My boyfriend of one year, who I have been looking at apartments with, broke up with me out of the blue. He has been feeling suicidal, which he dropped on me as we were walking into my parents house. I was completely caught off guard and said this was a selfish (cringe) time to disclose this information since we are always together. I apologized right after we had dealt with my family and tried to talk but he didn’t want to. He said everything was fine. I offered we go home and he said he wanted to stay. We went out on a boat trip with my family the next day. My boyfriend got really drunk and got into a fight with me because he wanted me to drive him to his friends (we were in the middle of the ocean). I tried hugging him to show I loved him and it was okay and to calm down but that just made it worse. He said I tried to smother him, broke up with me in front of my family, and forced my family to take him to a private beach where he waited for someone to pick him up. Once we both got back home a few days later we tried to talk but he told me that I never supported his mental health. I had no idea he felt this way, that episodes like this were so intense. He told me he had bipolar but he never talked about it. I was really involved in finding him a therapist and I was always there but he would tell me he just “needed to be quiet” and he was “okay.” I’m not sure what to do. He won’t talk to me anymore and has wiped me from his life. This is the total opposite of the person who asked my grandfather (one month ago) for permission to marry me. I’m extremely lost. I have PTSD and so all of this is extremely triggering for me. I’ve been completely open with my mental health and the boundaries I need. I don’t know if I should keep checking on him or leave him alone. I left him alone because he said he wanted space when this first happened but then he threw in my face that i wasn’t there for him when we did talk.

Leave him alone for right now. Regardless of what the diagnosis is for your boyfriend, the timing is too important to ignore. Whether we blame this on his illness, insecurity, nerves, lack of self-confidence, or simply inappropriate behavior your boyfriend sabotaged the relationship as it was on the brink of blossoming. As I see it your boyfriend didn’t break up with you during his episode as much as his episode came during the greatest intimacy of your relationship. He asks permission to marry you, then announces he is feeling suicidal when walking into your parent’s home. You seeing this as selfish is an honest reaction, but it isn’t so much selfish as it is interesting timing, which I think is what you are reacting to.

Based on the timing alone I’d say he was having great difficulty in tolerating good things happening in his life with you. This would explain why he moved toward greater intimacy and once it became imminent he found a way to bail. Also, he didn’t take you up on the offer to go home because (my guess) he was determined (at least unconsciously) to sabotage it. Hence the drinking episode and impossible demand for you to follow through on.

This isn’t something you can fix or couple therapy can help. Your ex-boyfriend has some major issues in his life that need to be dealt with personally and professionally. They aren’t going to improve with your love and support if they can’t be taken in. As much as these things are necessary for all types of recovery a person must be able to receive them. If he is hell-bent on sabotaging your best efforts at supporting him and greater intimacy—you’ll want to give him a great deal of space—and work on nurturing yourself for now.

The find help tab at the top of the page can help you find a therapist in your area.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral