Ask Amy: Boyfriend refuses to get mental health treatment. Can I leave?


Dear Amy: I have been with my boyfriend for five years. He always plays the victim — the world is out to get him and it’s everyone else’s fault. He is depressed, anxious, constantly negative and constantly complaining.

He has been unemployed for years due to being fired from multiple jobs because of his attitude and performance issues. I have been patient because he’s had a lot of trauma in his life. He loves me and treats me well.

I’ve stayed for so long because I believe that mental illness is like physical illness and isn’t a reason to end a relationship. However, lately I am just emotionally exhausted. His negativity and victim mentality drag me down and deplete any positivity I have in my life.

His bad attitude and refusal to take any responsibility are too much for me to handle. He doesn’t believe in therapy and thinks the bad experiences he’s endured are unique to him. I am not in love anymore. He isn’t open to changing his attitude or getting help from mental health professionals.

If he’s always been good to me, is it wrong to break up with him just because I can’t put up with his ongoing depression and negative attitude? When is mental illness a reason to end things, versus sticking with a relationship and being supportive?

On the Fence: You carry a compassionate attitude toward your boyfriend, whose negativity seems to be killing your own spirit.

Not “believing” in therapy to address trauma is akin to not believing in antibiotics to treat a raging infection. Therapy is not a faith practice; it is treatment. It is wound care for a deeply hurt psyche. In your situation, you would not be leaving this relationship because of your boyfriend’s mental illness, but because of his refusal to seek treatment for it.

I assume that your presence in his life is positive and helpful, but it should not be your fate to sacrifice and sap your own spirit in order to support someone who refuses to try to recover his own.

You might ask yourself: Is your presence helping him to heal? Are things improving for him? For you? Or is your co-dependent relationship keeping you both stuck in place?

Therapy is definitely called for — I highly recommend it for you.

Dear Amy: When I read your column, it seems that there are a lot of people who are going through divorce after 40 or more years together. This trend of divorcing after a long marriage makes me so afraid to get married.

I have been in a wonderful relationship for the past four years and we talk about marriage when I’m done with school. But I keep having this terrible anxiety that 40 years into it we will get divorced.

How do I stop this feeling? I know 40 years is a long way from now, but it just makes me feel so scared. I can’t imagine life alone after being with someone for so long.

My boyfriend and I have amazing communication, which to me is more important than anything else. We never go to bed angry and listen to each other when we are upset or happy. But how do I stop this anxious feeling?

Scared: Keep in mind that the people who write to me are sharing their problems. This is not a statistical predictor of your prospects.

Not to frighten you further, but here’s what’s in store for you over the next 40 years or so: illness, loss, sadness, grief, exhaustion, confusion, anger, sorrow.

And also stay tuned for happiness, joy, beauty, light and loveliness.

It’s all the stuff of life. What Poe named “the fever called living.”

When you marry someone, you quite literally leap in. You love them through it all, and you are loved in return. Good sense might hold you back, and if so — good for you! But keep in mind that fear is the worst reason not to take a leap.

Keep talking. As long as you do, you’ll be fine.

Dear Amy: I was moved by the question from “Still Grieving,” as well as your response. This man was slowly being surrounded by his clutter, which as you both noted, was a response to his grief.

Retired: I’ve received many offers of personal help for “Still Grieving,” and while I don’t connect readers directly with one another, I hope he is bolstered and inspired by the generosity.

©2022 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency