News flash: Man goes poof

DG reader Gayle wrote:

I was dating a man, then he quit his job of twenty years and seemed overwhelmed with stuff in his life. However, he kept assuring me we were fine. For months we talked every day — we knew exactly when to get a hold of each other. We had no secrets. I could even be at his place when he wasn’t there. We had many overnights, and talked frequently, confiding very personal stuff.

Then something shifted. I went over to his place, he was home, but avoided me. Then some weird messages, telling me about silly little things. Then nothing for over 2 months. I believe he became depressed. He is over 50, very professional, and all signs indicate he would be completely forthright with any need to split with me.

My conundrum is, do I assume — and there are many indications — that he is depressed and I emotionally support him? Or do I act like I normally would when someone disappears and just move on?

I’ve asked him for a note, email or text to tell me if I should stop contacting him. I made it very clear that I only need to be told once. Then, on the other hand, I’m willing to stick by if it’s a health issue.

What are your thoughts?


This is a toughy. However, you have a good history with him, so you don’t want to assume the worst. It sounds like you haven’t actually talked to him. I would definitely call and talk or set up a time to have coffee or go to his house (or he yours). If he is depressed, it would be hard for him to reach out. Your extending your hand of support could be just what he needs to seek professional help and get his life back on track.

Or perhaps he got back with an old love or started seeing someone else but didn’t know how to break it to you. His avoiding behavior then nothing could be interpreted that way, but you won’t really know until you ask.

If he doesn’t return your phone calls, don’t leave him angry messages, just be supportive. Assume that your analysis is in some part right and leave the door open for him to reach out. But don’t wait on him, date others. You’ve already waited for him two months, so if you haven’t already, see others. If he comes back around and you aren’t attached to another, you can see him again. Or perhaps just shift to friend mode.

Readers: what advice do you have for Gayle?

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5 responses to “News flash: Man goes poof”

  1. Jim the tech guy Avatar
    Jim the tech guy

    I was married to a woman with EXTREME depression for a long time, so here is some of what I learned the hard way:

    – When people are depressed one of the first things they do is try to drive those closest to them away, which is what your description sounds like.

    – He may not have “quit” his job, it may have gone away, causing him to be overwhelmed with self doubt.

    – Depression feeds on itself. That is, the depression causes the person to amplify everything negative they encounter and totally and completely discount or ignore anything positive in their life.

    – Depression can **NOT** be managed without professional help (it can never be fixed). Drugs are needed to break the downward depression cycle. Unfortunately most people resist drugs like they will poison them. If I hadn’t seen what a difference the drugs make, I might share that idea. I know they are needed to help make the positives visible and the negatives less daunting.

    – That being said, exercise and diet play a very **BIG** role in managing depression. When a person is in a depression cycle, lots of both cardio and strength exercise along with a protein diet helps a lot.

    – Depressed people are fantastic actors, and can easily convince most people they are on the top of the world, but they can only do it for short periods of time, since it is so energy intensive and they have little energy. As a result, they have to shove people away very quickly.

    – It appears that your friend may be in a deep depression cycle. Unfortunately there is little you can do, other then alert his family or some one that may be able to influence him to get help.

    – In the mean time you need to protect yourself because depressed people can be VERY irrational. If the depression gets too bad and he commits suicide, REMEMBER IT IS **NOT** your fault. The problems are in his head and you can do nothing to fix them.

    – I agree with DG in that you should move on, because this is a long term, deep problem and may not sort itself out in your life-time. I stayed with my wife because I had a long history of great times with her, but it took a very big physical and emotional toll on me and I would never do it again. One “fortunate” side effect of the cancer that killed my wife is the drugs nearly eliminated her depression and the last few months we had together helped off-set the long years of dealing with her depression.

    In all sincerity, I wish you all the luck in the world. Other than the death of a spouse, dealing with mental illness is really hard and painful.

    Some resources:

  2. Catherine Avatar

    I think this is more about being depressed and less about going “pouf”. Men especially don’t know how to ask for help when they are struggling with depression. The men I know that were clinically depressed tended to completely withdraw from the world, and never return a call or email, even if you are leaving supportive messages. When they emerged from the depression they told me that persistent contact was a lifeline for them, and that while they wanted to return the calls etc., they just couldn’t.

