A Reader Writes…
I am 30 and my husband is 32, we have been married for 4 years and together for 12 years. We have always had a wonderful relationship, the odd argument and stress as all couples do but generally very in love, feeling close and safe together.
About a year ago we decided to start try for a family, he freaked out for the next few days and we decided to leave it a bit longer until he felt he was ready. I really do want a family but it has to be right, we need to both want it and I haven’t put pressure on him.
Looking back I believe this is when things started to slip, though it has only been the last 6 months that we’ve really drifted apart. He’s started sky diving, exercising lots, spending lots of late nights out with his friends which he never did before. I wanted to give him space and don’t want to be the stereotypical nagging wife, so supported him in all off this as I know if I fought against it he would want to do it all the more.
To be honest it wouldn’t bother me whatever he did so long as the time we spend together is good and I feel loved. Here lies the problem, the more I’ve given him space the more he has just drifted away from me and shows me no love or affection, he avoids my kisses and doesn’t answer when I say ‘I love you’ which really hurts.
I really thought he was having an affair because his personality and our relationship had changed so much after I thought I knew him so well, but I confronted him on this and he told me he wasn’t having an affair and I believe him. It even got to the point one night when I was so upset because he wasn’t answering my calls or texts and it was late and I didn’t know where he was so I went to stay at his sister’s for a few nights because I couldn’t bear the rejection and uncertainty.
I hoped that this would make him realise how upset I was and snap him into making an effort but really it made him shut down more. He’s told me that he loves me and that I will always be special to him, but that he isn’t sure if we are good together any more, he says he doesn’t trust his feelings so I can’t push him to make a decision, I need to wait and act normal and give him time. I’ve been doing that for months and things aren’t getting better.
I believe he is depressed and my leaving did push him into going to the doctors, he’s been on tablets for 2 weeks now. I know I need to wait and see how this affects things, but I’m struggling, it’s so hard being around someone you love so much and want to be intimate and loving with but you are constantly being pushed away. The hurt and rejection is constantly taking over my emotions, I’m struggling to detach myself.
I guess my question is…how do I know if his depression is causing the problems in our relationship, or if the problems in our relationship are causing his depression? How should I behave and what should I do to know if this is fixable? I really want it to be fixable but I need to start to see an upwards spiral rather than what feels like never ending heart ache and rejection.
What a good question. Is depression causing the problems in your relationship or our the problems caused by his depression? It also begs bigger question: How to help a depressed man?
You need to understand why men or in fact anybody gets depressed. The best way to explain is that depression equals suppression. We don’t like to rock the boat, so instead of expressing unwelcome feelings like anger or anxiety, we tell ourselves something doesn’t matter or rationalise our fears away. Slowly but surely, all our feelings are shut down – including the nice ones – and the world seems incredibly grey. That’s why he needs big jolts like sky diving or wild nights with the lads to feel half human again.
How does having children fit in this picture? Could it have been the trigger for your current problems? Most possibly. It could have been that he was unhappy wondering if he wanted to be in this relationship and bringing kids into the picture would trap him forever. Conversely, it could have brought stuff up from his childhood – like he felt overlooked when a younger sibling arrived and unconsciously he worries that your love will be diminished by a baby too. (Have a look at my book I Love You but You Always Put Me Last to understand this phenomenon properly.)
Returning to your question, ILYB and depression have their roots in the same place so which comes first is a bit like talking about chicken and eggs? What counts is how you’re going to move forward. To be honest, drugs will take the edge off the greyness but will not fix the fundamental problem ie: he needs to be more assertive and express his feelings more (I cover this also in ‘I love you but you always put me last’).
You also both need to understand the connection between events and your feelings. We think it’s really simple. For example, he turns his back and you feel heart ache. However, it all depends on our interpretations and beliefs. If you think ‘he’s depressed but still needs my support and understanding’ you could feel sympathy. If you think ‘he’s rejected me again’ you will feel anger or despair.
Your husband also needs to look at HIS interpretations and beliefs too, for example, if he thinks ‘I will come last if we have children’ then he will feel despair. If these beliefs are spoken (rather than suppressed) they can be challenged and he can discover if they are true. This process is called CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and works really well for depression. So please suggest he has a course.