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Old 08-28-2011, 04:53 AM
booklady78 booklady78 is offline
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Default Poly & depression

As is often the case, I want to bounce an idea on the forums before broaching it in person.

I have a husband and a boyfriend. I understand why having other partners works for my husband and I. Our bond remains strong and hasn't been diminished, in fact in a lot of ways it's stronger. I love both of them a great deal.

My boyfriend suffers from depression, something I've been learning to accept and trying to understand. He is monogamous and when we met he expressed his views on marriage and kids, both were things he had no interest in. He enjoys being in a committed relationship, but doesn't believe in the need for any kind of ceremony to define it. At the time, this didn't phase me. My thinking was that I also didn't want children and I was already happily married. We had stumbled, blindly, into polyamory and I was very happy to explore this new relationship, to let it develop as it went along.

It is within my nature to be supportive and nurturing and so I do my best to be a loving partner to him. He doesn't have another partner so I am "it". At times, it has been an emotional rollercoaster to accept his depression as a part of him. It clouds his emotions and at times has made it difficult for us to communicate.

In many ways, he is a loving and kind partner, very thoughtful and generous. He also tends to shy away from the "big stuff", making plans, talking about the future, and being there for me emotionally is not usually possible.

I want to be selfless, to be my bfs partner but it seems that he is not able to offer himself to me in the same way. I know that relationships aren't 50-50 and I'm not naive enough to believe they even should be.
I wonder if part of the reasoning of getting involved with someone who is poly is that different partners can fulfill different needs. He wants to be loved, as all of us do, but he isn't capable of offering love in return - not in the way I sometimes need. I also wonder if he believed that because I had a husband/partner already, that I wouldn't need him to ever be one.

This is going to be a tough conversation, I'm trying to decide how I can even begin to have it. He has expressed that he is happy to be with me and enjoys what we have. It's not that I want to change what we have, I just want to know what it is. It seems that within any relationship, a discussion of what each party wants is pretty straight forward. Poly and depression seem to be making this particularly difficult.

I dislike the term, but he seems to want to be "secondary". He wants to be loved and considered, but doesn't want to be elevated to a "primary" role. And yet he needs me, he leans on me, and I want very much to be in his life. I'm just not sure how much he wants to be in mine. I think his depression makes him feel less capable of being a husband/partner.

I'm not sure what I'm asking, there wasn't really a question in all of that, just a venting really. If anyone has experience in dealing with a depressed partner, I would greatly appreciate any insight.
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Old 08-28-2011, 05:41 AM
Jade Jade is offline
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You seem kind, peaceful, and loving. With that attitude and determination I imagine you could approach almost any discussion you wish.

In my group, I am the one that tends toward depression. The only thing I can tell you that helps me is that my partners don't give up on me. Sometimes just knowing that can pull me through difficult periods. I need to see my value through the eyes of others, when I don't see the value in myself.

I wish you happiness.
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Old 08-28-2011, 05:48 PM
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Anneintherain Anneintherain is offline
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I don't know how many good friendships your boyfriend has, but you might want to encourage him to cultivate some of those. It sounds like part of the problem is that he leans on you far more heavily for emotional support that you are able to on him, which is going to feel a bit more unfair the longer you are together if it troubles you. I imagine it would help if he was able to get more support and feedback from other non romantic relationships.

You might want to share with him that you are feeling sad that he isn't there for you the way you are for him. I wouldn't expect that means he would be able to change how he is, but it may make you feel better to be honest, and help him to know what page you are on. And you don't have to define it as primary secondary, you could phrase your queries about what he wants from a relationship with you in terms of "Do you want to share X, Y, Z" etc. I am sure there is some good resource around here for discussing this, but I wouldn't know offhand. You might find that he does want some things you consider "primary" but without discussing the specifics you wont know. It sounds like you know he isn't able to really say where he sees you two being in 5, 10 years, so I think that helps to accept that it's just the way he is, and not take it personally. I do get the impression that you would be happier if said he wanted to be in a long term primary relationship with you?

