How Can I Help?

by Kristin
(Austin TX)

I have been dating a guy on and off for a year. He is a good person, he has a good heart but he has many emotional issues that have been destructive to our relationship. He has very low self esteem, and the main issue in our relationship is that he joins online dating sites and talks to multiple women. I know for a fact that he does not meet anyone in person and that he has not been unfaithful to me (yet), but I believe he needs this type of attention to make himself feel better about himself and feel desired. The other issues of our relationship were that he could never open up and talk about his feelings. He has a drinking problem so the only way he would ever be open with me was when he was drunk. I have broken up with him because I cannot be in a relationship like this, it is detrimental to my mental health.

However, I still care for him a great deal. He is very unhappy, very depressed. He calls me all the time and tells me how sad he is and he is usually drinking. I have decided that I want to be there for him, as a friend. My goal is to get him to go see a therapist. I think that he has many deep rooted issues that I am not qualified to deal with, but I don't want to desert him because we have been through a lot together. Right now he won't discuss the idea of getting help. The thing is, he has not said that he DOESN'T want to get help, he simply won't talk about it. I know that he knows he has a problem, it's just so difficult to get him to discuss it with me. How can I go about talking to him about this? And in your opinion, should I even be doing this? Would it be better for me just to abandon him? I'm not sure what to do. I know that people who don't want therapy are not usually helped by it, but I truly believe that deep down he does want to get help. I feel like if I don't help him, nobody will and he will keep getting worse. I just want to see him happy and healthy.

Ben's Answer:

Kristin, you seem to have a clear understanding of your ex-boyfriend, but you are falling into a bit of a co-dependent relationship with him. Breaking up with him was a very healthy thing for you to do, respecting your own feelings and needs - but your strong desire to save him might drag you back down. We can never make another person want to get help. He's using you to soothe his feelings, just like he uses online dating sites to soothe his ego. But as long as he is still drinking and avoiding getting help, he's simply using you for a temporary fix, and you're enabling him. As his friend, it's fine to tell him the truth even if it hurts, but don't let him drag you through the mud with him. Ask yourself, "who is working harder to fix his problems - him, or me?"
He should probably be in AA or similar support network, and should see a therapist. If he's not, then he's stuck in denial and being self-destructive, and no amount of support from you is going to help him get himself together.

It's not abandonment if you tell him you'll be there for him when he gets into therapy and AA and starts taking his recovery seriously.

Take Care,

Ben Schwarcz

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