HELP ME, HARLAN!: Guilt stops girlfriend from breaking up with unemployed, depressed boyfriend

By Harlan Cohen

Harlan Cohen

Dear Harlan,

Is it wrong to leave my boyfriend when he’s struggling and unemployed? He was fired from his job last year and he has not been able to recover. We are both in our 20s and have been dating for three years. We moved in together right before he was let go. I’ve been working full-time and taking care of the bills and rent. I have always been motivated and focused. He has fallen into a depression and stopped looking for work. He spends time playing video games and getting into fights on Facebook. I’ve mentioned that we need to make changes, and he tells me not to kick him when he’s already down. I love him and want the old him back. I don’t know if I can stick this out. Please help.

Dating and Depressed

Dear Dating and Depressed,

You’re allowed to break up with him. Your current situation is a preview of the future. If he can’t or won’t get help, give yourself permission to move on. I live by a “no regrets” policy when making big life decisions. I take everything I know at this moment into account. I promise myself that any decision I make at THIS moment is about everything I know at this moment. Should I have doubts or find more information in the future, I must remember the factors that contributed to my initial decision. You love him, but he needs help. Talk to a specialist who deals with depression and find out how to communicate with him. If he refuses to get the help he needs, you don’t need to stick around.


Dear Harlan,

I am a senior in high school and about to graduate. I have applied to many colleges and narrowed it down to one. It’s perfect, but it’s expensive. I’m also in a serious relationship. My boyfriend doesn’t want me to go away to college because he’s afraid we will break up. He wants me to go to our local community college with him. After two years of dating, I can see myself marrying him. My dream school is 40 minutes away from my home, but I would have to live on campus. It’s a Christian college that has visiting hours and an open-dorm policy, which my boyfriend hates. Should I go to a private college and leave my boyfriend, or should I stay and attend community college for almost free in my hometown. I’ve been given a good chunk of change in financial aid, but I will still have a lot of debt. What do you think?

Hopeless High-School Senior

Dear Hopeless,

Promise me that you will NOT get married or move in with your boyfriend until after you graduate from college. PLEASE promise me that. While I believe you are in love, I also know that living 40 minutes from home shouldn’t mean the end of a relationship. Your independence and happiness should never be threatening. Go where you can be fulfilled, independent and challenged.  As for the cost, avoid graduating with more debt than you will make your first year out of college. I would encourage you to do everything you can to find more money (scholarships, jobs, additional aid). When you get on campus, get involved, meet people and don’t go home every weekend. If being happy and independent ruins your relationship, the relationship wasn’t meant to last beyond high school.


Harlan is author of “Getting Naked: Five Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life (While Fully Clothed and Totally Sober)” (St. Martin’s Press). Write Harlan at or visit online: All letters submitted become property of the author. Send paper to Help Me, Harlan!, 2720 Dundee Road, Suite 226, Northbrook, IL 60062.

© Harlan Cohen 2018; Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.


HELP ME, HARLAN!: Guilt stops girlfriend from breaking up with unemployed, depressed boyfriend–