Ask Eve: My Boyfriend Walked Out On Me, But Is It His Depression?

Hi Eve

I have just read your article on high functioning depression and feel like I can relate to it. Just before Christmas my boyfriend of 18 months walked out on our relationship completely out of the blue. We were in a blissfully happy relationship. Sadly in October he lost his grandfather very suddenly. It was around this time that he said some concerning things – ‘I am not in a good place, I am not in control of anything in my life and I want to shut everything out. Sometimes I feel no emotion but other times I just want to cry’ – however at the time, I put these down to him grieving. He had never expressed anything like this before and as he said these things during the time between the death and funeral I didn’t imagine it to be anything more. A little while after the funeral he seemed to resume to his usual self, we went out and did the things we love, we had a fantastic trip to Europe and only a couple of weeks before Christmas he was planning us a trip to Asia in the spring.

We had our own places, but we spent practically every night together at one or the others. We had both had rather busy social calendars during December and due to this we had not seen as much of each other as we usually did. He seemed a little distant a couple of days before ‘that day’ but nothing that would have indicated what was to come. It all started with a text ‘I’m finding it all really hard at the moment, I know I’m hurting you and that’s not what I want but I don’t think I can give you what you want’. I was in shock and didn’t really know what he was saying or trying to say, it came out of nowhere. We met up and when he saw me he had a huge smile on his face and went straight in to kiss me on the lips. I was shocked and didn’t really understand what was happening. We talked, he said he needs to figure out who he is and what he wants, he isn’t himself, doesn’t think he can give me what I want, he thought we would book the holiday for the spring and everything would be fine, he had bought me presents for Christmas and he hadn’t plan this. I was completely devastated and blindsided.

I didn’t then hear from him until I text him a couple of days after Christmas. I thought, if I just give him a bit of space/ time to think about this, he will realise this isn’t really what he wants. We agreed to meet again and talk. I asked him if he missed me and he told me he doesn’t miss people. He said he wants to be on his own with time to work out who he is, he feels like he never fulfils or achieves anything, he likes spending time on his own maybe a little too much. He knew he was being horrible to me and this upset him because he knew it wasn’t right yet he didn’t know why he was doing it and he didn’t want to do that. I said this isn’t the him that I met and feel in love with and he told me that ‘he’ was gone and that he wasn’t coming back. He hugged me, he broke down in tears and he left.

A couple of days later, I went to his whilst he was at work to collect my belongings from his place. I was in a daze, this whole thing has felt like a blur. The following day, he came to mine to collect his stuff and it was a struggle to get him to even talk but he did briefly. He told me – ‘I’m not me, I’m not happy, I don’t push myself, I need to do this to sort myself out. It isn’t you or the relationship, these problems are all mine, they are in my head.’ He said ‘people always try to convince me I am making the wrong decision but this time no one is going to persuade me’. When I said to him he acted like he loved me and wanted to be with me, he replied (angrily) ‘I’m a good actor then aren’t I’. When I said if it wasn’t acting what was it, he didn’t respond. He told me I should hate him and blame him, he couldn’t understand why I thought he was amazing, he is an f***ing idiot. I said I can’t hate him, I love him and I wasn’t going to do that just to make him feel better, he said ‘nothing will make me feel better’. He told me he couldn’t make me happy, he wished life could be simpler, he didn’t want to be here doing this but its just what he has to do. He said if we stay together and in two years time he still isn’t happy then it just makes it ten times harder. He said he doesn’t look further than one week to the next, he hasn’t done for a while. When I asked why we couldn’t talk this through he replied ‘because people always try to convince me and I’m sticking with this decision’. As he left, he told me he was sorry, I told him I loved him and kissed him on the lips. He broke down in tears (his face pained) and he left.

We haven’t met up since, he doesn’t want to. We have exchanged a few texts but none of them sound like the guy I know. The wording seems text book like. Any time I ask him a question, he gets on the defence. He has told me that I should not dwell on what he says because he will say what he thinks is the right thing to say at the time. He text me to say he thought I should know that he booked the trip to Asia for himself.

