He takes everything I say the wrong way
Some years ago a friend said I could rent his basement flat as I was struggling in an abusive relationship. However, he is a very anxious person who blames his overbearing mother for his chronic anxiety, so I have to walk on eggshells. Recently I upset him when I said, ‘Thank goodness for that,’ after he told me he was recovering from depression. Then, when I suggested that he should severely reprimand his solicitor for not progressing a conveyancing transaction, he went into decline and took to his bed, saying that I had made him feel like a little boy again. He is 65! I want to tell him to grow up but understand that it might be the worst thing to say. I am under such pressure tiptoeing around him, but I really can’t afford to move elsewhere. Perhaps saying ‘thank goodness’ was a little insensitive but, equally, it can be very frustrating and draining to be around someone who is constantly anxious and depressed. I suspect because, subconsciously, he associated your words with his overbearing mother, it brought back painful memories. He could not handle it because he has been so damaged. It’s difficult but you have to tread carefully because if he feels that he is being criticised in any way he is likely to relapse. You are right to say that telling him to grow up wouldn’t be a good idea, but you could gently explain to him that you don’t mean to upset him and suggest that perhaps his past experiences make him feel that he is being criticised when no criticism is intended. You can also encourage him to get help – it’s never too late. He could contact Mental Health Ireland (01 284 1166, mentalhealthireland.ie) or see his GP for a referral to counselling. Try to make sure that you have an active and busy life of your own as well.