-- Question for John --
I was in a 2 year long-distance relationship. We recently decided to live in the same city, so I moved. I had a lot of trouble adjusting. I wasn’t enjoying my new job or living situation. I over-reacted to everything, was much edgier and angry at times. I called her selfish and we bickered. She felt I wasn’t happy and she wasn’t happy. She broke up with me without much warning.
Since, I have done 2 weeks of self-analysis and realized why she broke up with me. I talked to her and she agreed for the reasons. I have since realized that I lost sight of my real happiness… her. I admitted where I went wrong and how I would do things differently and I asked for a second chance. She said she needed some time and I gave her that, sending flowers and a card after the first week.
She emailed me a thank you for the flowers. Now, I don’t know what to do next. I miss her so much and long for her. I am very depressed without her and think about her all the time. The whole thing causes lack of sleep and appetite. What should I do next and how can I get over this depression?
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-- Answer from John --
I think your final question has the answer right there in it. What you should do next is to focus only on the internal goal of getting through your depression. The reason I say this is that as far as the relationship goes, you are now experiencing far too much anxiety and neediness. This is way out of balance and does not lead to a healthy place of relating. In some ways, when you uprooted and went to the new location, you report that you were upset by your life situation and this translated into not coming from a balanced healthy place in the relationship — that you brought along some extra emotional baggage and this put pressure on the relationship — perhaps too much pressure. Now the internal emotional baggage has changed from the predictable pressures of relocating — and become the pressures of breaking up and diving into a depression over that. Previously, the only viable solution would have been for you to deal better with your own internal pressures and to be able to relate to her from a more centered, balanced, and hence loving place. Because when you are free of the internal pressures, you are naturally loving. Now you have these other internal pressures to deal with — and you might think the solution for them is to get back together with her as soon as possible. But that is the neediness and anxiety talking — and I don’t think it works that way. The answer is not to be found on the outside. It is inside of you.
You will become much stronger and able to co-create a lasting successful relationship if you learn to better master your internal domain. This includes your thoughts and feelings. Basically, thoughts and feelings will control your behavior. So before, the internal pressure resulted in some non-constructive behaviors with her, which ruined things. As you learn to better master your internal domain, you will have more choices on how to communicate and act in the relationship. You know, all relationships go through periods of stress — and circumstances never just stay one way. So ultimately, you need to get better ways to work with your own emotions and thinking if there is any hope to face and overcome the inevitable challenges that come up in relationship.
Depression is an excellent opportunity to do this. Depression is also a very treatable condition. Please know that — even if you are feeling hopeless. Actually, know that feeling hopeless is the depression talking. It is not factual. Counseling is the best way to go. Especially with a counselor who has had good experience working with depression. The best treatments may combine a short-term course of some anti-depressant with cognitive-behavioral therapy, in which you learn to work with your thinking patterns. Thinking patterns are usually a prime target for therapy, because in depression there is an overwhelming propensity to sink into a pattern of negative thoughts, which only deepen the negative feelings. Sleep and appetite are also affected — as you are experiencing. But know this. You can get out of this depression. And in the process you can also build up new inner strengths that will help you succeed in a longterm loving relationship.
If you want to delay counseling and try self-help approaches, I would recommend a book by David Burns which is a classic self-help book called “Feeling Good”. I would also suggest you download our materials below, which suggest alternative ways to work with negative feelings, presented in the context of how to do so and support a growing, loving relationship.
I also offer tools for better communication — regardless of how you are feeling at the time — and for creating a powerful shared vision with your partner. Based on over 20 years of working with thousands of people to heal their relationships in my marriage retreat, I have written a relationship help book you can download now or get in print.
But please do seriously consider getting help from a good counselor. Just because anti-depressants may be beneficial does not mean you need to find a counselor who can prescribe them. I would look for a psychologist or other counselor who knows and works with both cognitive-behavioral techniques as well as body-based emotional processing techniques — and who also can directly discuss with you the possible benefits of various kinds of anti-depressants and who have experience collaborating with doctors who can prescribe them. You can get the prescription for an anti-depressant from any medical doctor.