    I’m assuming you have already left the “I am really concerned about you” message. That may not have been enough to pull him out of the “pit” and contact you. The best thing that you can do to remain supportive is to let him know that you still care about him and want him to take care of himself. You can do this by sending cards, ecards, leaving phone messages “just checking in” and continuing to let him know what is going on in your life.

    Please understand that when someone is deeply depressed, they take in the loving and kind messages, but rarely can reciprocate. You didn’t mention the reason for quitting his job, but if he was under a lot of stress, this is a rather normal consequence.

  3. nysharon Avatar

    I am sure he has others in his life who are much closer to the situation. You should check with them to see what is going on with him. If you don’t know anyone in his life, then thats another whole issue.
    He is a grown up and quite capable of responding. Its been two months–it’s not about not reciprocating, its about not responding. Continuing to contact him with cards, emails messages, could be interpreted as Stalking. Especially if he has moved on.
    Food for thought? Do you want a man in your life who can’t express some basic things like I’m depressed? Or a man who is too coward to tell you its over? Im sorry.

  4. Angela Avatar

    Wow, sometimes it is so weird to get on here and read stuff and it is exactly or close to what I am experiencing. I have been dating a guy for 4 months now and about a month and a half ago his father passed away from cancer. It wasn’t a surprise, it was just a matter of time. He went out of state to where his father was and spent 3 weeks there with his mother to help her through this hard time and get her house ready to sell and get things in order. He talked to me everyday online while he was there. For the first couple weeks back he was sad, but seemed to be functioning. This past week though he hit bottom with depression. He wouldn’t leave the house. Didn’t go to work or even call in sick. Wouldn’t return any calls. I would go to his house and he was just laying down watching TV or sleeping. He said that’s all he wants to do is sleep.
    I told him I would be more than happy to take him to a doctor to get him on some antidepressants. He doesn’t want to go, doesn’t want to take meds. He never resisted me being there, but wasn’t making any efforts to see or talk to me. When I was leaving he would ask me if I was coming back. I would ask him if he wanted me to, he would say, “I don’t know.” So I would get frustrated. It is like he wants me there, but can’t put out any effort to say he wants me there.
    I have experienced deep depression several times in my life, so I totally understand not being able to give at those times. I told him I’m not sure what to do. He is so different now than when we first met and he said, the circumstances have changed since the beginning. (With his father dying.)
    I tried to get him to go to my house Saturday and he wouldn’t do it. I have several books on dealing with depression and books on natural healing with Vitamins and so on, so I brought them over to him. I explained I’m no stranger to depression and I know how I have felt and that these books have helped me. He seemed open to looking at them.
    While I was there on Sunday one of his “best” buddies that he works with came over to check on him. He said several of the same things to him as I have said and I told his buddy I was glad he came to check on him and I also told my guy, “Isn’t that great he came to check on you? We both care about you.”
    When this first started happening I felt like I was making all the effort and he was taking advantage of me. So I had to decide if that was what was really happening or was it depression. I have decided it is depression and I’m going to give it more time. I have been dealing with many issues in my life and he has been there for me and listened to me and supported me emotionally, so I’m willing to do the same for him. Yes, it’s hard because I would much rather be with someone who wants to go have fun and make those little extra efforts to show me he wants to be with me. But I feel he is worth the wait and the effort of my time.
    Sometimes it’s hard to remember other people have their battles and it’s not all about us. We’re friends first though.

  5. nysharon Avatar

    Angela, you are right to stick it out. He is greiving and everyone has their own way of going about it. It takes longer for some than others depending on the deceased’s condition and the survivor’s relationship with them. This is something that he must go through. Medications can sometimes interfere with that process. Encourage him to talk about his loss. Don’t push for him to move forward. If you get concerned, he loses weight, or this goes on for a very extended period, you may want to suggest he see a counselor. Sometimes grieving a loss can move into depression, but it is much too soon to say that about your guy. It has been so very soon, and not being there to say goodbye to his Dad brings its issues also. I lost my father 6 months ago to Lou Gehrig’s disease and the sadness can be debilitating. I am a counselor and still during that time following his death, I shut people out. I still have strong feelings of sadness and take a day off now and then just to be alone. He is lucky to have you in his life right now. There is a lack of selfishness in that he said “I don’t know” when you asked him since he probably doesn’t want to burdeon you with this.