Hi, thanks for reading this. My partner (we’ll call him X) and I have been dating for 2.5 years. We both live with our parents in our hometown and in university, but I study in another city where I have my own place.

I have a history of mental illness, X on the other hand was newly diagnosed with possible BPD/borderline this summer after seeking help for suicidal thoughts.

He is 21, but ever since he sought help, his parents have been manipulative and guilt tripping him. They say his actions have destroyed the family and now he has to fix the relationship and build back trust. They are taking away his license, car, and even phone, and have banned him from leaving the house by himself. They are also against him talking to me, even though I’m his only major support system.

X recognizes that this treatment isn’t helping, but his parents ignore everything he says and guilt trips him to the point where he doesn’t feel safe and feels worse after talking to them. He feels trapped and in the 3 weeks since he was discharged from the hospital, we’ve only seen each other twice. X is afraid to stand up to them out of fear they will be even more controlling and he doesn’t’ see a way out.

In a few weeks I’ll be moving away for 1.5 years d/t school. I wanted to spend this time by seeing him as much as possible before I have to go, but this situation makes it nearly impossible and I despise his parents for it.

Additionally, In the last week, my dog died suddenly and a lot of traumatic events happened in my life. I want us to be there for each other, but he has to keep all contact a secret, making it hard for him to comfort me. I also feel guilty by telling him my issues and putting more stresses in his life.

He is my biggest support system as well and it has been so hard. We love each other very much, but this entire situation is taking a serious toll on me and I don’t know what to do or how to help.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much you can do to remedy this situation. He apparently feels unable to leave his home or he simply can’t afford to live on his own. I imagine that if he had the funds to move out, he would have done so already. For now, he might be stuck living with his parents, however poorly they are treating him. He should strive to move out as soon as he’s ready, both emotionally and financially. That would be the goal but at this time, it doesn’t seem as though it’s a possibility. In that case, there’s very little that you have the power to do.

The best that you can do is support him from a distance. You’re going to be moving away soon and will likely be busy with your own life. Long distance relationships can be a challenge even in the best of circumstances. Hopefully, he will be undergoing treatment which could help him to overcome the current difficulties in his life. The fact that he had been in the hospital hopefully means that he was referred for outpatient treatment. With treatment, his symptoms could improve to the point where he could more effectively deal with his parents and his life in general.

Emotionally, he may not be in the right mindset for a relationship. Having been in the hospital suggests that his symptoms were severe. Despite being out of the hospital, he continues to experience a lack of stability, seemingly because of the way his parents are treating him. Being disconnected from his partner is likely contributing to his emotional instability but with time and the right treatment, his mental health could improve. Once he is more stable and his symptoms are under control, your relationship may prosper. Until then, it is important to adjust your expectations.

It is important to keep in mind that his parents may be reacting the way they are because they are worried about him. I’m not suggesting that their treatment is right or justified. I’m only attempting to explain why they might be behaving in a certain way. If he had recently been hospitalized, then his life was likely in danger. Psychiatric hospitalization typically only occurs when an individual poses an imminent danger to themselves or to others. His being suicidal either means that he was on the verge of harming himself or he did attempt to harm himself, an action which may have occurred in their home, under their roof. Because they are concerned about his life and condition, they may be overprotective of their son. Like you, they may be struggling with knowing how to react to a loved one wanting to end their lives. There is no “playbook” on how to respond to near suicides. It is disconcerting and disorienting and his parents may be doing the best they can.

Apparently, the two of you can’t physically be together and thus the best that you can do is attempt to support him from afar. Write him letters, make contact when you can via the Internet, email, text messaging, etc. Encourage him to stay in treatment. The more positive support and encouragement he has from those around him, the better the possible outcome.

I wish I had a more satisfactory answer for you but not everything is easily fixable. With time, maturity and the right treatment, there’s a high probability that he will overcome these issues. Hopefully, then the two of you can be together. Good luck with your efforts. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle