Are You Still You When Your Partner Is Depressed?

Relationship in Turmoil

Over and over, I find online stories about the transformation of a loving partner, most often a man, into a depressed stranger. As I’ve often written here, I have been that stranger.

I’ve told several stories about what happened during that time in my life and what I’ve tried to learn from my own depressed behavior. I’ve described fantasies about becoming a new me, blaming my wife and my work for the unhappiness, losing control of myself in rage – and then pulling out of it before losing everything.

The story was all about me, and that’s always the way it is when depression is ghost writing at my side. My wife had a different story. Of course, it started with the crisis I had set in motion but then shifted to everything she did to sustain herself. When I “came back,” the old relationship didn’t come back with me. Instead, we had to create something different because we were both different. It wasn’t about me or her then but both of us.

Because of what I’ve been through and knowing how my wife took care of herself, I worry about many of the stories I read online. They tend to be all about him. I hear a great deal about what the depressed partner is doing, what may be wrong, his refusal to get help, his on-again off-again emotions, his confusion and pain. The hopef-for turning point of this story centers on whether or not he’ll get over it and return as the loving partner he used to be.

What I hear so much less about is the person who has to live with Depression Fallout as Anne Sheffield calls it – the emotional damage caused by living with a depressed partner.

I always want to ask, What about you? Where are you in all this? Except for a brief mention here and there about pain and perhaps efforts to get help, I have a hard time getting as sharp a picture of who you are and what this relationship means for your own sense of self.

Are you worried you won’t be you anymore once he’s gone? Why do you think you can change him? Why do you ask only about what will happen to him? Where are you?

There is so much invested in a close relationship that it inevitably affects the sense of who we are. Each partner, hopefully, feels enough trust to open and share a usually closed emotional core. Once it’s clear the relationship is a lasting one, there’s a sense of fulfillment and sureness of commitment on both sides. I’m still me, but I’m also more.

Even when troubled, angry or hurt by each other, the emotional resonance and mingling can move two people to some sort of healing. It’s all the more shocking, then, when depression takes control of one partner and rips the relationship. It’s not only a betrayal; it takes away the part of me that emerged through closeness to my partner. That cuts too deeply. I won’t feel complete anymore. How can I survive this?

I think the depth of loss of that joint identity varies a lot. At one extreme, there’s a complete dependence on another person to feel like a “real” person. That’s what I went through In my early twenties when I had the experience of being left abruptly. The crisis for me was extreme because I couldn’t imagine myself without this partner. I had no sense of my own value as a person and looked to her to make up for everything I wasn’t. In my state at the time, I could only feel OK because she was with me.

As I told myself, there was nothing left to fill the inner emptiness, so I fell apart. For a long time, I couldn’t accept what had happened and obsessed over the relationship, convinced I could do this or that to turn back the clock. Every attempt failed miserably, and my condition got worse and worse. It took a few years to get past that, but the long-term result was a much healthier sense of who I was.

That’s one extreme. Another is a level of independence of two people that they limit carefully the amount of time they spend together. There’s a fear of losing personal identity by getting too enmeshed in each other. One couple I knew (obviously wealthy) built side-by-side houses connected by a common space so that they could choose when to be together. If one had a serious problem like depression, there was certainly a loving concern but also a safe distance preserved to keep one from damaging the other – or so they thought.

There’s a balance that has to be found between needing a partner to feel good about yourself, as I did, and feeling so autonomous as to see a depressed partner’s problems as his own and having nothing to do with you.

As Peter Kramer puts it in his thoughtful book, Should You Leave?, society as a whole values independence and self-fulfillment far more than fulfillment through the interdependence of a relationship. But the goal for so many is to combine both.

Kramer offers a beautiful image of the way two people can be closely entwined without losing their own identities. He tells about his great aunt, who offered this comparison when she learned of his wedding engagement.

[She] pointed to a pair of white pines planted close together. They had developed a cone of branches and needles around the two trunks, responding to the sun as a single tree; if you were to cut one down, the other would look unbalanced, bare on one side and rounded on the other. A couple, she said, should be like those trees.

I suppose the continuing challenge is to find the balance between a healthy sense of one’s separate self and the shared identity of a close relationship. Neither can exclude the other, and even if relationships fail, they’ve given as much as they’ve taken away.

Sometimes I find out how the online stories have ended – though not so often as how they began. Usually, it’s encouraging, not because the relationship has been restored (that’s rare), but because an inner resilience has led to acceptance of what’s happened. The new story begins, and it’s all about you, no longer about him.

So that’s why I ask: where are you in the story you tell? Are you worried you won’t be you anymore once he’s gone?

64 Responses to “Are You Still You When Your Partner Is Depressed?”

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  1. Sarah says:

    My husband got angry back at me when i was depressed! He wound me up, spoke down to me, insulted me, and called Sad, Pathetic and shouted LOOK AT YOU.
    I completely fell apart. I cried in desperation for him to stop speaking to me like that. But instead he YELLED in my face! I slapped him to get him away from me.
    So..
    He called the police on me and accused me of domestic violence!

  2. Jan says:

    I met my second husband 6 years ago. When we met he seemed very confident, one of these types who loves life and despite losing a child at 15 had learned to live with this because of his faith. He had sadness in his life but who doesn’t. A year and a half after meeting we married and lived in my home with my two daughters. I have a son too but due to an argument my son left to live with my parents . For two years he did not speak to me but thank God we are now very close once more. Life seemed OK then behaviour which he had demonstrated earlier, manipulation, outbursts of anger, threats to leave blaming my daughters for ‘taking too much ‘of my time ( they were 11 and 18) became the norm. He only seemed happy when it was just us. Anyway long story short, this kind of behaviour continued…he would fall out with me,,distance himself, refuse to communicate with me which upset me deeply. He knew how to pull my strings to thee point that I felt I was no longer ‘me’. He pressurised me into selling my home at a substantial loss but I went along with it, we downsized and I bought our new home outright, so he had no financial worries on that score. Within week of moving home he became ‘I’ll with stress and gave up work. He dabbled in making a hobby into employment which put us under huge financial burden. Last year I was diagnosed with OC and had to have major surgery and chemo and as soon as chemo was over I had to return to work. This is because he said he could not work due to a mild heart condition. However this did not stop him from doing all the other things he wanted to do. I have just been carrying the whole financial burden even through my cancer. Even so I have tried to be patient, understanding and sympathetic realising he is’ not well’. I came home two weeks ago after work to a 7 page letter telling me he had left as he couldn’t cope with the ‘environment’ blaming a lot of it !on my girls, who are fantastic daughters…now 16 and 23. They have had to live with his moods, hear him being angry and shouting. Several occasions he has threatened to leave and on a few he packed his belongings and drove away. Last year when I was waiting to go for my first chemo I had to ask home to leave as he had done something which caused me such grief I couldn’t bear to even be under the same roof.. Earlier this year I had to ask him to just leave as his abusive behaviour was so bad I couldn’t cope. I have tried and tried and I think my problem is I am such a resilient person I have tolerated behaviour which I should not have. I have forgiven over and over but now I am thinking he just doesn’t want this to work, although he would argue that point. He used to say to me that before he met me and he was dating ‘the chase was always better than the kill’ ! I am beginning to think he is a man who just runs when things get too tough and he wants a nice easy ride…well life ain’t like that. It is full of trials and we just have to face them with whatever faith,strength we have.I now feel he is playing a bit of emotional cat and mouse game with me…he loves me but he wants to love me from a distance and he would be happier if mg girls were not around. Well, sorry, you didn’t rescue me,,,I was not a damsel in distress and you knew I had children when we met. So now I am in no mans land… He doesn’t want a divorce, but he can’t live in ‘this environment’ … I feel like my strings are being pulled . He wants the assurance of my love but doesn’t want to give anything in return..nothing. Oddly enough since he left two weeks ago he has got a new job and is finding the strength and the energy to do the things he wants. I just feel numb and like he is just waiting for the next best thing.

