I’ve wanted to write to you all lately, but I’ve been as overwhelmed with current events as everyone else. Nonetheless, I’ve gotten a few questions for the advice column, which reminds me that I still have the ability to connect with you all here. Despite feeling lost and confused, I am still here for you in whatever capacity I can offer. The question form is still open, and if you would rather talk to me directly and not share your question with the world, that’s fine too. Hit me up.
My SO has been very depressed since they lost their job. I am trying to balance being supportive and giving them time and space that they need with juggling being the sole source of income and managing various household tasks. My SO sleeps a lot and talks about pitching in with chores and bills but rarely delivers. I’ve expressed my frustrations and desire for my SO to pitch in more but as understanding as they claim to be, there is still no change in their behavior. It’s taken a toll on my mental health, and while I love my SO dearly, I’m feeling a bit resentful, overwhelmed, and lonely. Any thoughts?
Buddy, this sucks, and I’m really sorry. Losing a job is horrible under any circumstances, but right now, on top of everything else, it’s just brutal. The toll it takes is never just on the newly unemployed individual, is it? Your loved one is hurting, and their hurt leaks over, even though I’m sure they have the best of intentions. The more hurt we are, the harder it is to fight through it. Depression is a cruel demon. It tells us we’re no good, and it pushes us away from the people we need most. It takes the joy out of all the little things in life and it turns motivating into a major struggle. So when your loved one says they want to help more, they probably mean it, but then they just … can’t.
Still, your feelings are valid. No one wants to be stuck doing all the chores. In my house, we created The Shitty Chore Scoreboard to motivate ourselves. Granted, if your SO is depressed, making a game of the chores may come off as eye-rollingly obnoxious. Before you can get them to do the dishes, they may need some help lifting the depression. I don’t know how receptive your SO is to emotional support or how practiced they are in talking about their emotions. They may want to talk about the grief. Or they may want to do something fun that won’t make them think about it.
The challenge here is in making space for both of your feelings. If your SO doesn’t want to talk about the job loss, that’s OK, but your needs also need to be addressed. If it feels right to you, start a conversation along the lines of: “As your partner, I want to support you, and I also need some support. Can we talk about how we can both get our needs met?” Remember that your partner is your ally and that you are theirs. Framing the conversation in terms of mutual support can be validating and empowering to both of you.
I hear you saying you feel resentful, overwhelmed and lonely. You are not alone in that! I’m no expert at dealing with these feelings, especially in a year like this. My tactics so far include: Writing to my therapist about it, spending time alone, talking it out, and doubling down on my general self-care practices (meditation, movement, you know the drill). Reaching out to friends and loved ones who don’t live with you is also helpful right now. If you feel safe doing socially distanced outdoor activities with friends, I encourage you to do so. Seeing friends is the biggest treat I can imagine right now. Anything outdoors and socially distanced is a good option in my opinion.
It’s tricky to avoid letting our frustration and sadness about the world leak into how we treat our loved ones. And yet, that’s exactly what we all have to do. So while you’re processing your emotions, dig in to any hobby or self care routine that can absorb some of that energy. Be real with your partner about how you’re feeling, but don’t beat each other up about it.
Finally, I just want to give you permission to feel your feelings. Even in the best of times, many of us tell ourselves we shouldn’t feel certain things. We think we’re not supposed to feel angry at the people we love, or we tell ourselves our suffering isn’t valid because other people have it worse. We don’t want to deal with sadness and vulnerability, so we try to act strong. We are cruel to ourselves when we can’t take on these un-ending challenges without batting an eye. So if you’re engaging in that kind of mental self-harming, stop. If you feel like crying, cry. Sob, scream, and grieve as much as you need to. If you need to vent about everything, call a friend who you can trust to hold that space for you. It may feel like asking too much because we know everyone is suffering right now, but one of the things that heals suffering is connection, and supporting our friends through their suffering is one of the richest ways to connect. So while the suffering is terrible, the opportunity to connect, support, and heal together is immense. Personally, I recommend doing this via a phone call or video chat if you can. When you see the face of your friend and hear them reflecting your feelings and words back to you, that simple validation can be deeply soul-healing. But even if you have to just put it all in your journal, you deserve the space and the support to process what you’re feeling.