Sunday 21 January 2018

Ask Brian: My unemployed boyfriend has adopted a family of aggressive seagulls

My boyfriend is putting on weight and spends his days watching The Walking Dead

Brian O'Reilly

Brian O'Reilly

Our no-nonsense agony uncle gets straight to the point of your most pressing issues.

Dear Brian,

I hope you can help me. I'm really concerned that my partner of seven years has slipped into a low grade depression.

Around 11 months ago, my partner lost his job in a multi national tech company. It hit him hard and the following months haven't been easier as he hasn't managed to find any other employment.

There seems to be no hope on the horizon and he has become despondent.

In recent weeks things have become markedly worse. He is still in bed when I leave for work in the morning and when I come home he is in his PJs usually watching The Walking Dead.

He's also become much more slovenly; he has put on a lot of weight (two stone), stopped wearing nice clothes and has taken to leaving scraps of food out on our balcony 'for the birds'.

We live in the city centre and this has attracted a family of seagulls who now sit outside our windows screeching their heads off. When I ask him to refrain from feeding them he snaps at me to 'stop giving him grief and taking things so seriously'.

My patience is fading fast and I don't have the solutions for his unemployment problems but we are a couple and after seven years I know I should be loyal and doing more to bolster his mood. What should I do next?

Brian replies:

Hi Anon,

It certainly seems you've reached a breaking point in your relationship.

There's a few separate issues here to deal with so we'll go through them one-by-one.

It  seems like your boyfriend is struggling in the aftermath of losing his job. A lot of people invest a lot of their identity and self worth in their job, and losing it can be a crushing experience for them.

It's never easy to be made redundant, but if your job is a major part of your self worth it can be doubly crushing.

This has been compounded by the fact he has been unable to find employment since he was laid off.

He seems to have hit a low spot, and the behaviour you're describing would suggest he's lost some motivation in life.

Look, the seagull thing has to stop. They're the wasps of the bird world.

Unless his new career is becoming some sort of super villain assisted by a crew of aggressive seagulls he needs to let that go.

But there would appear to me to be a reason why he does it - it gives him a sense of purpose during the day. He feels like he's looking after them.

The weight gain also suggests that he's hit a serious slump and motivation to look after himself.

You need to take the bull by the horns and have the difficult conversation with him.

Talk to him about the situation, and make it clear that anything you say that might sound harsh is coming from a good place.

It needs to be a combination of a pep talk and some serious tough love. A kick up the bum wearing a fluffy sock.

He needs to get back on the job hunt. Yes, the rejection is tough, but every 'no' takes him closer to a 'yes'. It may come as a shock to him, but a job isn't going to fall into his lap if he's not making an effort to look for one.

He needs to find a way to structure his days that doesn't involve building his villainous army of feral seagulls.

A lot of people find working out a good way to spend their time, and indeed excess energy. It would also help him shift some of the weight.

I don't know your finances can stretch to support a gym membership for him, but it could be a great social outlet for him too.

If you can't afford it then he can hit the pavement for a run - and there's plenty of great workout videos available on YouTube for rainy days.

It may also help to leave him chore lists, things that needs to be done during the day while you're in work. Cleaning, cooking, going to the shops etc. It places structure on his day.

Otherwise you will come home to him dressed head-to-toe in features talking to his seagulls. Maybe he's doing it already and they're plotting your downfall. "Soon we'll be together", he whispers while cradling them in his arms, before creating a bed for them out of your clothes.

Let's be honest, the seagulls are already plotting against you, they don't need him to help. They're plotting against us all.

I only offer advice on situations - if your boyfriend is suffering from depression, please encourage him to seek professional medical advice.

You can contact Aware on 1800 80 48 48 or visit aware.ie.

Do you have a problem you'd like some advice on? Email askbrian@independent.ie  to submit in confidence.

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