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  1. #1
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    Default ENFJ Melodrama/Despair/Ambivalence - what the heck do I do?

    I realize I haven't been that active on the forums lately, but I've definitely been around lurking, as I often find myself coming here for advice or comfort or even just to take my mind off of things that trouble me.

    Now I would really appreciate your advice.

    I am an INFP, have been dating an ENFJ (he tested ENFJ when I had him take the test about 5 months ago, and for the most part seems to fit that description though I have seen him make some surprisingly harsh judgments that have made me question it) for about 9 months now and I'm starting to get really worried about the relationship.

    My biggest concern at this point is that our relationship has moved too quickly and that we don't have enough of a foundation built up to weather the kinds of stress all couples encounter after the initial glow begins to wear off. We moved in together after dating for just 5 months (not something I would normally do, but with our life circumstances it was either that or call it splits right then and there) and he has been supporting me for the past few months, which is something I hope to rectify ASAP now that I have a job and will soon see my paychecks start to roll in.

    90% of the time things are absolutely wonderful--he's loving, supportive, we go out and do all kinds of fun and silly things together, cuddle for hours, but lately the dynamic has started to change. About once a week, he'll go through a day or so where he's completely down on himself and the world, cannot see any hope in anything at all, and gets into this state where he just repeatedly says "I don't know what to do. I just don't know what to do." I'm not sure if I'm finally seeing sides of him I didn't see before or if he's changed since I met him due to stress and other factors in his life. He recently turned 30, which seems to be a large stressor for him, as if he's reached some arbitrary number by which he intended to have accomplished a list of things, and he feels like a failure because he hasn't.

    I guess what I want to know is how can I help him through these periods of despair where the whole world seems bleak and he loses interest in everything but how awful he feels? As an INFP, my initial impulse is to try to comfort, but maybe I'm going about it all wrong. ENFJs--when you're feeling really down, do you want to be left alone or cuddled or dragged outside and forced to be social, or something else entirely?

    The other problem that I've been really struggling with in my own self has been that when he gets all down and insecure, I start to get anxious and insecure as well, and start feeling as if I'm the one to blame for his unhappiness. Which I'm sure doesn't help him at all with whatever guilt or anxiety he may be feeling, and it turns into this awful trainwreck of uncontrolled emotion and resentment. When it first started happening these episodes seemed to blow over quickly and we'd return to our normal happy relationship, but they seem to be lasting longer and longer, and last night we had one of our first legitimate fights, where I admit that I became rather nasty with him and said some things that probably sounded like an oblique threat to leave him. I really regret having made those comments, and I don't know what to do now. He's mentioned that he's been hurt in the past and he told me that almost every woman he's dated has at some point told him that "they feel like they're holding him back"; it's true, I do feel that way when he rants about how crappy his life is and then goes on about how much he loved some girl in the past and how great his life was then. He's said that those comments have always come before a breakup, and well--I'm starting to wonder if it's going to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    I realize that I really need to work on not internalizing his moods or pressing him for reassurance when he's already feeling down, because usually then his answer tends to be either an ambivalent "I don't know what I want" or a melodramatic recounting of the various wrongs I've committed against him. Lately it's gotten to a point, though, where I'm actually not sure where I stand with him and I wonder if he might actually be happier if we went our separate ways. I really really care about him, but I'm not going to sit around and wait to have my heart broken while he flails around being unhappy and then finally has some kind of epiphany that I'm not the right one for him and leaves me.

    Please, ENFJs (or anyone else who has been in this situation), could I get some insights and advice? Is this one of those ENFJ just testing me out to see how loyal I am episodes or should I be legitimately worried that he seems so unhappy? I'm reaching a breaking point where nothing I do can make him feel better and he seems to be pining after something that's missing from his life and so all that's left to conclude is that I must be the cause of his misery and therefore I should leave for both of our sakes.

    Help!

  2. #2
    You have a choice! 21%'s Avatar
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    I will respond more in detail when I get home from work, but these things stood out as warning signs to me:

    Quote Originally Posted by Roheline View Post
    He's mentioned that he's been hurt in the past and he told me that almost every woman he's dated has at some point told him that "they feel like they're holding him back"; it's true, I do feel that way when he rants about how crappy his life is and then goes on about how much he loved some girl in the past and how great his life was then.

    ...

    I realize that I really need to work on not internalizing his moods or pressing him for reassurance when he's already feeling down, because usually then his answer tends to be either an ambivalent "I don't know what I want" or a melodramatic recounting of the various wrongs I've committed against him. Lately it's gotten to a point, though, where I'm actually not sure where I stand with him and I wonder if he might actually be happier if we went our separate ways. I really really care about him, but I'm not going to sit around and wait to have my heart broken while he flails around being unhappy and then finally has some kind of epiphany that I'm not the right one for him and leaves me.
    I totally feel for you, but I think you need to consider the fact that if he is not being a manipulative jerk on purpose then he might be clinically depressed. Either way, the bolded are not the correct attitude to approach a relationship, and the real issue may run deeper than just not being happy.

    More later. Meanwhile:
    4w5 sp/sx EII

  3. #3
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    Thank you.

    I just graduated from college a year ago and haven't been in any one place all that long since then, and I've struggled to cultivate meaningful friendships in the town I've been living in for the past 4 months with him. Most of my existing support networks are many miles away and my usual tendency is not to want to burden other people with my life issues (especially over the phone), so I'm having a hard time getting an outside perspective on this situation. I'm trying to find a way to step back and better analyze it myself, but I find it very difficult to stay objective once I step too close to the emotional morass I've built around the situation.

    Any insight you can offer would be HUGELY appreciated.

  4. #4
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    Hey @Roheline. I'm not ENFJ myself, but was in a relationship with one at one point. Several thoughts.

    1 - Is it possible that he is clinically depressed for some reason? You mentioned hitting 30, maybe financial stress, anxiety, ambivalence. Is there any pattern to when his "bad" days occur? Does he seem to be normal and then this hits - like happy is his baseline - or could he usually be "holding his head above the water" and sometimes he just can't stay up any longer, like he's more consistently unhappy but he tries to mask it?

    2 -

    A melodramatic recounting of the various wrongs I've committed against him
    This needs to stop on his end; it will never be a healthy part of any relationship. If he has issues, he needs to bring them up when he's feeling positive and address them with you, instead of waiting until he's upset and using you as a scapegoat for his personal unhappiness.

    3 -

    He told me that almost every woman he's dated has at some point told him that 'they feel like they're holding him back'; it's true, I do feel that way when he rants about how crappy his life is and then goes on about how much he loved some girl in the past and how great his life was then.
    It sounds like he might have some long-term issues with self-perception in terms of projecting his personal feelings onto his partners and using moving on from them as a way to get away from those issues, instead of actually addressing the issues. It's pretty narcissistic to think your partners are responsible for your personal growth. I could even see the possibility of him having recurrent disillusion, projecting, then cutting and running in relationships.


    Interesting that I just went to read other posts in the thread and these same two quotes stood out both to myself and @21%. They are both indicative of something more serious than just a rough patch, but that's not to say they're unconquerable or that he wouldn't be interested in overcoming them.

    If he can pay for therapy, it'd probably be advisable, regardless of whether he's depressed or not. It could help him sort some of those ambivalent feelings out.

    As for helping stressed ENFJs, mine liked to be left alone and/or pampered (spa, etc.). But if he's depressed, leaving him alone might not be what he needs.

    As for you, I think an interior ultimatum might be useful. Give him a few months and do everything you can to help him address this. If nothing's changed, and if he's not putting in effort to make your life better too, head for greener pastures.

  5. #5
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    1. Whining and complaining and drama queen - PERFECTLY NORMAL for Fe. All emotions are put out there, processed and sometimes even forgotten (just the everyday ones, not "my life sux"). This can be VERY irritating/frustrating/nasty to the people around but there is no way around it.
    If your Fi spends a night tossing and turning and crying, while processing stuff, his Fe will spend a night talking (aka whining/complaining). My condolences, that's why (and bullying/manipulation) I stay away from dom Fe-s.

    2. I don't know what to do / I'm not doing it right/perfect MIGHT be his inferior Ti. Ti is perfectionistic and can lead to some pretty tough standards for the self. INFJs sometimes get down on themselves in a similar way, including "I don't understand " / "I'm incompetent/stupid", etc. He might get "tough", make cold, uncaring decisions about people and himself, etc. based on am IMMATURE Ti.
    You should have similar experiences with your own Te.

    Cheers!

    If you find a way to make it work with an ENFJ - share. I haven't.

  6. #6
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    Wow, you guys have really hit the nail on the head with some of your comments...bringing up things that I didn't even mention in my post but that ring very true with what I've observed!

    @skylights:
    1 - I'm sort-of wondering if it's the latter. He seems to stay in a fairly good mood throughout the week and if we keep busy during the weekends, but his "bad" days seem to happen most often on Sundays, after the adventure of the weekend is over. It's like when he runs out of external distractions, he doesn't have the strength to stay up any more and just collapses into this state of despair. I've also noticed that he's been drinking more than what seemed to be his "usual" when we first started dating, though I don't know if he had different habits before I met him.

    2 - I agree, though I think this one might be improved if I just stay the hell away from him when he's in his moods and sure as hell don't bring up ANYTHING remotely related to our relationship.

    3 - I've definitely had some moments where he divulged some detail about his past romances and part of me went "what the hell?!" all while trying to be supportive. I remember one night in particular after he'd drank a fair amount he told me that his family had "abandoned" him when he was in his lower twenties and so he found a "new family" in two female friends who happened to be sisters (whom he then dated...apparently both of them, at different times). I was trying to be empathetic to all of this, but I've spent a fair amount of time with his family and while they can definitely be overbearing at times, they really don't seem like the type to "abandon" him. And I wonder if maybe they expressed some kind of disapproval of his life choices which he then blew out of proportion and turned into abandonment? And these women were apparently the most amazing women he's ever known (gee, thanks man), but not amazing enough that he was willing to change his own life to try to be with them after they moved away to different cities. It's like he has this perception that all these people in his life keep leaving him, when all the while he's lusting after something else and continually driving them away.

    @Istbkleta:
    Really keen observation about the differences between Fe and Fi. What worries me is that I really can't tell if his ranting is the revelation of an ongoing state that's usually hidden or if his entire perception changes when he's in these moods but then rights itself. Is he constantly resenting me for all these little things but not showing it? When he's happy it's like I'm the brightest star in the universe, when he's in a foul mood I feel like some interloper who forced her way into his life and is making him miserable and preventing him from doing what he wants to do. Do his feelings actually change that much from day to day, or is he hiding unhappiness under some fake veneer of happiness (designed to keep me safe or something?)? All this uncertainty is starting to diminish my ability to maintain any kind of feelings for him or trust in anything he tells me about his emotions. I'm not sure what worries me more, if he's been resenting me all this time, or if his feelings are actually that volatile.

    I think you are right on with the inferior Ti. When he's in his moods he seems to swap between self-loathing and self-incrimination ("I'm a failure; I've done nothing with my life") and lashing out at me with a kind of cold harsh logic that's rather shocking compared to his usual self and makes me want to just run into the next room (or maybe the next state!).

  7. #7
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    @Roheline -

    The feelings of abandonment... needing constant external stimulation... getting close quickly... you being his brightest star and worst mistake... volatility...

    Have you considered BPD?

  8. #8
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    He seems like a perfectly normal ENFJ to me.