My husband would say hobbies are good too (ones that involve interacting with other people). I think it certainly helps with depression, but depending on the personality, not everybody want to participate in those things, even if it would make them feel better.

My boyfriend is on anti-depressants. Some of the things you say about your relationship strike home for me. It's hard for me not to wish communication on his end was easier and more plentiful, but I know it's just not to be. Of course my bf doesn't lean for me emotional support at all, and even though this also feels unbalanced because I would enjoy feeling useful in this way. I've begun asking him for advice about dating and other relationships, because that is what I _want_ from my partners. I'll be OK if he does not give me what I _want_ but the most important thing for me is to have the freedom to be honest about what I want, and to risk sharing it with him without being invested in the outcome of if he can or wants to give it to me.
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Last edited by Anneintherain; 08-28-2011 at 05:51 PM.
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Old 08-28-2011, 08:41 PM
TruckerPete TruckerPete is offline
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I would be careful that he's not using his secondary label to allow himself to feel second-rate, thereby contributing to his depression. It's so easy to stick with the familiar.
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Old 08-28-2011, 10:02 PM
RunicWolf RunicWolf is offline
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Originally Posted by TruckerPete View Post
I would be careful that he's not using his secondary label to allow himself to feel second-rate, thereby contributing to his depression. It's so easy to stick with the familiar.
+1

I know when I start swinging down my already low self image gets worse and worse, and I start finding reasons, without thinking about it, to lower myself even more.

It's not logical, it has nothing to do with what you know, but rather what you feel. To make it worse, it's also usually not done intentionally.
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Old 08-28-2011, 10:36 PM
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nycindie nycindie is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by booklady78 View Post
In many ways, he is a loving and kind partner, very thoughtful and generous . . . being there for me emotionally is not usually possible.

I want to be selfless, to be my bfs partner but it seems that he is not able to offer himself to me in the same way. I know that relationships aren't 50-50 and I'm not naive enough to believe they even should be.

. . . He wants to be loved, as all of us do, but he isn't capable of offering love in return - not in the way I sometimes need.
You're right in saying that relationships aren't 50/50. They are 100/100. What I mean is that each person is 100% responsible for their own part in the relationship, and we all give 100% of what we're capable of giving. It may not seem like he is giving the same as you are, but maybe it is simply that he is giving 100% of what he is able to give, and that the conflict may be coming from how you look at it. Sure, he may be holding back, hesitant to commit more, and perhaps even being lazy about what he can give, but still that is part and parcel of who he is and being 100% true to himself. It is always a challenge to accept something that does not fit into our mental pictures of how we think things should be, but that doesn't mean it isn't working or beneficial to you both just the way it is.

It seems you want a sense of balance and equal give-and-take in this relationship. Equanimity, a mental state of "evenness," is about having emotional stability, satisfaction, and a feeling of composure -- but that comes from awareness and acceptance of what is present in our lives at the moment. Finding that sense of equanimity in relationships is not necessarily about each person giving the same.

Whether poly or mono, we all hold onto fantasies about relationships. But our fantasies aren't always what's best for us, or rather, they are not always better than what we've already got. I am trying to deal with that now, with a fairly new relationship, only two months old, and I also have an internal conflict between how I think it should be and how it is, and sometimes this is directly due to his illness. Recently, I am realizing he is as present and alive and giving to me as he can possibly be, even though I sometimes "think" it should be more, and more, and more. I think I have just entered a stage of acceptance about this relationship and it feels pretty good to have that. The fact remains that we have a good time together, care about each other, he feels good about who he is when he's with me, and I feel good about who I am when I'm with him.

