, and as someone who loves and cares about him, it’s hard to stand by and watch him not taking care of himself, not caring to take care of himself, and even worse, constantly complaining about how he feels while he’s not taking care of himself.  I understand how completely frustrating that situation is, as I’ve been there myself.

    You mention that he feels guilty spending money on food, etc. Is he low income? Are you in the US? If the answer is yes to both of those questions, he can probably get counseling services for free if he qualifies for Medicaid in your state. That might be something to look into. It sounds like he could really benefit from therapy.  If not, he needs to implement self-care, especially a healthier diet and exercise. Not eating enough will absolutely wreck a person AND their mood. Eating enough food is way more important than saving money.

    • This reply was modified 3 months, 2 weeks ago by Valora.
    #352118
    River
    Participant

    Hello Aizhana,

    I had some comments that I wanted to share with you regarding your situation:

    • It sounds like you are both under a lot of stress, this is reasonable and even some what expected at a time such as this
    • You’ve said  “He’s very loving and supportive of me” – when you get frustrated try the best you can to keep in mind the positives, it will make the more challenging times easier to handle
    • You’ve said “He says he understands but that this means that he can’t trust me with these emotions and that I make him feel guilty for just wanting to whine” – there’s a few things I want to comment on here:
      • you use the word “whine” here this indicates to me that this is a very challenging situation for you; and it sounds like he is picking up on this
      • allowing yourself the space and time you need in order to understand he like us all is human and in deep pain will allow him to perceive less tension and therefore will give a better opportunity from him to trust you more, which in effect will allow you to have a better chance to achieve your goal of helping him [Big note: he must be the one to want to help himself, but having others around him who support them can make that catalyst for change]
    • When you tried to help him and it didn’t work out this frustrated you
    • When you got frustrated you decided to take a break and said “okay fine”
    • This can appear passive-aggressive to many, even though that was not your true intention
    • In situations like this, being up-front and honest through grounded communication can be very helpful
    • Giving him the love and compassion to support him and the space to let the air/dirt settle after a frustration occurs can be tremendously valuable to all parties involved
    • This can be done simply by yourself recognizing that you tried the best you could to help him and it didn’t work out the way you wanted and at this point taking a deep breath telling them that you love them and share with them that this situation is overwhelming you, that you need to take a break for yourself to come back to normal, and that you will reach out to them when you feel more grounded – communication is key
    • One other comment on the matter, the way we approach and handle a situation (our state of mind and how we express ourselves) can have a profound impact on the outcome of certain events; though we should not be attached to a certain given outcome
    • You’ve said “Is this wrong? Is this denying basic love and support to him? Is putting my mental needs first selfish? I feel like I need this boundary for my own good but I also feel guilty about it…”
      • If by “this” you mean needing your own space, no we all need our own space to allow the dust to settle
      • No you’re not selfish for taking needed time for yourself; to a certain extent we must all be selfish to a degree, put ourselves first for taking care of ourselves, this is required in order for us to help others; we cannot help others in the best possible way unless we are prepared and grounded
    • You sound like a wonderful person, who tries to help people in need; this is very admirable

    I also agree with all of the other comments on this situation.  This truly is such a wonderful community.

    ~ With Love, River

    • This reply was modified 3 months, 1 week ago by River.
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