My boyfriend of seven months doesn’t want to talk to me about his issues. I suspect he’s struggling with his mental health and I really want to help, it’s worrying me a lot. He turns to our friends instead, and although I’m happy he has a support network, I’m hurt that I wasn’t included. I realize that my offense shouldn’t really be the focus but I’m so fixated on it. Incidents such as him asking me to leave him alone so he can talk to them without me seeing have left me rather wounded, it makes me feel as if he doesn’t trust me. I tried to softly bring it up voicing that it upsets me and that he can trust me, but he says he just can’t talk to me, like how he can’t talk to his parents. I feel vaguely isolated and alone and am beginning to question whether we do have a bond as he feels he can’t talk to me. I don’t want to press further because I think it’ll just cause him more stress, I don’t know what to do.
For starters, Sparkler, you can take a deep breath, shore up your courage, and travel the rest of the way to the unpleasant conclusion you stopped just shy of reaching in your letter. Because the reason you feel like your boyfriend doesn’t trust you, quite simply, is that he doesn’t.
At least, not in this particular way, or at this particular moment.
And for the record, it is normal and natural that you feel stung by this—and while your boyfriend isn’t obligated to confide in you about things he’d rather keep private, he also isn’t obligated to be such an unmitigated tool about it, which he is. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that this probably wouldn’t bother you anywhere near as much (or possibly not at all!) if your boyfriend weren’t going so very far out of his way to let you know that you’re not part of his inner circle. Sending you out of the room so that he can share his most seeeeecret secrets—and with all your mutual friends, no less? Of course that makes you feel bad. It’s practically designed to make you feel bad. If there were an instruction manual out there called Dr. Jerkwad’s Giant Book of Ways to Hurt People’s Feelings on Purpose, you would find that particular move listed prominently on the very first page. (Also—and not because I necessarily think it’s true in this case but because I’d be remiss not to point it out in any case—I’ve gotta note that excluding someone, particularly in a way that leaves them out not just from your circle of trust but also their social circle at large, can indicate an abusive relationship. So if this is by any chance part of a larger pattern of your boyfriend doing things that undermine your confidence and make you feel isolated, please have the courage to recognize that and cut yourself loose before things get any worse.)
Of course, that’s not to say that your boyfriend is trying to make you feel bad on purpose. It’s possible (albeit slightly unbelievable) that he doesn’t realize how mean it is to rub someone’s nose in their own exclusion like this—or maybe his usual sense of decency is being eclipsed by his more immediate mental health struggles. But whatever the source of his behavior, it’s definitely worth discussing—and you don’t have to press him on the question of what he’s not telling you to point out that the way he’s going about it leaves a lot to be desired:
“I respect that you want to keep some things private, but when you confide in everyone except me and advertise that fact in front of all our friends, I feel really wounded.”
This is a conversation worth having, and one that two people who care about each other should be able to have. To be honest, the fact that your boyfriend has put you in this category of people he can’t be vulnerable with—a club in which only you and his parents claim membership while all your friends enjoy his confidence — is peculiar in a way that deserves attention, and I think you’ll eventually need to talk about that. (You don’t wield the kind of power over him that his parents do, so what makes him lump you in with them as someone he can’t confide in?) But the crummy, inconsiderate way he’s choosing to treat you is the more immediate issue, and he doesn’t have to reveal his secret struggles in order to discuss it, which makes it easier to tackle.
So, start there. See how it goes. And keep in mind that the outcome of this conversation will also tell you a lot about whether it’s worth having the next one—because if your boyfriend can’t understand what’s wrong with singling your girlfriend out, in public, as the one person you don’t trust with your secrets, then the nuances of the more complex stuff are probably going to be lost on him.
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