I have always believed that that is the true measure of if a relationship is working or not -- it isn't about how it fits into certain parameters I've dreamed about, it's about how I am affected by it and how I feel about myself when we're together. Do I feel satisfied with what is? And is my esteem in good shape when I'm with someone? Of course, only I am responsible for my self-esteem, but there are toxic people or situations that can chip away at it. And enough disappointments can erode my satisfaction. But the big question for me is always, do I feel okay about myself when I'm with someone? And if I'm not, how much of it is a number I'm doing on myself, and how much is it something he is doing? If the scales start tipping away from feeling well in myself, satisfied, having equanimity, and toward the direction of feeling shitty about myself, whether my problem stems from my own mental processes or something the other person is doing, then I know there is trouble and something that needs to be changed.
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Last edited by nycindie; 05-01-2014 at 03:28 AM.
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Old 08-29-2011, 02:54 PM
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SourGirl SourGirl is offline
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I agree with the previous responses.

I am someone who doesn`t want the people I am dating, to treat or feel about me, equal to their spouse.
However, it has nothing to do with depression or self-worth. Or fear of kids, etc. As TP suggested, make sure being secondary, isn`t because he feels second rate.

Be careful of the 'I want' fantasy as nycindie suggested, but also be careful of giving more then you receive. Sometimes relationships are lop-sided, but in that case, I would be uncomfortable receiving more then I could give.
Maybe that is a good way to approach your boyfriend ? Ask him about his feelings regarding the way love is given and received. Ask him if he feels there are ways he would like to express more to you, or give more, or anything he wants to work towards of his own accord.

Basically give him the opportunity to set forth his own ideas, rather then directing them to specific avenues. He might be one to express himself in unconventional ways, at which point you need to decide if those ways make you feel truly loved the way you desire.
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Old 08-29-2011, 05:06 PM
trueRiver trueRiver is offline
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I have suffered from depression, and can identify with your bf.

Like other contributors, I wonder how much of his wanting to be in a relationship with a poly, and to be the secondary in that, is a matter of him feeling he has not got a lot to give.

However, I would not suggest making this point in the form that you want to get as much as you give: if he feels he has little to give, he might interpret what you are saying as a request to cut down what you are giving to match his perception of what he does give.

Instead, I recommend finding ways he can support you: whatever they are: emotional or practical or whatever. (Real ways, don't pretend, of course). Emphasise them along the lines of 'if you can do X it will help me a lot'.
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Old 08-30-2011, 01:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SourGirl View Post
Be careful of the 'I want' fantasy as nycindie suggested, but also be careful of giving more then you receive.
Yes, I agree, and that's always a tricky place to be.
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Old 08-31-2011, 05:11 AM
booklady78 booklady78 is offline
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Thank you so much for your responses, they really have given me a lot to think about.

I really hesitated to use the term "secondary" as I dislike the label, I was struggling to find more appropriate words.

I do agree that I need to approach a conversation with him in terms of what support he is able to provide, rather than what he's not doing.

I can appreciate the differences in both my husband and boyfriend, their differences are what makes each relationship special to me. Feeling like I'm walking on eggshells around my boyfriend is an adjustment. I'm very used to being able to speak my mind freely and I find that my timing and approach as well as his energy levels and emotional state can be a delicate balance.
I really wanted the perspective of poly folks in similar situations as much of the literature available on depression is specifically monogamous. I've been reading books and browsing through forums about depression and they are a bit overwhelming. The depression forums that I've found were, quite honestly, negative and full of hopelessness. So many people aren't able to stay together through mental illness.

I would agree that more of a support network for him would really help a lot. I've encouraged him to reach out to other friends who have experienced depression and are happy to be there for him. He hasn't taken them up on it as of yet. I also have a real problem with medicating a mental illness without any ongoing therapy. He just goes in to a doctor every 6 months to adjust his dosage. Medication does help, I don't disagree with him taking it. I believe that he needs help to better understand how his depression affects him. He wants to go through life with things as calm as possible, but when shit happens, he doesn't seem able to cope very well.

I don't know what the future holds, but I was looking for a bit of hope. I believe your answers have provided me with that and I truly appreciate it.
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