    • Jan says:

      Just wanted to ‘add’ his doctors have told him repeatedly he is not depressed so either he is doing an excellent job of putting on a facade or they are wrong. I realised that I have not really answered the question above. I am a very positive personality . In one year I have lost my mum, been diagnosed with cancer and now my dad is suffering with Lewybody dementia. But I still wake up everyday and thank God for a new day. I think you learn to adapt your mood and you have to go along with whatever their state of mind is. I have found myself putting my wishes on hold and accepting that I may want to go and climb a mountain but he just wants to take a stroll and I have been grateful for even that. However I don’t think it is helpful to either of you if you allow yourself to be immersed in their depression…but it’s tough.

  3. Amy says:

    Just wanted to tell you, that I have a depressed spouse. We are not enmeshed. I do the things I love, I have support system, I go out and do things by myself and I have a therapist for when the things are really affecting me.

    I know a lot about this illness, since I had it too. But I am free from it for years now, thanks to a good psychotherapy and my hard work. I know I am one of the lucky ones.

    But I must tell you, it is still VERY hard to deal with my spouse. Because you probably know, a lot of men get angry, when they are depressed. Although not violent, my spouse will say very hurtful things. Now I do set my boarders, but if I have to do it every day, when he is depressed – it takes a lot of my energy and patience, believe me. Even though I know it is an illness, it does not change the fact, that this is hurting me and eating away at our relationship. I have stood by his side for 11 years and yes I do ask myself sometimes, if it is worth it. When a nasty thing happens on holidays (for which I work for very hard and want to relax from the daily stress), one does feel desperate. Because you know, you cannot help and you cannot change the person or the illness. And yes I have been called a dictator before, when I set my limits. I will be honest, every non depressed spouse is asking him/herself, if it’s worth it. They are just not saying it. I am feeling just like Katie. And I have enough of blame shifting. I AM SUPPORTIVE, OTHERWISE I WOULD NOT STAND BY HIS SIDE NO MATTER WHAT FOR 11 YEARS AND BELIEVE I HAVE BEEN THROUGH HELL.

    It is an illness yes, but it should not be an excuse. No matter how much I understand about depression, I will not let my spouse treat me like shit. Even a depressed person has an option to learn, if nothing else, the self control. I DID! I do not expect him to snap out of it, but this is no excuse for treating someone else like crap. Write about this some day.

    And even a person with heart disease has an option to make things better.

  4. tanya says:

    No i think a partner gets lots in there own depression when there partner is depressed i just lost my everything my soulmate we were so close never really fought the depression is soopp bad he just told me he is leaving im 2 weeks its been a nightmare im so lost

    • Jo says:

      I’m in the same boat my situation is similar. My boyfriend suffers from depression when he agreed to get help his father died and this snowballed him. Within days he kicked me out and wanted nothing more to do with me. Eight weeks later he has started to get help but I’m at a loss. He is adamant he doesn’t love me. I never thought it would end like this

      • Paola says:

        I am sorry to read about your story. I. Afraid mine will end on a similar way. However the reason of his depression is his illness.

  5. Neil says:

    Hi everyone, i would love some advice, my wife and i have been married for 5 years, it was a pretty amazing marriage too, we were very close and best friends, then over a 2 week period i noticed a change in her, bit snappy and she looked sad. then she decided she wasnt sure she wanted to be married any more and left to her parents for space. she really shut me out of her life, i suspected depression but she would not accept it. anyway we sold the house and are now living apart, she did accept she was depressed and is now having counselling and meds, so ive always maintained contact, sometimes she replies others she doesnt. there have been days when she was very positive and said things like now the house is sold we can use it to rebuild our lives together, only for her to then slip into negativity again.
    so in january i messgaed her and asked to meet, she told me she didnt want to reconcile. i left it a couple of weeks and wrote her a letter, i took it to her house, she was in so i just knocked, she invited me in and we had a really good talk, told me she loves me, and lots of hugs which were nice.
    so we started to build on this and ive been going to see her and she coming to me, we have even planned to go to a concert together in june. she has over this last couple of weeks bumped into my ex wife on 2 occasions, nothings been said just given each other strange looks and its really affected her, my ex wife has caused a lot of stress for us with child access and maintence.
    so we went for a meal last night, she invited me out and actually paid it was nice, but we ended up talking about my ex wife, (i didnt bring it up), dropped her off at home got a kiss and told each other we love each other, i recived a message soon after i had got home to say she had enjoyed the evening but my ex wife churns her up and she sadly has to walk away from me, now she is ignoring my messages, its really affected me, i thought we were making such good progress and now its gone.
    Are setbacks like this to be expected , im honestly finding it so demoralising to stay positive and its very taxing to maintain some sort of contact. weve been apart 7 months now and shes been getting treatment for 3 months, i guess time limits go right out of the window when dealing with depression, so i dont really know what to expect from her treatment, i realise i get quite impatient at times, i just miss my beautiful best friend so much. I started to put time limits on things but theyve been and gone, i think in my heart if i dont sit this out and wait i would always look back and forever wonder what if

    Neil

  6. Allen says:

    I have been married to the same woman for 33 years. After the last of our 3 children was born in 1986, I felt like my wife had left me emotionally and physically. I not knowing what depression was at the time fell into a deep depression myself in 1989. After I was recieving treatments for awhile, my wife decided she had depression as well and started in therapy and medication. After my first year of treatments, I continued to be stable and medicated for 10 years till I went off meds and have been stable till now. My wife has continued to struggle with her depression for the past 26 years. Being medicated but still stuggling with being in and out of depression. Only ever in therapy for the first 2 years. Even after feeling the effects of depression myself, I could not rationalize the anger, very hurtful things she has said over the years. I have always continued to encourage her to seek therapy to help her with her thoughts that were too hurtful to share with me (she has shared some incredibly hurtful stuff). She continued to resist any therapy or help other than taking the meds and trying to handle it by herself.
    About 1 1/2 years ago I had come to the conclusion that I could no longer handle the lack of intimacy and the emotional void in my life and decided since I had encouraged her to get help and have been met with stiff resistence for the last 26 years, I am the only person that can do anything about it to protect myself from her misery. In addition, I myself have recently been diagnosed with depression again and started taking meds which seem to be working well. I feel her depression has sucked me in again.
    Since I have told her I was at my wits end and was going to leave her, now she is seeking help and wants to save our marriage. At what point is this too much? I told her I hate depression and feel like it has consumed our marriage and lives. I hate it and don’t want to be around it anymore. Any thoughts?

    • Alexandra says:

      Wow! This is all too sad to read. I am so sorry you have spent a life like this. I can only imagine what effects this may have had on other members of your family too.

      I think distancing yourself from eachother for a period of time while you each seek GOOD psychological support individually is perhaps the bedt first step. You both negatively pull eachother into a vicious cycle tjat needs to be broken. After that period you could try and start working on being together again while both going together to counseling on a regular basis. I have also heard that doing yoga together also helps in these instances.

      I am not a professional so perhaps its best you consult your doctor on what the best steps are for you.

      The real question is, do you want to work on the marriage anymore or have you lost all motivation?

      • Allen says:

        Alexandra, Thanks for your input. That’s why I wrote. I am currently trying to get on top of my own depression because I do not want to make a decision I would regret because it would be tainted by this illness. Untill I am stable for a time, don’t know if I have lost all motivation. I believe my depression is much more situational with the life we live together. On my first depression, the 10 years I was medicated, the first was fighting depression and the next nine were medicated and I was ok and not feeling depressed. Also for the last 15 years of being unmedicated, I functioned fine if I poured myself into work and never thought about the lack of emotional and intimate closeness I long for in my marriage.
        Because of my own experience with depression and the medication working, I have always encouraged my wife to seek more help, mulitiple times , more counseling and possible changes to her medication, psychiatric help for her to deal with the ups and downs of her own depression. She has resisted or would go to a PA to get her antidepressants filled but not seek the profession that truely understands the medication and the benefit of therapy. She has had several serious depresive episodes over the last 26 years and most gernerally when not in those stages is able to keep just above the waters of depression. She has never been really “happy” with much in her life and no matter how hard I try to stay on top of my own happiness, it’s like the other part of my life is such a downer it’s hard to not get drawn in although I feel like I have done well for the most part.
        The frustrating part for me right now is that as I have encouraged her for years to seek help and she has resisted. Now when she hears, I have had enough, she is seeking help for her depression, trying to change medications to improve some of the side effects, but for me it may be to late. I can’t help but wonder why she would not listen to me about seeking help. Depression affects everyone around you.
        Lastly, our three kids, 33,32, and 28. We have tried to educate them as much as possible about depression knowing they have a good chance of experiencing this. My daughter is on antidepressant now. thanks again for the comment.

  7. Jolie says:

    My somewhat new (but very close) boyfriend walked away from me without saying much of anything at all. We talked about his depression, severe for periods of around six months, and his anxiety often, and I read a lot about how to be supportive in the right way. Aside from one minor slip up where I accused him of not caring about me, we never fought and he remained himself right up to the departure. (Immediately following our one argument, I realized I let my emotions have control and I apologized, we moved on)

    He never said he wanted to break up or stop talking to me, he just did it. When i felt him pulling away, I asked him if I had done something wrong. He said no, he was just sad and stressed. I attempted to contact him once a week for a few weeks, and remained in connection on social media for that time as well. But he was gone.

    My mind goes back and forth between knowing its the illness and thinking he just wasn’t into me or the relationship. Even though deep down I know he adored me and my daughter and maybe still, somewhere in there, does.

    Even though we weren’t long term partners, the pain was still very bad. And after a month of extreme confusion and deep sadness, I’m moving again. I joined a group that meets once a month, based in spirituality and psychology. That’s been the most helpful, I think. I’m learning about chakra balancing and meditation techniques to ease stress, self doubt, and gain personal power. Physically, I’m sewing more, finishing up old projects, reorganizing my home and so on. Emotionally, I’m reaching out to other friends who have expressed sadness, frustration, and general discontent with their lives and offering my support and sharing what I’m learning about depression.

    I have learned my pattern is to try and fix people, then freak out when I seem to be failing.

    I miss him and us. Maybe I’ll send a text here or there to let him know I’m thinking of him, but I fear alienating him even further. He may never reach out to me again, I’m sad when I think about that but I know it wasn’t my fault. I can only do my best to be there for someone but I can’t save them.

    Any replies are appreciated, thank you for listening.

    • Cristina says:

      Hi Jolie. I kind of recognized myself in your story. I am in the middle of the crisis. On 30/12 he was telling that he loved me, on the 31/12 he told me I would be better without him and to take care of myself, as he wasn’t well and needed to be alone. At the beginning I was not aware of what was happening and I tried with desperation to help, to understand, to be there, with the result that everything was even worse. One second he was kissing me, the second he was breaking up with me, that I would be better without him, as he wanted to protect me. 13 days have passed and I am still feeling that I am in a dream, though I have started reading a lot, not sure if to help him deal with this, or just to save myself from drowning. I have moments in which I realize that it is better now than later, other moments when I am afraid of myself. days when I am blaming myself for not being able to have seen this before or to help in anyway. I read, hoping that I can control my feelings and keep the distance. I tried calling once, but he was so distant and cold, that I felt terrible. He stopped calling me or sending me any message and when i called him all I could hear was that he was not ok, that he needed to be alone, that he does not feel anything….I hope one day I will be ok again.

      • Jolie says:

        I hope you’ll be ok again too. I did a lot of reading as well. And searching message boards for similar stories, anything to dull the pain just for a second.
        And then he came back! And everything felt amazing again! I saw changes within him and us and I was so hopeful. And then he left without saying anything. Again. In my heart, I expected it. And it doesn’t hurt as bad as the first time, but I’m changed.
        The greatest part of the experience has been my growth. Even at 33 years old, I am not very experienced in emotional relationships. The first time he left, I dove into myself and began to feel my feelings. I practiced letting go of fear based thinking and confusion and attempted to get mental clarity. I still have so much to learn but I feel very confident in what I have achieved so far.
        Once again in solitude, I am committed to becoming emotionally vulnerable. I want to be able to express myself creatively and emotionally with ease. Maybe if he does come back, me being open will help him be open and would do us both some good. If he doesn’t come back, at least I’ll have that emotional growth.
        The best thing to do for him is be gentle with him. Remember he is suffering. By doing that, you will also be gentle to yourself. You did or said nothing wrong. You are not to blame, remember that too.

        • ej says:

          Jolie,

          I’ve been lurking on this site and feel compelled to respond to your post, as it mirrors my own situation. I have been shut out completely — ghosted, really, by a man who has loved me for the last three and a half years. Painful to feel discarded, although, as time ticks by, I realize that the opportunity to really FEEL and explore my own needs & wants is a rare gift.

          It has been many months since you posted your update: how have things been this year? I find others’ experiences comforting. Thanks!

          E

  8. Alexandra says:

    I am going to try and keep this short and to the point

    2 weeks ago my relationship ended for the 3rd time in 10 months (we break up and get back together). My partner did not blame me for our issues, infact he takes most responsibility and praises my efforst in supporting him. Unfortunately this time round he said he doesn’t love me so I assume this is the end.

    He always uses phrases such as ” I wish I was normal” “my limitations as a man stop me from finding happiness” ect

    Of course I am devastated by him breaking up with me. I was according to him the love of his life. I admire and look up to him so much as a person that it angers me how unfair life is that such a lovely, smart and decent person has been crippled with such a horrible illness. An illness that is also ruining his liver as he has become an alcoholic to help him cope everyday life.

    This illness deprives me of my own happiness. For me my ex is my perfect match as a spouse. Everything about him when he is healthy is exactly what I have always dreamt of from a husband.

    so to answer your question of where am I in this story, well:

    I have definitely learned many things about myself; Strengths, weaknesses, limits and needs from life and a partner. I have also become extremely aware and compassionate of mental illnesses.

    I have learned how to feel each emotion (good and bad) to its extreme and also have come to terms with the fact that I am a giver in my relationships. This also comes from a deep place within myself that is hard to change in order to protect my emotions.

    I also have realized how easy it is to be sucked into depression and alcohol addiction yourself as a “carer”

    Lastly I have learned who my true friends are.

    • Jolie says:

      Sorry to hear about the trouble in your relationship. I know it hurts. Life is not fair, but we can’t give up hope.

      Are you two in contact at all? I have read its good to keep trying to reach the depressed person, that they might come around. And its good to let them know you’re there for them, but I have a really hard time believing in that. I felt like I was pestering and totally rejected. Have you been able to do this without feeling that way? If so, what’s your perspective?

      I know it seems cliché, but if he’s not the one meant for you, you will find someone with all the qualities you seek in a mate. Dont forget that. He will be there and ready. A wise gal once told me, there is a top for every kettle.

      • Alexandra says:

        Hello! and sorry for the late reply. It has been a whirlpool month.

        In the past month I tried to keep a certain distance but caved in on a couple of temptations. The night he broke up with me he messaged me a few hours later pretty much just recapping on all the illogical reasons of why he wanted to end the relationship. I didn’t respond till about a week after telling him that I know there are deeper inner issues there and that I was hoping I would have been his motivation. I also said that my love for him is unconditional and I will always care for him.

