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QUESTION:

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Hey Robby,

I just wanted to talk to you about my girlfriend. Me and her have been exclusive for about a month now, and I’ve noticed a couple of things about her. First off she’s 18, she lives with both her parents & she goes to school. But thing is, she has low self-esteem, she’s very shy and and her parents give her little to no freedom. She has to be home by a certain time (before 10) and she sometimes mentions she cries at random times. I feel that through out her life she’s faced a lot of emotional distress due to how strict her parents are as well as the criticism they give her.

Sometimes I read the things she writes on Tumblr (without her knowing). And I see that deep down inside she is really hurt, she’s not happy with the relationship she has with her parents and she just wishes she can live a normal life. I also see how much she really likes me, and I must admit some of the things she says kind of surprise me. She says I’m a keeper and all of that. But, Robby i just want her to feel beautiful, I want her to be more lively, I want her to see the bright side of life. Im not trying to change her i just want her to enjoy things more thats all, I want to see her happy.

My friends say I need a more lively girlfriend.Psfh! I don’t care what they say, I like this girl. Plus, I don’t want to be another reason why her life sucks.I just wanted to know how can I help her Robby. Because, the only thing I can think is just be there for her for whenever she needs to open up to me. But, is there anything else you can add?

~J

sad girlfriend
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She Might Be Depressed, Now What?
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ANSWER:

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Hey J, thanks for sharing with me. I’ve think I’ve been in your situation before and it sucks. I recall feeling so frustrated and angry with the idea that someone is hurting my girlfriend and that I can’t do anything about it. It made me feel useless.

It’s natural to want to save the damsel in distress. It’s almost instinctual. And I think it’s healthy. You have a big heart and you care about her.

I’m no psychologist, but here are my thoughts…

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You’re Not Responsible For Her Feelings

This is a tough thing to realize if you’ve never considered it before. Despite what you’ve learned on TV or in church your are NOT responsible for how other people react to their world, or what feelings they have.

We each live our own lives and we each make our own decisions and we each learn how to react to events in our lives. And so we are each responsible for ourselves.

That’s it. It’s not HER responsibility for your thoughts and feelings. YOU ARE. And you are not responsible for her thoughts and feelings. You’re not walking in her shoes, she is.

The only thing you’re responsible for are your own actions, thoughts and feelings. Obviously your actions will influence her, but how she feels is HER responsibility.

This is an important concept to grasp. Because it sounds like you’re trying to put her emotional state on your shoulders, and that’s ridiculous. That’s not your job.

It’s not your job to fix her problems, or to make her feel differently than she already does.

I’ll explain some ideas that might improve her depression (that’s exactly what it sounds like). Just realize the difference between helping someone you love and feeling responsible for someone you love.

Don’t let her become an anchor that you waste the next 5 years trying to “save” while she lowers your daily happiness, or while she drags you down into her depression. It’s her life and it’s HER responsibility. Be willing to walk away when the relationship no longer serves you BOTH.

depressed girlfriend
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Her Journey Isn't Your Responsibility
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Infect Her

That being said I suspect there ARE things you can do.

Feelings are contagious. And so are beliefs.

Often we are the average of the feelings and thoughts of those we hang out with.

So if she’s depressed and you’re super happy it’s possible that you’ll both average out to “normal.” ?:)

You’ll never “convince” her to feel better by using logic, so don’t waste your breath. Her emotions are not rational, they’re emotional. Her body chemistry could be messed up, or she might simply be in a slump because of her constant inner dialogue which could be making her feel poorly.

So perhaps you could focus on being happy, excited, passionate, and optimistic!

The idea is to help teach her body how to how fun, how to see life differently, and how to learn how to be optomistic. Don’t think it’s possible? Read this awesome book ( Learned Optimism.)

make your girlfriend happy
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Help Her To Laugh And Smile
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Practice Optimism, Compassion, and Empathy

Be a good listener.

Sometimes other people can’t work things out for themselves until they’ve found a safe place to talk about them out loud. Your first instinct might be to “fix” her problems, but that’s not what’s good for her. What’s good for her is a boyfriend who’s willing to listen without judging her, and without stepping all over what she’s saying.

Instead nod, and agree, and listen.

Give her the space to share with you without you responding. That’s it.

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Be Vulnerable Too

Open up to her from time to time, when you’re both alone and comfortable.

Share intimate secrets.

Show her that you’re willing to be vulnerable in front of her with your secrets. This will help her feel safe to tell you her secrets. And let her.

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Be Vulnerable To Help Build Her Trust
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Don’t Be Judgmental

And don’t judge her for her secretes either. I had girlfriend once who shared with me that she cheated on her husband. I could tell that she was ashamed of it and was worried about what I would think. I made it very clear that it didn’t matter to me and that I was sad that she was so upset about it. By letting her tell me her secrets she felt comfortable being open and honest with me while others made her feel judged.

This also means you have to be willing to hear stories about how her family treats her poorly without you needing to insult or berate them in front of her. She doesn’t want you being upset with others, she just wants to share. I think it’s okay to say things like, “I think it’s a shame your mom says those things because I completely disagree. And it makes me sad that it upsets you like it does. I hope you can see that she’s wrong.”

What you shouldn’t say is, “That fucking whore! Your mom is an idiot!”

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Share And Teach But Don’t Preach

Nobody likes being told how to think and feel, so don’t do that.

If you’ve discovered more powerful mindsets that have helped you overcome past pains then you should share them. But don’t force them upon her. It’s not your job to make her think something new. But it’s not going to hurt if you share your own thoughts and ideas, while leaving it up to her to agree or not.

Have you developed good coping skills? Then share them to her. Hopefully this will help her to develop her own.

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Lead By Example

Show her how you handle situations that used to upset you but now doesn’t bother you.

Perhaps the waiter was super rude at dinner. But instead of talking bad about him behind his back you could give the guy the benefit of the doubt, “That dude is having a bad day huh? I guess I’d be grumpy too if I had to work a busy place like this.”

Someone cuts you off in traffic? Surprise her by not getting upset and angry gut instead by laughing and saying, “Hahaha, that guy is just GET’N IT DONE.”

And, of course, let her know she’s beautiful just the way she is. Don’t smother her in compliments, because it’ll come across as fake, but be as sincere as possible.

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Remind Her How Fun Life Can Be
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Suggest A Female Mentor

Suggest she seeks the advice or help from an older smarter female mentor. Like a councilor at school, or an aunt she loves, etc. Older women have insights she’s more likely to trust and listen to. Just don’t point her to an older woman who’s jaded and angry.

You could even guy her some good books that promote healing and self-assurance.

Here are are some favorites of mine:

Learned Optimisim
Six Pillars Of Self Esteem
The Four Agreements
Awaken The Giant Within

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Don’t take it personally

She might not want to open up to you. And that’s okay too. Some people are addicted to their misery. It’s hard to escape a depression if you’ve never known anything else. And trust me, many people LOVE feeling sorry for themselves.

From my experience people who are desperate for their parent’s approval have never learned that they don’t NEED their parents approval. These people need to learn how to love and approve of themselves, which comes from self introspection, a little reading, and good mentors.

Like I said… it’s not your responsibility to fix her, but you can try your best to infect her with better mindsets, more self esteem, and healthier emotions. Just don’t let her misery become your life mission. Sometimes it’s best to walk away if things don’t improve for the both of you… she simply might be on a different journey than you at this time.

Good luck dude!

~ Robby

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