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I don't know how to help my partner

Community Member

Hi all,

I have been noticing many changes in my partner for a while now and no matter how hard I try he keeps getting worse. He talks about struggling to see his worth and has admitted to me that he feels like passing on whenever a problem arises. I have tried suggesting strategies I have used in the past for similar feelings but he only gets mad and says nasty things towards me whenever I bring it up and refuses to acknowledge any problems.

He has started becoming insecure about his job, family and our relationship. He is always angry coming home from work because his bosses have made snide remarks about him and I know he holds onto it for weeks, making him feel useless. His father has a problem with drugs and I have witnessed how this effects his communication and temper with his wife and my partner, calling them horrible names and yelling degrading things about them. He told me that it has always been like that. As a child his parents favoured his younger brother and wouldn't let him do any after school activities with friends because all their money, time and attention was spent on his brother. To this day he doesn't say anything at social events and he cannot hold a conversation, even being on his phone for the whole time we visit his grandparents.

I have caught him going through my phone messages and he gets mad at me when he sees that another man has liked one of my photos on social media, I have to constantly reassure him of my love. I am studying engineering so most of my uni friends are male and this really bothers him, he cannot stand the fact that I am in required group chats with boys for my projects where we only discuss our course, but if I try to talk to him about the intimate messages he has sent to other girls during our relationship he tells me I'm being crazy. He expects me to sit around while he works on his car for hours and gets angry and ignores me when I say that I can't make it. Whenever I bring up things I would like to discuss about our relationship he gets so defensive and victimises himself and blames me for his unhappiness. He constantly dwells on the fact that I have had a boyfriend before him and has told me that he will never be able to get over it. He only ever uses his childhood as an explanation for his insecure behaviour and I don't think he has ever grown into someone seperate from those experiences.

I know he is an amazing person and I absolutely love him, but I am scared of loosing myself again. How can I help?

6 Replies 6

Community Member

Hello cmargaret

Your boyfriend certainly seems to be in a very unhappy place. I would be interested in knowing how long have you to be together? Was he always like this or is it something that has happened recently? Do you ever have joyful moments where you do things together, I mean simple things, walking, watching films and the like? Do you have long term goals you are working toward together? Has he ever visited a health professional to consult on his “struggling to see his worth .......and feels like passing on” issues?

The reason I am asking is because it will relate to the type of advice and support I can offer.

Hello Betternow,

We have been together for over 2 years now, knowing each other for 3 years through friends prior to our relationship. He has always had these feelings, but at the start of our relationship he tended to hide these feelings from me. We definitely do have great times together but a short time after he returns to being withdrawn and upset. He has expressed many times his interest in buying a home with me and speaks about us in future tense. Although he doesn’t know what he wants from his career and constantly says how much he hates his apprenticeship. I have tried suggesting paths he could take with his job and he has even recently enrolled into a tafe course, I’m so proud of him. But this has seemed to worsen his stress and he constantly tells me he isn’t smart enough and his parents tell him how stupid he is for choosing this particular trade. He has never visited a health professional and to my knowledge I’m the only person he has talked to. I have suggested the possibility of him talking to a professional before but he just gets mad and accuses me of thinking that there is something wrong with him and that I don’t really want to be with him. I just want him to be happy, I feel so helpless.

Hello cMargaret

It does indeed appear as though your boyfriend's upbringing hasn't been easy. You sound like a very kind and compassionate person, he is fortunate to have you in his life.

I'm wondering why if family visits are so tense and unpleasant why he and you bother to visit. I know there are expectations around birthdays and Christmas but if the family environment is so toxic maybe its time he refocussed on his life with you. Most of us are carrying some sort of baggage from childhood (even at my late age, nearly 70) but part of growing up is to learn to deal with it, especially if you are in a serious relationship.

Another theme that recurs in your two posts is the issue of his job/career. He hates it, his parents hate it and you have tried to make him see other pathways. You're proud of his efforts in this new TAFE course which is great but you say the extra stress from TAFE is not helping his self confidence. I know from personal experience how much a job can drag you down if you don't enjoy it. The dissatisfaction creeps into your home life and you become moody and irritable. I see the job problem is pivotal to turning things around, it won't be the entire answer but it's a start.

The other consideration is you. I always get concerned when people say their partner shuts down, gets angry and won't talk. That is not a partnership anyone would want. You can't stay in a relationship forever that seems beset by so many problems. You have been together for only two years. If these problems are part of everyday life after only two years, I can assure you that down the track when you really start meeting life's challenges like mortgage, children, education, and career pathways things will become a lot more stressful.

I applaud and respect you for the efforts you are undertaking to get your boyfriend moving in the right direction but I have to be blunt to be honest. You alone cannot change a human being that is not willing to engage with you at a conversational level let alone a deep emotional level. I encourage you to consider your future with or without your boyfriend. Don't allow your self to get stuck in a go nowhere relationship that may eventually drag you down too.

I'm sorry if my words cause offence, I know you love your boyfriend and while it is normal for relationships to have their ups and downs. When everyday becomes hard work, and you're the only one putting in, it's to reconsider your future.

Hello Betternow,

Thankyou so so much for your insight. You have caused no offence, I have always preferred straight up truths to sugar coated cliches.

I have always struggled with explaining feelings and thoughts so I was wondering if you had any pointers that might help me to have more effective discussions in future?

I am sure he would have less to do with his family but they are somewhat overbearing. They are constantly checking in on our personal lives and seem to always have some kind of critique. I know it is not my place to intervene in family matters, so I was wondering if there was any strategies to dealing with the aftermath of their visits?

As for his career I have started researching different things he can do with his qualifications after he finishes his apprenticeship. I have found a few things that may interest him but have held back on sharing them because I don’t know whether this will stress him out even more or if I’m overstepping.

I have spoken to other people I trust about his actions and they say things along the lines to what you have mentioned. I most definitely can see the logic but I think I just have this irrational hope that I can fix things all the while knowing that part is only up to him. I am willing to support him, love him and I know he has potential to be a great man, I just don’t think he will ever appreciate or even recognise any of my efforts, but this doesn’t bother me for some reason. I don’t know whats wrong with me, am I just too attached or plain stupid.

Hi cmargaret

I'm sure your not "plain stupid". Your analysis and self insight shows you to be a caring and loyal partner. I think your last paragraph demonstrates you have a keen insight into the situation.

Have you tried to get him to open by playing a game. Choose the right time, make sure his chilled out and you have some time on your hands. Take two pencils and two writing pads. Then you both write down five things you would like to accomplish over the next five years. You don't discuss what you are writing, keep it secret. If you like, you can categorise the five things into headings like career, personal life, holiday destinations etc.

Then we both have finished you show each other the list you have written. Then you discuss. It is very important that neither of you criticise the others wishes. The object of the exercise is to draw the other person out of their shell. If nothing else, it may be a conversation starter for future conversations. It also may reveal to you whether deep down you and your boyfriend are on the same page.

It is very important in a long term relationship that your goals align. Goals that don't align mean a problematic future.

Hello Betternow,

Thankyou for your suggestion, it sounds like something that wouldn’t intimidate him too much and I will definitely try this.

Thankyou so much