        No response and no contact for almost a month till I couldn’t contain myself any longer. I texted him something along the lines of ” Does this mean you no longer want to speak to me. I am not looking to get back together as I know this would be wrong for both of us”
        He responded saying that he is fine with keeping contact but he doesn’t know how to support me emotionally at this point of time. He feels like he is letting me down again. I was at work so I couldn’t respond which I think irritated him and I then received a huge email roughly 6 hours later.
        The email was very mean and he pretty much backtracked on all he had acknowledged so far ( that he has been unsupportive and selfish. That he has too many inner turmoils in order to be the partner I deserve). He did mention that he has taken on board my advice to him in seeking help from doctors and said he will be looking to implement – I do not think these words will be put into action.
        I did respond back, however I have not heard from him.
        Since then I have chatted with a few common friends about everything. Some agree he is suffering some sort of depression others think he has severe commitment issues as he has done this before with previous relationships. I personally think there is a mixture of both where one brings on the other.

        Its funny but only a couple of days before he sent me that horrible email he had told a friend that it was sad he has lost such a loving and caring partner.

        I still love him…but I want to move on. I am a vibrant and loving person and I had become miserable, quiet and negative with him. It’s like as if he was sucking all the positive energy from me.

        How are you holding up?

        A friend told me the other day that its not enough to meet your perfect partner unless the timing is also right. Both people need to be ready for the relationship. Someone troubled is not ready…especially if they are not even at the beginning of their journey to recovery

        • Jolie says:

          I’m feeling a lot better. It was just so confusing for some time. I finally started to let go of the idea that “we were perfect for each other but depression for in the way” and surrendered to the fact that, like you said, the timing was not right. He is not in the same place as I am emotionally. He’s still great, I still have unconditional love for him, and I’m still supportive of him. But its not gonna happen right now.

          He contacted me to apologize about a week ago, after about a month of no contact at all. Things are not the same and I’m not sure if he’d like them to be, but I’m glad we’re communicating again. It also made me realize i hadnt done anything wrong after all. Me doubting myself has vanished. He has also changed some bad habits and resolving to create new, positive ones and seeing a therapist.

          He does have committment issues due to the anxiety and depression. Even if he stays on the path to recovery, is he ever going to really let me in? Do I want to wait around to find out? Bringing it up to him is way too sensitive of a topic to introduce at this stage of recovery. Its still very confusing, but I am surrendering to the universe and letting go. Things will work out as they should.

          Its a weird thing how peoples moods are so fluid and can affect the people close to them so profoundly. This experience has really made me aware of how closely connected we all are as human beings, even if sometimes it doesn’t seem like it.

          • Robin says:

            “Even if he stays on the path to recovery, is he ever going to really let me in? Do I want to wait around to find out? ”

            I am so sorry you have had to experience the pain from loving someone with depression.

            I have been married for 30 years to a man with chronic depression. It has been a roller coaster. His recovery is on again off again. My life has been on hold waiting for him. I love my husband with all my heart and have waited. Now I’m looking back on all the years that have passed so quickly. Happiness on hold. Not only have I let my own happiness go but my children’s happiness too. They are adults now but are all struggling in different ways with the effects of living with and growing up with depression. It’s so sad that such an illness destroys the men we love. Please remember that it destroys the people they love as well. I have decided to leave and find healing and wholeness before it’s too late. These 30 years have been like a blink of an eye and I realism the last year’s of my life will go by just as quickly. Depression is a monster that destroys and devours everyone. Please find happiness now. For me I must love him in my heart but distance myself and protect myself so my life does not completely get devoured by the illness.
            i pray that you will find and love yourself enough to not settle for less. To live each day alive and happy. And to be strong enough to protect yourself from things that steal attempt to steal your joy.

  9. Georgie says:

    My partner was recently diagnosed with depression. I had noticed that he was different and more argumentative. His libido had virtually disappeared which was having a huge impact on our relationship as I felt he was moving away from me.

    It was after an argument that we decided that after a wonderful 3 1/2 years we would split up. He just calmly packed his bags and left my house! At first I felt a sense of relief as the unhappiness could now stop, but then I had a huge realisation 3 days later that I missed him terribly and wanted to work through this.

    I opened up my heart to him and declared my undying love but he said that he couldn’t be with me because I didn’t deserve to be hurt anymore, he didn’t deserve me and never did and I would be happier with someone else! He pushed me away constantly, even though he told me he’d never meet someone as they would never come close to me.

    I was devastated and now 13 days on, although we are communicating and he has been to the doctors and had a diagnosis of depression, we still haven’t seen one another. He says that he feels a little better some days, and can see a future with me again, then the next morning he tells me how low he is. I feel heart broken and can’t stop crying. I’m grieving for the man he was. I didn’t say that we don’t live together but that he stays over 3/4 days a week, or did!

    I try to encourage him to keep busy and as he is an ice hockey referee, he has been going to games, regardless of whether he is working or not. This has made me angry also as I’m sitting at home crying while he is out (because of my encouragement). I feel upset that he wants to spend all his time with other people and not me but he says that he doesn’t want me to see him as he can’t hide his real emotions with me whereas he can with others!

    I know I should be being more supportive towards him but I feel so hurt and rejected. When he knows I’m upset, he days that I shouldn’t try and support him as it’s hurting me too much and we should cut ties. I just don’t know what to go anymore? I know he’s not doing this on purpose as it’s so out of character but I can’t deal with my own reactions to his lack of caring for my emotional being. I’d it selfish of me to expect him to be any different as afterall it’s him who us sick not me. I feel sick, I can’t eat properly and just look forward to being able to go to bed at night and sleep so I no longer have to deal with the pain of rejection.

  10. Chris says:

    My wife of 13 years suffers from depression. At the moment, this is coming out as criticism of me, and hostility towards my 20-year-old son, who really hasn’t done anything to deserve it, apart from existing. Also she had an affair five years ago: I discovered it, she apologised, then resumed it about two weeks later before I discovered it again a few months afterwards. We were able to move on but she never made a serious attempt to explain why the affair happened and it still bothers me.

    That’s all the bad stuff; in between we’ve had many happy times and we love each other. However, her current attitude to me and my son is very difficult to cope with.

  11. Liz says:

    My long distance boyfriend has depression. This morning, he said that he needed a break. I’ve read up on depression and I think it’s good he wants time. He said he loved me and didn’t want it to affect us…but it does affect us. He’s also said he loves me and it’s not my fault, but I just want to support him and I can’t help but feel hopeless. I’m worried we will end, I mean, who wouldn’t be? I feel like I’m sitting back and waiting for the alarm to set off saying “hey, it’s over.” I don’t know how to help him. Or help him figure himself out. But I know I can’t. I just don’t want him to forget me…while I sit here, pariently and impatiently waiting.

  12. Marie says:

    I am a shattered person. Depression, anger, mood swings, resent, you name it, have consumed my husband, and I feel myself dying each day because of it. No one knows. I must be an amazing actress. Allergies are what cause the puffy eyes, genetics is the cause of my high blood pressure, work stress for the pain in my chest. We have been together for 21 years, but I lost the man I married 5 years ago. 5 years he has been spiraling. 5 years I have been dying. 5 years our daughter has been alive, and this is how she knows us. Mom cries a lot.
    He has told me that I am to blame for his distance, his coldness, his uncertainty of how to approach me – he owes me because I make more money than he does. He has told me he is jealous of me, for everything from my job to my sex life in high school and college because he never had one. He blames me for acting weird toward him and its my fault for making him distant.
    I could go on and on with issues, but my question for anyone out there is this: How do I get a break from the blame and confrontation when we live in the same house? Exactly what boundaries do I set? How do I word it so as not to sound accusing? How do I diffuse the anger? If I ask for space he’ll say, “maybe I should just leave” or something lame like that, provoking more debate. I am tired, I am still grieving for a partner that he has told me “is gone” and I’m just trying to survive alone, financially support my family and be the best mom I can be for our girl. My heart and spirit is broken. If anyone is out there, I’d love some support or at least commradery. Thanks for listening.

    • Heather says:

      Wow right down to the length of time. I would like to say we are at the other side and in a wonderful nirvana, but that would simply be a lie. We are currently struggling with treatment and sleeping in separate areas of the house. I am improving on recognizing the “cycle” but the blame and the distance never seem to get easier. I truly wish I had reached out before as I have lived in my husband’s depressive states for five years hearing “I don’t love you anymore just leave” to “you trapped me with these kids now I can’t ever get rid of you” and the one that sticks with you would be “you are the reason I become depressed and fall into the cycle again.” The blame the distance the lack of everything that brings two people together make you question everything that you once felt. Was it real? Were there red flags? Am I crazy? I at first willed him to be better (that worked…. Ha) then I begged him to see it… To I asked him nicely if he wanted to address what is really wrong and called our doctor. Still on the road to recovery and I have days like today. Lonely, sad days that cause my constant need for someone to notice. The “victim” feeling if you will, I know I am not the victim to his depression but an innocent bystander in the quake of it’s destruction. I forget that I have a story and a side too, it’s mostly Bob’s depression and his good days we focus on.

      • Lin says:

        Heather your reply is exactly where I am at now. I am broken and so sad, my husband can’t have a conversation with me. Every time I am in his presence I can see the anger in him, if I just say something wrong he lashes out on me and says “just give me a break, leave me alone” I feel like he hates me so very much. When we are around friends he is the nicest guy you will ever meet. But I live in hell at home, I tiptoe around and I’m scared to say anything because it might trigger his depression and then I have to sit and cry and be completely shattered. He never comforts me or apologise because of his depression. Its horrid and its so extremely painful to me and our kids who can sometimes hear how he shouts at me. And I am always wrong, I get told I don’t support him, that I have no sympathy. Its all so painful.

      • Asha says:

        I just saw your reply – two years later…I hope you are well. Of course here I am again – things have morphed, but are not necessarily better. Is this my life? Is this your life too? Perhaps there is comfort in numbers….I hope. I hope.

        • Carolyn says:

          Hi,
          I am finally at a breaking point. My husband has been depressed for years and yet I am finally realizing it now. Our marriage has steadily declined and Ism wondering what to do. We have a beautiful 6 yr old son.

  13. Phil says:

    I’ve suffered from depression since my earliest memories from childhood. I can now manage it without medication and have learned to push the dark blob of depression’s soot into the corner of the room. But when I ask my wife, with whom I am very close, to listen to me on rare occasions because I feel utterly and suddenly depressed, she tells me – in a very strident voice – about how worse she feels and that no-one ever listens to her, often suggesting that work-related pressures are the cause and that its my fault that they are what they are.

    Any thoughts about how to re-approach her so that I can tell her about how I feel and what I feel like. If I bottle it all up, I’m not at all sure that its a good thing.

    I try to help my wife in many ways – and it goes a lot further than putting the toilet seat back down.

    • marie says:

      The best advice i can offer is to write down what you want to say and examine how you say it. My now ex, I realize now when I look back, was trying to speak to me about his depression but the way he approached it often left me feeling attacked (honestly it was appalling), and I would bite back. He still thinks I am an awful person (he blames me for his depression, is vocal about it). Ask for help directly, and talk about your current emotions.

  14. Katie says:

    Here I am crying my eyes out. Yet I am not the depressed spouse but I am the transferred depression result. I have been with my husband for 7 years. For years it has been a discussion, whether he is depressed or not, why there is a lack of enthusiasm and why social events or gatherings are avoided or “tolerated”, why I am the initiator of positive change, why I am the initiator of our mutual happiness and adventure. There were a lot of loving, understanding, supporting conversations, there were a lot of hopes and promises that lasted only few weeks, and then there were the yelling, crying, breaking up, sobbing, losing hope moments. Then there are the accusations that I don’t support enough and criticize too much. Then there were the name-calling the shifting blame and the placing burden and responsibilities on me. As described by many before me as the never-ending rollercoaster. Yet, the depression speaks louder and louder each year and talks over me and talks over our conversations in making our future happy and colorful. And here I am, the one who came into this relationship loving the world and embracing the opportunities we could have, now crying daily and contemplating if there is happiness out there. Seeing my own efforts failing to trying to disconnect from his negativity and depression and strengthen my positive attitude. Who ever asked me and our child if I want to do the extra work to not get caught up in his depression and trying to pull myself together, while he claims that he has his depression “under control” and antidepressants and therapy are not for him, despite being diagnosed with depression and family direct members having a history of life-long depression. I want a life that is loving and caring. I want to breath and not worry at what moment I might make him mad, say something that is not appropriate, not good enough, do something that he assumes I am pushing him away…
    I want to not have moments of happiness and while they are happening, worrying about when they will stop because something in his life happens that sets him off. I am tired. I am worn out. I am hopeless and I feel that it is a situation that will require drastic measures, which have to be initiated by me.
    The constant promises of change, the repeated I-will-make-my-depression-priority hopes that dissolve into “I wouldn’t be depressed because of you” within a week are not a big enough straw for me to hold on and keep myself and our daughter above water.

    All I can say to everyone dealing with depression or someone being with someone who is depressed. It is irresponsible, selfish, and reckless to think that the depressed individual does not require professional help. And consequences and the damage you are causing with your inability or willingness to battle depression will be more damaging to you and your partner/spouse/family/children than you ever bargained for. These ripple effects are for life!
    Those who are loving a depressed partner/spouse, it is only a matter of time that the depression cloud will follow you too. Not chemically but physically and emotionally. Always remember that the depressed individual has to want to ask for help and no one will be able to make him/her do it. And while your depressed partner/spouse is not getting help you will be part of this rollercoaster until you finally get off or your partner decides to get help.

    • marie says:

      it’s always hard but also comforting to read posts like these. I am at the cusp, at the beginning- not yet married. but feeling these same things. I already question if there is such a thing as a happiness. I hope he gets his act together for your sake.

  15. `courtney says:

    Hey there my name is Courtney. I’ve been with my boyfriend for 9 months now. I started noticing his depression when he would get mad at me for no reason. He would blame me for pretty much everything. I would say something and he would take it as if i were attacking him. He then started staying in bed for a few days. He would tell me that I think hes a monster and that he is a disgrace. A few days later he will say sorry and that his depression takes over him. I tell him that he needs help and he has to work with me to get better. Then it happens again. He gets mad at me for no reason. and always says I’m blaming his depression and that I’m the one who starts all the arguments and that I’m stupid. Someone please tell me how I can get him to let me in, to get him the help he needs. I don’t know what to do. I’ve tried so much and taken so much and I feel pretty helpless right about now.

  16. Kate says:

    I feel I can’t take any more. I’m so angry at his moods all the time I’ve loved him for so many years now and I feel the love is fleeting and the depression is taking over. I just can’t help him he’s has had episodes for years on and off. I try to swallow it and not react I tiptoe round all the time and it gets me no where but mad. I want to do is shout and screem how come you get away with this behaviour I’m treated like total scum when he’s like this. I know it’s not him it’s the depression he doesn’t mean it it’s not my fault, but I can’t take any more of it I have to sheald the kids as much as I can I’ve no one I can talk to because he’d go mad if I told them how I really feel. I’m tiered and my brain hurts my feelings are never descussed and even if I try to say what about me he doesn’t care at all. I know it’s the depression. But it’s killing me. What kind of life are me and the children to have for what’s left of it I’m 4o next year and I just think what’s the point going on and being treated like this. He works hard he provides for us, but boy don’t we know about it! He has this belief in his head that just because I work a hour and a half job a day I don’t really do anything? I do it all the cooking cleaning washing housework everything I bust my guts but yet when he’s mad he always tells me how rubbish I am puts me down and tells me I’m useless at it all even bringing the kids up! I’m horrified at his attitude and have contemplated suiside in my darkest hours. He won’t listen there seems no way out and I just don’t have the emotional energy any more. I feel I’m bullied into a pointless existence and there’s no way out. When he’s good he’s good and we’ve had our happy times the kids are aware daddy gets sad sometimes and we hurry round so that all is ok in the house and all is done so there’s nothing for him to worry about when he gets home. I try to be calm and brush off his negativity about everything like his work his family everything seems to annoy him! There are rere moments of clarity I can count on my one hand where he’s said he know he’s not right and it’s this problem or that and I’ve been able to say “hunnie it’s you really your feeling blue and depressed” Then he’s ok for a few days but it creeps back and the depression comes in especially if he’s put under pressure. I just wish wish he dident have it I just wish he was normal and could love me and our family the way I do. But he can’t it’s the depression and I know it’s not right to carry on but I guess I’ve got to. I know I sound very needy and selfish moaning like this it’s not like me usually and I know some people understand and will say get help get therapy, talk to someone and this will get easier but it’s not a possibility at the moment. As I type I feel my self calming down and seeing the hope again in me that I’ve got to have. Not just for my self but for my family. Depression to me is like the worst illness. I know I’ll upset saying this but it’s worse than other illnesses sometimes because you know you can get pain relief and there’s an end to it a cure a wheel chair a walking stick or bandage and cream this is relentless and takes everything out of you pulls at every pice of you. Thanks for listening x

    • Zoe says:

      Hi Kate – just wanted to let you know that everything, absolutely EVERYTHING you said in your email is a perfect description of what goes on in my marriage. Everything – the blame, the judgement, the flat-out insults (I’ve also been told that I’m failing as a mother!) and I know how absolutely gut-wrenchingly painful it can be to be torn down when you are working your butt off and constantly told that you are not good enough.

      I know how it can feel to not know where to turn, to try to do what you can to avoid the blame, to resent having to behave like that, to feel that you have to be strong for yourself and the kids AND your husband, to try and keep some sense of yourself amidst all of this turmoil.

      Most of all I wanted to say thank you for writing this because it helped me to realise that I am NOT going mad, that the accusations that my husband throws at me have little or no basis in reality, that when they are real, they are not expressed reasonably, and that, most of all, it is not my fault.

      My husband has suffered from depression his whole life (we are just 40 too) and I am hoping that he is finally going to get the help that I know he desperately needs, whatever form that help takes. Anything would be good right now because I can’t do this alone!

      I hope that you and I can eventually find a place of peace and love with our families but until that happens, I wanted to reach out my hand to you and say: you are not alone. And: I understand. I hope that that gesture helps a little.

      With love and thanks,

      Zoe x

  17. Linda Ott says:

    My husband is depressed and my life is a rollercoaster. I sometimes think he would just be better off if I got out of his life, as I am pretty sure he blames me every time we have conflict. I always feel I live on shaky ground and cannot be myself. Sometimes I feel afraid …. if I try to express myself things usually get worst between us. I have started sleeping in the room alone, trying to give him the message that I don’t like the way I am being treated. At the same time feeling guilty for doing so. Any advice for me.

  18. Eliza says:

    I am not my usual self when my husband is going through withdrawals, turned his back on me and completely shuts me out. I had an identity for almost 20 years i.e. a wife and a mother of 3. Half of that is slowly evaporating, while the mother side is trying to cope with everyday life alone with our children while I am slowly dying inside. The confidence and self esteem has gone. I read these articles over and over again, and I try to understand what my husband is going through, but it does not mean I want to accept it.
    How can a person I have loved for almost 23 years, and who loved me be so cruel? How could he easily shut his heart from me and fall for another? How can he say he has known this new love all his life and have so much in common and interest, when he has only rekindled a friendship a few months ago after knowing her when they were teenagers? How could he destroy everything we have built in the last 20 years, the turmoils and overcoming the worst as a team? Why do I feel like I am the culprit of this ordeal, while he has isolated himself to recover from his illness? I am normally very strong, I have my ups and downs but then I quickly snap out of it and come back to reality. But now, I am dying all alone in my grief, mourning for the identity that has gone into a coma and will probably not survive. I’m tired of putting on a smile everyday, while my heart is in pieces.

    So answer to question, no I am not still me while my husband is depressed.

    • Eliza says:

      Happy New Year everyone!

      I have a little update and a question to John.

      My children pleaded with me to be myself again, the strong women they look up to and love. The things they had to say and their feelings about this whole ordeal with their father, brought me to tears and at the same time woke me up from my coma. The last thing that gave me the final kick was watching my daughters many facial expression during NYE. She and I spent it with friends, a couple with small children doing their family thing. A great sight to see and also painful because that was how my family use to be. I watched her when we went outside 10 minutes to midnight, and she sat quietly on the steps when the father of the family came over and put an arm around her and said that she could join the other children and light up as many firecrackers she wanted. That broke my heart because that was usually something she did with her father. My tears were for her and then anger arose.

      This sickness along with alcohol as destroyed my family. The man and father to my children, could not muster enough energy to celebrate NYE with us, instead he chose to spend it with his new lover.
      I see all of his best 2014 wishes to everyone with love and affection, but not one message sent to his own family.

      John, all 3 of my children are hurting in different ways. The oldest refuses to have anything to do with her father. She gave up trying to help him with his alcohol problem, the long conversations they had and promises to get help were all in vain. Her anger is troubling me and she is taking it out on her sisters, and she cannot accept that his depression drove him to easily turn his back on his family and replace it with another women. The sex chatting with girls as young as herself also sickens her. My oldest daughter pleaded with me that I should give up hope that he is coming back, I deserve better and that he can be his new lover’s problem and not ours. My second child, is staying away from the house as often as possible and spending more times with friends. My youngest has had stomach pains for several weeks, and after changing diet and medicine it did not help until I tried relief medicine for stomach ulcer symptoms. It dawned on me that quite often when something is going on in her life she often gets stomach pains. I recall many trips to the doctors and many sleepless nights holding her while her stomach felt twisted. Doctor’s could never find a reason for it.

      You should know that I am making some changes in our house, and I am not moping around looking miserable anymore. I have also asked my husband not to come around anymore uninvited. It stirs up too much pain for me, and that is what my children notice more. My misery is also making them miserable.

      John, will children ever forgive the depressed partner’s actions?

  19. H is for hope and happiness says:

    Hi Dave
    Please help yourself before your wife suck you into the depression, because that’s where I’m at the moment. I’ve been with my husband for 17 years. We had the perfect relationship ever. Everyone envied us and friends and family would ask our secret to our happiness before they walk down the aisle! Well unfortunately it all changed now.

    I think it started when our twins were born in 2010. I think my husband must have felt rejected a bit, because believe me twins are a handful. He helped a lot with the kids and I felt sorry for him, I could see the strain it had on him. I told him one night he should go out with his friends so he can have a break. What a mistake! Later I found a text on his phone from another woman. He said SHE kissed him. Anyway that’s where my depression started. He apologised profusely. I started seeing a therapist.

    I had such self-loathing, hated my body, felt numb inside, was unhappy all the time. I was so scared I was going to lose him. My husband said he loved me just the way I am and tried to help me feel better about myself. He wasn’t clued up about the depression, because I wouldn’t let him come with me to therapy, because I just needed to vent to a stranger and I didn’t want him to know what I was saying.

    Anyway I started feeling better but instead of trying to lose the weight, I carried on stuffing my face. I didn’t trust my husband anymore. We were ok, but started drifting apart. He became so health conscious after my brother in law died of a heart attack in Feb 2013. The more weight he lost the more I piled it on. Anyway he dropped the bomb about a month ago! I sucked him into depression.

    He is angry all the time and take it out on me and the kids. He told me he loves and cares for me but have no affection towards me. He says he feels dead inside and has been unhappy for a very long time. He said he was pretending to be happy, but can’t keep it up anymore. He has become a stranger over night. He doesn’t look at me, doesn’t talk to me, doesn’t touch me. He sleeps in my sons room. Leaves for work early in the morning and come home late at night. This has “snapped” me out of my depression.

    I can’t sleep and can’t eat. I have lost so much weight in one month, it’s crazy! I’m half the person I was a month ago, whereas it would’ve taken me months to lose all that weight. I’ve begged him to go for help and he said he will but he says he just wants to figure this out for himself first. He wants to move out to do this. I am crushed. I told him that I still love him and I am there if he needs to talk or need help. But I can’t help him get better. He has to do it for himself. It’s mad because if I show him my love, he feels trapped. If I leave him alone and give him space, he feels worthless and unwanted.

    I’ve come to the conclusion to work on myself. I want to be content in my life, and not just happy. Because happiness is only short term but contentment is eternal. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and doing things I’ve never done before. I’m becoming excited of what lies ahead in my life and making my kids feel happy and loved but sadly I’m losing my soulmate, my best friend, my everything in the process. I hope someday he will find himself and not regret what he has lost.

  20. Dave says:

    I’m married to a beautiful woman who I’ve been with for 15 years. For the past few months she’s gotten very angry, distant, the love just seems to have disappeared. She agrees that she is depressed, but insists that she can deal with it herself, not really wanting to talk through the problems with me (although now I am so nervous that I may make it worse!). She did do a few counseling sessions, but after a break ( she went away by herself for two weeks) now says it’s a waste of time and money. It’s very difficult to deal with when everything I do seems just to make the situation worse!

    It’s gotten unfortunately to the stage where I now struggle. Am I depressed? Should we split up? Should I get antidepressants to better my mood in order that I don’t make the situation worse. To be honest the last thing I want is to split, so much time, love and effort invested surely should mean we can pull through together? I just see no obvious route.

    I write this as I feel quite the opposite to most posts in that I’m the man who wants to talk things out, whilst my wife is holding everything in – I’d love to know if others feel the same?

    Thanks all for the posts and the articles, it does give some hope that things can get sorted. I hope that at some point I can post a positive follow up!

    D

  21. Jennifer says:

    My Name is Jennifer,I’m married to a Wonderful Man ,when he’s not down.He has times in his life of shutting down and being mean to those who Love,&care about him.I had him to agree to go see the Dr this past Monday,he was given Meds. I feel I’m riding a Roller Coaster everyday.One day he turns to me ,other days he acts as if he don’t know me.Today he stated to just end our marriage and hes been in the bed the remainder of the day.I love him but his words hurt so bad ,and I know I don’t need to leave him,He has always lived a high means of living ,and now he isnt .He doesnt driink or drugs,he turns to Face Book and speaks with females,I feel hes looking for a replacement that he thinks that will make him get over this.I feel so alone and lost in Arkansas

  22. Karen says:

    I have bipolar disorder, and believe my father did too, although he died before diagnosis was very good. He wouldn’t have seen a psychiatrist either.

    There are many types of manic states I’ve experienced. One known as a “mixed state” or in one author’s words “black depression” is especially destructive. Medication has been almost miraculous in freeing me from this feeling. It is black because it included hopelessness and agitation. The pain is excruciating, but you can’t tell what’s causing it. Little things set you off and you lash out at those closest to you. Our minds seek the cause of pain, and it seems like it comes from other people as well as the self you are trying to defend from utter worthlessness. It’s easy to think that everything would be better if you just got away from the people who seem to be unable to understand.

    When I was on the receiving end of this type of blowup, or sometimes a silent withdrawal, along with my siblings and mother, it was devastating, and the damage done when I was a small child seems like it will never heal. She tried and tried to endure, compensate, or cater to him, to no avail. At the time, divorce was socially unacceptable.

    In my own case, I was in my 40s before I found effective treatment and am still haunted by how it must have affected my son. It destroyed my first marriage (which had primarily been my way of leaving my family of origin in hopes that things would be better at a distance.)

    I agree that finding a therapist is a good thing, and don’t hesitate to shop around to find the right therapist for you. You are likely to be walking around in a state of PTSD after bouts of anger from your spouse, unless you are unusually resilient.

    You probably feel like the spouse you loved is there inside the manic emotions and behavior, and that’s true. The illness is the thing you shouldn’t be exposed to unnecessarily. You can make this clear. You need your own safe space where you can nurture yourself and see friends and family without fear of things going bad.

    • john says:

      Hi, Karen –

      That state of “black depression” you describe sounds just like what I’ve often gone through. It was most intense about 20+ years ago, and there was no relief for it. I felt quite out of control on many days, and it was my family that took the brunt of it. I’m so glad your treatment brought you out of it. Keeping the marriage together was a close call because the me my wife married was completely gone in those periods. When I snapped out of it and got back to being a good mate again, she could trust me because she knew I’d disappear before long into that same form of depression. That’s where I think the long-term damage can happen. Putting up with instability means taking abusive treatment for much of the time. If there’s a clear treatment plan in place that the depressed partner is fully committed to, I think there is hope for the future. Otherwise, you have to look at the limits of what you and children can or should take.

      John

  23. Karen says:

    I think you have to question the effect on you of the illness. Being abused, whether it’s him or the illness talking, is not good for either of you. If this is repeated, and he is not managing his behavior, especially if children are being exposed to this, you may be better off separating and offering support from a greater distance.

  24. Lynn says:

    Living with a bipolar husband is extremely difficult especially during hypomanic episodes and agitated depressions. During this last one, he became extemely critical of me and blamed me for his illness. Then he went out and impulsively filed for divorce. He refuses to talk to me and just sends text and e-mail messages berating me and showing irrational anger for things I did not do. I am independent and can take care of myself, but how do I deal with this latest divorce filing? It was done in a fit of anger and I don’t think he really wants it, or at least he won’t when he comes down from his hypomanic spell. The courts push cases along, and to try to mediate with him when he is in this state is impossible. Advice, anyone?

    • john says:

      Hi, Lynn –

      Bipolar disorder is quite different from unipolar depression. I have not dealt with a bipolar person in a hypomanic state nor do I have this disorder. I’ve relied on Julie Fast’s book for a better understanding of how to react to a partner during hypomania. One thing I do know for sure is that his behavior and thinking are always irrational and it takes special care to respond. On the other hand, you have to consider how much you can take and when you may just have to call it quits. Consulting a therapist could be important for you. On the divorce issue, I’d see if an attorney can help slow down the process. I’m not sure how it might play out, but it’s not in his interest to get near legal process in his condition. There is always the possibility of the court intervening in his treatment if he’s acting in an obviously irrational way and/or you/your attorney raise the issue. That’s an extreme and probably remote possibility, but you’d have to consider what that would do. I doubt you want the state getting involved, unless things are completely out of hand. You’re right that mediation won’t work. I am a mediator, by the way, though in a much different field, and know a lot about this process. If it later becomes necessary or possible to use mediation, there are protocols for representing the interests of someone in an irrational state.

      Taking care of yourself is the priority at this point.

      I really hope this works out in a positive way.

      John

  25. Karen says:

    Somehow I learned when I was about 20 how girls tend to choose men like their fathers, and I realized that my strongest attractions were to self-centered “bad boys” and that i never fell in love with the nice guys. I made a conscious decision then to find a dependable, normal guy who would be a good father, was not an alcoholic, and believed in going to work every day. My first husband fit those requirements but he eventually wanted someone less complicated and more outgoing. I found someone less outgoing and more compatible, but still not depressed or addiction-prone. Both were good fathers to my son. If you had a parent who hurt or belittled your other parent, you need to make sure you stay away from relationships that echo the same. My sisters and mother didn’t get that insight soon enough and married men much like my dad. They are out of those marriages now, but as you say, went years without the support they needed.

