Dear Dr. G.,
I have been in a relationship for almost 3 years with this girl. In the
beginning we couldn't get enough of one another. It was always an excitement
to see one another. As of late, I have been noticing that I am lacking emotion. I
can see that she cares deeply for me and loves me until the end. She is just as
she was in the beginning. For me on the other hand, yes I do love her and
care for her, but it feels that I am just so used to us that I've almost
given up trying. I have this urge to be on my own. I have only dated 2 girls
in my life that have taken up all but 1 year since 6th grade. I have no sense
of being on my own. I would like to offer a break but she has underlying
depression which scares me to think what she could do.
I also don't want to be the hypocrite who stays with the girl because I
don't want harm to come to her. My mind is racing in circles without a
solution. I am losing sleep over it and would appreciate help.
Thank you for listening,
A stressed teen
Dear Stressed Teen,
I am delighted that you are writing to me about your series of dilemmas and they certainly involve very stressful choices. Let us define your dilemmas. On the one hand, you would like to break up with your girlfriend but on the other hand you are concerned that a breakup would negatively affect your girlfriend's mental health. Let us address this first dilemma. It is not healthy for anyone to stay in a relationship because of fear. In your case, you are to your credit sensitive and don't want to hurt your girlfriend. On the the other hand, you are concerned about staying with her since your feelings have changed. This is very understandable.
Now on to another dilemma. You have dated intensely since the 6th grade. Wow. I am not sure how old you are now other than knowing that you are a teenager and are likely in high school. On the one hand, you seem to like to have a girlfriend. Yet, on the other hand, you are curious to see what it is like to be on your own.
I am going to offer you my best possible advice for dealing with these issues. First, I respect and understand your desire to be independent and not attached to a girlfriend at all times. I believe that this would be healthy for you at this point and would give you room to learn who you are outside of a relationship. I greatly respect your concern about upsetting your girlfriend who is dealing with depression. If you break up with her in a kind and gentle manner it is my hope that she will appreciate that tremendously. And, if you are concerned that her reaction is extreme and may lead to self-harm then please connect with her parents or whoever else is a responsible person in her life. If she is dealing with depression, even before a possible breakup, she should be getting professional help. Yes, her depression may get worse following a breakup but my hope is that her family, friends and a professional can provide her with the help that she needs. You will start to resent your girlfriend if you stay with her because you don't want to cause her any distress. You alone are not responsible for her issues with depression and you are not doing anyone any good by staying in a relationship that appears to have lost energy. Your girlfriend might even be relieved by the breakup. The outcomes of breakups are hard to predict.
I suggest that you start to see what it is like to be out there on your own. Perhaps, you will make more friends and develop new interests. You are very young to have been in relationships for so many years. Don't be surprised if the transition to being single feels a bit uncomfortable for you. We all grow and learn from a certain level of discomfort. I wish you luck and please get back to me.