My fiance has been in counseling for Dysthymia for about 6 months now, this is the third counselor he's seen and he seems to finally be making progress, which I think is wonderful. At the same time, though, I find my patience is wearing thin and I find that I am losing myself more and more, just supporting him. It has been almost 3 years now.
I guess the worst thing now is that I hate the word "happy." He has been on a quest to make himself happy for a long time and perhaps it doesn't come naturally to him and he has to keep trying. And I've tried to help, but have basically exhausted myself keeping him "entertained." He constantly has needs to "meet new people" "do new things" and I have been tiring myself out to find these people and things. We have gone on road trips every weekend for the past six months (his idea - I actually get motion sick from them), I have introduced him to all of my friends and we have gone to countless clubs, bars, parties and gatherings. While each time he seems like he's having a good time, and I am able to have a decent time myself, I am plagued later on with "why don't we do anything new?" "I'm bored" "we should be happy more."
I can't just book time to be happy, happiness has always come easily with me and it has come naturally, but now I feel like I have to turn it on and off to keep him from being bored or depressed. I just can't live like that! I'm afraid to tell him when I'm feeling down because I'm afraid it will set him back in his quest for a positive atmosphere... but I just can't be happy all the time... in fact, when I hear him suggest we do anything lately that's upbeat or fun, I get scared and nervous and resentful, because I know it will never be enough... and it's hard to put on a smiling face when I'm feeling all those things. I guess I'm tired of entertainment, I'm tired of being ecstatic and overjoyed, I dread hearing "we need to do happy things" - to me that sounds like "you have never made me happy, so why don't you work on it more" or "what you're doing is not enough, I want more" or "you just can't satisfy me".
I'm afraid I don't know how to approach him about this subject and still be sensitive to his depression. I love my fiance very much and I am glad he is motivated, I feel awful for resenting his quest for positivism! But lately I just hate happy. I want the freedom to feel down sometimes - ANYTHING BUT HAPPY!! I'm just afraid to be me, is there anything I can do?
You need to express your real feelings to your fiance, and let the chips fall where they may. In the 12-step program there's a saying: "Say what you mean without being mean," and that's exactly how you can break the news to him, that his incessant push for happiness is driving you bonkers.
You say you're worried that your truth will set your fiance back by depressing him. Maybe it will. Maybe it won't. I believe you're afraid that telling him the truth will lead to splitting up. And I suppose that's a possibility. Which makes telling the truth risky. I say not telling the truth is equally risky, because your resentment is rising.
So, telling the truth is a good next step, even though it might get a little messy. Do it lovingly. If you want to, do it in the context of a joint therapy session, where the therapist will serve as a "safety net" for you both. But do it.
You need to respect your fiance's progress with his depression, and respect your own process at the same time. Have faith that when you speak your truth, both of you will find new resources to move the relationship forward through this.
On another note: I personally believe that when someone has to work so hard to be happy, something's wrong. Your fiance is filling his time with doing, and not feeling. You're putting lots of pressure on yourself to help keep that sort of struggle going, and you actually might not be helping him by doing that. Your experience is living proof that even happiness when made into a chore, can be stressful. Find a way to support your fiance in his quest without being swallowed up by it.
This question was answered by Andy Bernay-Roman, RN, MS, LMHC, NCC, LMT. He is a nationally certified counselor in private psychotherapy practice in South Florida working with individuals, couples, and families with a deep-feeling therapy approach. Andy's medical background as an ICU nurse contributes to his success with clients with difficult medical diagnoses and/or chronic physical conditions. He also serves as head of the Psychological Support Department of West Palm Beach's Hippocrates Health Institute.For more information visit: http://www.deepfeeling.com/