    If anything, there is something off about the OP herself.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by skylights View Post
    @Roheline -

    The feelings of abandonment... needing constant external stimulation... getting close quickly... you being his brightest star and worst mistake... volatility...

    Have you considered BPD?
    yeah...the behavior sounds more like mental health issues than his type.

    Could be a mood or anxiety disorder or BPD. If it's chronic, he has issues. Abandonment issues and the constant push and pull probably means he has trust and intimacy issues.

    IT SHOULD NOT BE NORMALIZED AS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FE AND FI.

  10. #10
    You have a choice! 21%'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skylights View Post
    Have you considered BPD?
    I was thinking the same thing!

    @Roheline
    There is one thing that is very important that you need to understand about relationships: each partner is responsible for their own happiness. If they are not happy for any reason, it is their responsibility to bring up issues and communicate with their partner. This may sound like common sense, but it took me 4 years to realize it.

    What you are feeling right now is exactly how I felt when my INFP boyfriend was going through depression. I wondered if I was the cause of his unhappiness, or if he would be better off without me. I felt like he secretly blamed me for everything and that made me feel horrible about myself.

    However, this is not true. Depressed people tend to lash out at people around them, but deep down what they really hate is themselves. It was only less than a year ago that I read a book on depression and finally realized how to deal with it. The key is not to let it affect me. I have learned that his moods do not have anything to do with me. It is all about him, and if I love him, part of it is to understand this and not get hurt. It's like when a child throws a tantrum and says "I hate you". Loving, mature parents will reply "It's ok. I still love you."

    The funny thing is, people on this forum had been telling me the whole time that I was not responsible for his happiness. It just took me four years to really understand what it means.

    There are also some other points that might help:

    Draw the line
    You have the right to draw the line. I know you are trying to be supportive, but I have learned that when dealing with unhealthy people, you really cannot just let things slide 'because they were unhappy'. If he treats you badly, call him out on it. If you do not want to hear about how happy his ex's used to make him, let him know, and tell him how you feel about it. You have the right to. Even if you let things slide 'in the moment', bring them up later when he is ready to listen, in a calm, non-accusing manner. Say things like "You know, when you said that, it made me feel bad, because..."

    Also, for 'double-standard' behaviors, ask him how he would feel if you did the same thing to him. It is okay to be direct about this. Ask him how he would feel if you started talking about how good your life was before you met him.

    I think this is about treating both of you with respect. If I am behaving badly, I would want my partner to talk to me about it, because that shows that he respects me as a partner and that he knows I am responsible for my half of the relationship. It's all part of communication.

    Unhealthy people and their issues
    If he does not respond to these attempts to fix things in a calm way, but starts acting immaturely by bringing up excuses, talking as if he is entitled to acting badly because he was 'stressed', or trying to turn it into your fault, you are dealing with something deeper here. Unhealthy people will be unhealthy, and most of the time they burn the people who are closest to them. They may genuinely care about you, but they cannot help themselves. You need to really think if you want to get involved in all this. Sometimes, if one partner is unhealthy and does not seek help to become healthier, no matter what you do, you will never have a happy relationship.

    People committed to healthy relationships will actually try to listen, apologize when they are in the wrong, and strive for better understanding and communication.

    Be happy on your own
    This is also a strange thing to say, and this also took me ages to learn. Only when you are happy on your own can you be truly happy in a relationship. I did not believe it at first. I thought that if both partners really care about each other, then you can be happy. While this may be true, it is not all there is. You can care about each other, but if both of you have to depend on each other to be happy, you create a sort of a clingy, dependent relationship that will be filled with jealousy, insecurity and hurt feelings.

    I used to think that it was romantic if two people need each other. Now I think it is actually more romantic if two people choose each other. You love this other person out of your own free will, not because of your emotional needs. Only then you can truly see them and love them for who they are. I don't think I'm totally there yet in my own relationship, but I feel like I would like to get there eventually.
    4w5 sp/sx EII

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