My boyfriend is an incredible person who possesses so many of the traits I'm looking for in someone. But, recently, he has been extremely negative about his job. He says that the last two years have set him back five and that there is no possible way he can earn what he deserves and be happy at the same time. He has an unhealthy bout of "grass is greener" syndrome, thinking that he would be totally happy if he were rich, or if he had the right political connections within his company. On top of this, he has demonstrated some worrisome behavior, including that he gets extremely angry and upset--often for things that are long past--and often at people who aren't responsible for his troubles. It is not uncommon for him to direct this anger at me--picking a fight over something inconsequential (sometimes for just repeating something he said minutes earlier). When he is in this state, there is no reasoning with him. I try to talk to him about possible solutions, and he shuts me down every time, almost as if he is intent on being miserable. This makes me feel powerless as I want him to at least consider my suggestions, even if he ultimately turns them down (although I think I realize that he is too depressed right now for any of my hopeful messages to resonate). My creeping fear is that he will approach all problems in this defeatist manner--which I don't think is productive. I'm also worried that, on this current track, he will never be at peace with himself, which will affect my happiness too. While I know some of his behaviors are unhealthy, I realize that I am not perfect, and that we all bring our "issues" into a relationship. I'm just having a hard time putting this particular problem into perspective and determining how big of a hurdle it is going to be. What are your thoughts?
If he's lashing out at you, don't try and solve his problems. That's not the right "medication" for him. You have to be firm and put up a boundary, rather than be soft and yielding. You need to use an assertive tone and tell him to STOP making other people the victim of his own misery. It's not your fault he's miserable and you won't let him get away with bringing you down. If he wants to talk, fine. If he doesn't, he's free to stay quiet and wait out his misery.
If he keeps fighting, be firmer. It may not be natural for you, but it's the right thing to do, so do it. If he becomes enraged, walk away. If he ever gets abuse or even threatening, walk away permanently.
If, on the other hand, he asks for help, you have a few options that you'll need to evaluate based on what's happening with him. If he's really looking for a solution, explore solutions with him using your combined common sense. If he's just frustrated, then just say you get it and that you think it'll work out. You don't have to convince him that it'll work out, just say it and let it marinate with him. If he's sad, just listen and try your best to help him stop mourning the past and focus on how he can move forward intelligently.
Remember, your job isn't to make him happy or fix him. Don't base your self-worth on hot much he changes. That's a recipe for problems. You can help him best by showing him that he has to be responsible about his feelings and not let them wreak havoc on everyone else. If he can figure this out, great. If he can't, I would really consider whether you want to date someone like that.
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