Dear Bipolar Problems,

This kernel of insight is the crux of your letter: you left him because you can't trust him, and he doesn't want you to stay because he can't trust himself. That is a pretty clear order. If he's telling you he can't be with you, it's because he has to put himself first here. It's a very mature decision in a tough situation, and it's something he has to do for himself. As the adage goes: if you love something, set it free.

Maybe he can't handle having a girlfriend right now, but he might need a friend and advocate. If you feel able to help, by all means, offer support. Just be mindful of your own boundaries here, and don't try to "save" him. Your letter suggests you think you could, and I want to disabuse you of that notion, fast. He doesn't need a crutch, though he might appreciate a caring presence. If you think you can navigate the tricky boundary between "ex-girlfriend" and "supporter/friend" while maintaining your own emotional health, go for it.

The fear of racking up points on some failed-relationship scorecard is no reason to stay in a situation that isn't beneficial for you or your partner. If this is a primary fear of yours, you're thinking too narrowly about the definition of "relationship." Relationships take on so many different forms, and, at their core, each one is practice on how to roll with punches and love another person even when it's difficult. Even if you break up, you're choosing what's best for yourself, as well as respecting what's best for him. And if you manage to stay in touch and offer your support to him, then you're in Advanced Placement territory. These are the real relationship skills that matter, not some stamp of "X months together: bronze medal. (Pick up your award from your local DMV.)"

You wrote about wanting to "do the work" in regard to saving this relationship. I suggest you still "do the work," but shift the target. Work on honoring what you want and grounding yourself, and allow him to do the same.