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Background

My now ex-girlfriend and I have dated for nearly three years (both nearly in our 30s). Up until some months ago, our relationship was the perfect one everybody is looking for. In short, we would never argue or be upset with each other, we had similar tastes for almost everything and the same goals in life, both deeply in love with each other.

However, since the end of last year, she has had several personal and financial setbacks that have put her under a lot of pressure and stress, which she is struggling to deal with. Over the last few months, she has been closing up more and more, not wanting to talk about her feelings at all and getting colder towards me, but as far as I know this has been a repeated behaviour towards most people she knows.

As a consequence of those setbacks, she seems to have changed dramatically her life goals and is cutting some friendships she has had for a long time. In general, it seems as if she is trying to cope with her problems by closing up and pushing everybody out of her life.

At the end, and as a product of this behaviour, the situation between us got unsustainable, with frequent arguments and both losing the enthusiasm for the relationship and she decided that she wanted to end it in a friendly way.

During the break-up, she had moments when she was eager to talk about things, opening up and admitting that she is not dealing with these issues properly, but most of the time if I try to talk about why things are going the way they are, she says that I am trying to influence her opinion and force her to stay with me.

On top of this, she has always been very introverted and I was the only person she shared her feelings with. She has many friends but doesn't consider any of them to be close enough to her as to talk about deep stuff like this.


Question

As she has admitted before, she is not dealing with her problems properly. I do care a lot about her and I am worried that she might regret in the long term some decisions she is taking now or that she could take soon, making drastic changes in her life impulsively. The question is:

How can I bring up to my ex-girlfriend that she needs mental-health support, probably professional, without her thinking that I am trying to push her to get back with me (as if I was hinting it is temporary and that she will want to be back with me)?

  • 1
    Hi! It seems this question is attracting a small range of answers saying 'dont tell people you think they should visit a shrink, it's rude and not your business'. Can you clarify whether you really want to do so, or if this is a bit more nuanced, more focused on suggesting the idea than telling her she should/needs? – Tinkeringbell Apr 18 at 20:23
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    @Tinkeringbell The point of my question is how I could bring it up (suggest, never give the order or tell her to) avoiding conflict and sounding patronising, while making explicit that there are no double-meanings in the sense of not stating a relation between us breaking up and her having personal problems to deal with. – BananaMilkShake Apr 19 at 21:37
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    Also, I have seen some answers mentioning that it is not of my business and that after the break-up I am trying to put the blame on her. That is not the case as she herself admitted not dealing well with her problems and that maybe she needed help. My aim is to help her make the decision of seeking that help because now that we are no longer together has a nearly non-existent support network. – BananaMilkShake Apr 19 at 21:41
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I'm really concerned for you. I know you're in a difficult situation right now. I know I would need help if I were in your situation. I understand you're not comfortable coming to me for help about this, but I think you should talk to somebody about this.

This is part of an answer. I'm trying to remember the rest, but it was over 25 years ago. I was actually a bystander for this. The person speaking was a former roommate, and the person receiving was part of his "it's complicated." It didn't work out as well as he would have hoped, but that was only because her answer was basically, "Yeah, I tried going for professional help; I've exhausted my options on those."

There are a lot of people who would have extra difficulty with hearing this from an ex, but from the breakup you've described, I'm not sure, but I don't think that would be a problem in your case. It is probably important that you don't suggest/introduce attempting to get back together with her while she's having these difficulties. If she suggests it... I think I'd want to tread very carefully, not speaking for or against the idea.

If she accused you of trying to get back together again, I think the response I've seen work best is,

I'm not thinking about that at all right now, one way or the other. I'm thinking about a friend who is in a rough situation I don't think I can help with. I'd like to help, but I understand I really can't do anything significant. So I'm trying to see if I can at least help in an insignificant way, because that's all I got left.

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    Hi Ed. Could you explain why you think telling them such a thing would work best according to you? How do you think they will respond to it? I know you already explained what personal experience you have to answer this, but I'd like to know what to expect as a response from the person who's told this. Thanks! – avazula Apr 18 at 5:40
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Caveat: I struggled from depression and suicidal thoughts throughout the whole year of 2017 and part of 2018 after surviving to a terror attack. At that time I had been with my partner for 2 years already.


I'm going to challenge you a little bit. I don't think you could ask someone to seek therapy without sounding rude. Anyhow it is phrased, I'd understand it as

Hey, I care about you but right now you're messed up. You need to do something about it.

That being said, I'm a sensible person. But I wouldn't be surprised to learn it's a common reaction in depressed people. Your self-esteem is already at an all-time low, so it's hurtful to know you're also disappointing other people - and suggesting therapy would imply disappointment to me.

What I would do instead, is to be present and listen to her when she wants to talk about their issues with you (if you want it to, of course. Being friends with exes can be challenging, especially soon after the breakup). Seeking therapy is a personal decision. The more you try to make people seek it, the more reluctant they'll be to go see someone. The most helpful thing you can do is to be an attentive, non-judgmental ear- if that's possible for you.

If you really would like her to seek therapy and somehow incite her to do so, what you could do is to express your concerns about her wellbeing. You'd need to be careful about the phrasing and stick to neutral observations as much as possible.

I'd go with something along the lines of

Hey Ana. I know you had to face a lot lately. I hope you know people care about you and that you're not alone to deal with this.

This doesn't say how you think she should feel about the bad stuff that happened to her, neither does it imply that you'd like to go back together. It just reminds her of the presence of her friends.

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