I know that he has insecurities, these I think stem from his previous relationship. He was married briefly for 3 months and his ex initiated the split. He has no self-confidence. He has said to me ‘what happens when you get bored of me’ and ‘I don’t deserve you’. Even when we would talk about work, he was always putting himself down. He had had a stressful time at work lately with a promotion that he didn’t think he was ready. He doesn’t share problems with family or friends. I am the only one that he speaks to and that is only when I guide or prompt him. He has briefly talked about his marriage but he has told me that he has never spoken to anyone about the separation or divorce (which is in the final stages now). I did once suggest that maybe he would benefit from talking to someone, perhaps a counsellor and he shut me down straight away.

I know he is putting on a mask, going to work, hanging out with friends and acting like everything is fine. But deep down I know it isn’t. I know he is struggling but I also know that he wont tell or talk to anyone. I have thought about writing him a letter to perhaps re-iterate the concerns he has expressed and that I am here for him. I know that our relationship isn’t the problem here but I know that right now he feels like ending it is his only option. I want to support him in anyway I can and if you are able to offer any guidance in how or what I can do, I would be so very grateful.



Dear Ophelia,

Thank you for writing to me, I’m so sorry to hear what you’re going through! I can hear how heartbroken you are. I know exactly how heartbreaking and tough this time has been for you, and although it doesn’t make it any easier, you should be so proud for staying so strong throughout this festive period. 

My first reaction to your message was that you’re right, he sounds very confused and insecure in his own life – and when traumatic events happen, we do (rightly or wrongly) take it out on the people closest to us. It does sound like a mental illness, whether it be depression or severe grief and not knowing how to handle it. Men are generally much worse at talking about things – and bottling them up really doesn’t help sadly. 

Going back to how things started, spending a lot of time together is completely natural, and December is always a tricky time because of work lunches, seeing friends and family and generally a busy time! It really doesn’t sound like you are the problem, the issue really does lie with him, and sadly no matter how much we want to help people, sometimes they simply won’t be helped. 

It was clearly a frustrating time for him and you were unfortunately heavily caught in the firing line. You did well to give him space, as that’s what he asked for – but by the sounds of how things took a turn, I feel like he mentally checked out of the relationship and really needs to work on himself. Sadly being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t know what they want will only cause heartache – they tend to blame others for their problems and that’s how people end up hurt. It sounds like he’s making excuses to get out of the relationship, but the fact that you are still there for him is incredibly commendable, especially how you haven’t given up. 

I’m really, really sorry for how everything played out that day – from the smile to you being so shocked and hurt. Sometimes the shock is worse than anything else because you’ve gone from thinking everything is great, to all of a sudden the world is crashing down beneath your feet and you have no control. The cold, fearful, nauseating feeling is so unbearable, so I’m sorry you had to feel that. 

One key piece of advice that I always rely on, is that you never truly know what people are capable of. You think you know someone, a version of that person who you see everyday and care about and love all their flaws and highlights – but no-one can truly know everything about another person. 

My advice in this situation, is that if it is mental illness, then it is something he has to come to terms with himself. The fact that he shot down the idea of counselling is really normal, especially in men, however right now you should just make him aware that you’re here for him, you’re not going anywhere and that you love him. But the fact that he’s completely pushed you away and isn’t talking to you at all is concerning. Even when we’re in a relationship with someone with depression or anxiety – the love is usually still there, or it’s more of a roller-coaster in terms of saying sorry and pushing you away, but the love should still be evident. 

Don’t forget relationships are a two-way street, you care about him deeply, but he’s made you feel so awful over quite a long period now it’s March. You’ve had to change your life and take your things away and he’s not contacting you. He probably genuinely does need to sort out the final stages of his divorce, learn what makes him happy, and get back to being him, but you’ve been constantly selfless in this whole situation and need to remember to look after yourself too. I know you just want to protect him and look out for him, but sometimes these things are too big for one person to handle – especially if you’ve been trying and he’s booked the trip to Asia alone. 

I’m sorry you’ve had to go through this and it really sounds like you need to see him, if only for your own sanity – if you don’t want to get over the relationship – I would speak to him and see if he really wants to be with you. If he continues his line of needing space etc, then I would take a massive step back (even though it is so so painful). 

I hope that helped a little bit, you know him better than me, so trust your gut instinct – be there for him, but be careful of running the risk of ending up even more hurt and rejected. 



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