    • john says:

      Hi, Karen –

      What you say makes me realize how hard it is to escape the influence of your parents in finding a partner. Men are said to be looking for their mothers, just as you say women look for their fathers. Some people seem to look for the same problems, others for the idealized version of the parent. My wife and I went for the opposites of our parents. A steady guy as opposed to an alcoholic, a generous spirited woman instead of an egocentric depressed one. Still, though, the influence is inescapable – choosing the opposite instead of the same type relates to the same need. My parents also married opposites of their parents – in culture as well as personality. They were both rebels, but that motive didn’t keep them going.

      Thanks for this thoughtful comment —

      John

  26. Karen says:

    I truly do not know how my husband has been able to live with me for 31 years. I have had times when I lost control and screamed at him, blaming him for my distress, or he has held me for hours as I sobbed and told him of the crises of past and present. Medication and therapy have eliminated the screaming, and much of the crying. Still, I feel bad that he does all the cooking, shopping, and vacuuming because I am just too tired. He has to look at the face of depression every day. He has found his own space with his music, and has kept his distance from my inner state. Finally last year I realized that I was constantly trying to explain how it felt to have bipolar disorder to create some empathy, and that he was never going to understand. It’s helped a lot. When I need support, I can call my sisters, who were there in our terrifying home with a bipolar (undiagnosed), alcoholic (a word we never used) father, and a distracted codependent mother.

    There relationship was much more enmeshed and toxic. No one understood that depression and anger were symptoms of a medical disorder and my father could only see that you could be sane or insane and he wasn’t crazy. My mother didn’t know how it felt, but did all she could to go along with his wishes and needs. The result was a family system that was sick. Now I know that some of my sisters were suffering from depression, as was I, and it was impossible for my mother to deal with such a crazy situation. She used denial to survive.

    So there’s a contrast of husband-wife relationships when one is sick and the other is not.

    • john says:

      Hi, Karen –

      I too don’t know how my wife managed to stay with me for so long, but I think that she, like your husband, just has a deep bond that can survive a lot of punishment. You’re very fortunate to have someone who can find a way to take care of himself while being so responsive to you. It’s great that you’ve worked out a good system for support.

      So many families of people our age had no social support or knowledge to help them recognize these problems and get treatment. I lived with a similar situation and that surely had a lot to do with depression – that started long before I left home.

      It’s great you didn’t get into a similar situation as an adult – a lot of people haven’t been able to get away from it.

      I hope things keep getting better for you —

      John

  27. liz says:

    Hi John — you discuss in a number of your blogs on how critical it was for you to put yourself at the center of your recovery. Can you elaborate on that a bit further? I don’t have a sense of clarity on that issue from you and I think it’s really important for me to understand this. Your blog has been so instrumental in helping me to comprehend my ex-partners battle with depression. Right now, we are still very much a part of each other’s lives and he listens to what I have to say. Thank you so much for your response.

    • john says:

      Hi, Liz

      That’s a great question. I’ve touched on parts of it in a number of posts, but I need to put them all together. I’ll do a post about that soon.

      Thanks for this helpful comment.

      John

  28. I am extremely blessed with a fabulous husband who understands and at the same time is learning to take care of himself. Although I am unable, he continues to participate in activies that we once shared. He also sees my therapist every other week for his support and to understand what I am going through. I count myself very blessed.

    I am saddened that it wasn’t the same for you. However, I have learned who my true friends are.

    • john says:

      Hi, Clinically Clueless –

      It’s wonderful to hear that your husband is so supportive and has such balanced understanding. After all you’ve been through and still struggle with, that’s truly a great blessing.

      All my best to you –

      John

  29. Lynn says:

    No spouse should have to cope with the rejection and chaos of dealing with a depressed partner alone. After living for 10 years with a Bipolar husband, I have recently found the “Family to Family” Education Program sponsored by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) to be a life saver. I am a physician and my husband and I have gone to numerous psychologists, psychiatrists, and marital cousellors for help, but none of them were anywhere near as valuable as this group (and it is free!) It is a 12 week intensive course and support group for family members and friends of people with depression and other mental illnesses. It is extemely professional, organized, and references the most up-to-date data on treatment. They have groups throughout the country and I advise everyone to give it a try. Go to http://www.nami.org.

    • john says:

      Thank you, Lynn –

      I’m glad to know about this program and that it’s worked so well for you. I’ll look into it right away. Everyone needs support like that, and it’s so hard – as you’ve found – to find an approach that’s really effective.

      John

  30. Evan says:

    Hi John,

    I don’t know if you have heard of a Catholic writer of devotional books called Henri Nouwen. He was persuaded to publish his first book when he read; if someone doesn’t practice what they preach, perhaps their preaching while shame them into practicing it.

    Some things I’m good at practicing. And I try to open about my failures but I don’t think I’d like to be quizzed on how much I live out each of my blog posts!

    • john says:

      Hi, Evan –

      I’ve been deeply moved by some of Nouwen’s writing – especially the book about his period of depression. And I hear you about being quizzed. The most embarrassing thing for me is writing all sorts of honest and probing things in these posts – and then blowing it completely when trying to talk to my wife!

      John

  31. liz says:

    Thank you for addressing this topic because I have yet to find anything that truly states how I feel being the partner (as of today officially the ex-partner) of a depressed man for 2 years. For me, I have a few issues that I battle with…so much so that I am now in therapy to help me cope. I know I’m not depressed but I do know I have had depressed moments trying to deal with his emotional withdrawal then seemingly wanting me back only to withdraw again when he felt I was getting too close and the “walls” were coming in on him. Relationships bring people together because there is a shared need. For me it was wanting to feel passionate again. For him, he wanted to heal and believed that us being together could do that. Of course, I had no idea he suffered from depression when we first got together but once I did realize I chose to stay b/c I was already in love w/him and didn’t want to judge him on an illness he had no control over. But now here I am and I feel rejected which is the most difficult feeling for me to handle…rejected by someone who would prefer to be alone and isolated as oppose to being with me. I am the only friend he has in the city we live in…he moved here from the west coast to start a new life and I was part of that. I am a successful professional business woman and I wonder how I could have lost my sense of self in order to make him happy. In a way our relationship ending has lifted a burden for me as I don’t have to wake up every morning trying to figure out how I am going to make this relationship last and make him happy—forgetting my happiness. I will always love him and I wish we could get to a place where we understand our boundaries and continue a loving relationship but as you have said, that is rare. I could go on and on but I thank you, John, for allowing me to express.

  32. Marie says:

    Hi, John –

    I think I have avoided relationships because of the fear of dragging down the other or being drug down . . . I feel “safer” having to only be responsible for myself (and not a husband, not a marriage, not kids, etc.)

    The trade off is that I often find myself very lonely.

    I’m still looking for a healthy way to see all of this . . .

    Thanks for the great post!

    – Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

  33. Evan says:

    I’m unusual – I’m male and it is my partner who battled the depression: it looks like she was largely won the battle (there may be little skirmishes in the future I guess but it does look like she has won the battle).

    This is a huge relief. Living with her misery was far from easy. Much to her credit she did her best to care for me even when depressed and appreciated my care for her.

    For me: I did learn lessons about being detached and caring at the same time; about how to care for myself so I could care for another.

    On a philosophical note: I think we are social individuals rather than isolated individuals. Our relationships are not only exterior to who we are but form part of us. I’m not sure we have a very well developed language to talk about this but I think it’s very important.

    • john says:

      Hello, Evan –

      That’s a great point about our being social rather than isolated individuals. It’s very hard to unlearn all the cultural messages and imperatives about being a self-sufficient, self-made individual – as if everything we know and do has no context with other people at all. One of the prevailing myths!

      I’m glad your partner has won her battle. I’ve found it a severe test of any relationship when that misery starts dominating a partner’s life. It’s fortunate you found the right balance of care and detachment – and could take care of yourself. It sounds like you’re able to practice what you preach – how I wish I could do that as well.

      Thanks for coming by —

      John

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