Why Depressed Men Leave – 2

Some of the comments on the last post in this series hit hard on two issues. First is the question of personal choice: is a man supposed to escape responsibility for destructive behavior by attributing everything to depression? The answer is no! Depression is never an excuse for inflicting pain and loss, breaking up families, violent rages or destructive behavior of any kind. The other compelling question that is asked over and over again, often in desperation, is: What can I do?

I’ll try here to deal with both of these issues here rather than put them off to the end of the series, as I had originally planned.

1. Responsibility

Whatever might roil me internally in the midst of this condition doesn’t change or lessen my responsibility for the harm my behavior is causing. My wife hasn’t kept silent but has confronted me whenever she needed to about what I was doing to our relationship and everything I was putting at risk. Hearing that from her was not enough by itself to shatter the power of denial, but it was essential to be confronted with the facts of her feelings. That truth needs to get through the layers of depressive self-absorption and isolation in order for recovery to begin, but it is knowledge that has to be put to use by me. I had to decide to take responsibility for my own recovery.

I could not make that inner choice, however, so long as I was looking for an external cure. The last post tried to bring out the twisted thinking, rooted in denial, that led me for a time to look to something or someone other than me as the cause of an inner despair and emptiness. Convinced that the cause was external, it made sense in this phony logic to look for a cure by changing location, jobs, family. That would be the path to fulfillment. Fortunately, I could never fully believe that was true.

I thought I was doing everything I could to get better by using a series of treatments. I took medication, spent countless hours with therapists of many persuasions to undo patterns from the past, got counseling with my wife, changed diet, ran a lot, meditated, tried to change destructive ways of thinking, and more than that. The problem was that I kept waiting for one of these or all in combination to do the trick and rid me of this destructive condition.

None of them ever seemed to work for long because in a sense I was still looking for an external cure. Only when I had to deal with cancer did it dawn on me that I had to take charge of my treatment in a way I hadn’t done before. To doctors I was a statistic with a certain probability of survival after five years, ten years. I had to make an inner determination not only to use the available tools but to strengthen my will to change and approach that illness with the spirit of an activist. I wasn’t going to let it kill me. It might come to that but not without a hell of a fight from me.

That’s what has to happen in depression. As with substance abuse and addiction, no one and no thing could do it for me. Recovery had to begin with my inner belief that I could make it happen.

2. What Can a Woman Do?

I can speak only from my experience so there’s an obvious limit to how much I can say about what a woman can do. But I’ve talk to my wife – her medium is visual not verbal – and can summarize what she has done.

First, here’s part of what I said in the Longing to Leave series over a year ago.

I’m not big on offering advice, but the potentially devastating impacts of depressed people on those closest to them leads me to go a bit beyond just reflecting on what I’ve been through.

If you’re trying to deal with the sudden transformation of an intimate partner, get help, starting with friends and family. You’ve likely felt such a deep assault and wound that it would be easy to get lost in the sheer humiliation, hurt and anger of the experience, searching for what you’ve done wrong, what you could do or say to set things right. That’s a trap … Those closest to you and your partner have doubtless noticed something strange and may have been hurt as well by new behavior. That will remind you that you’re not alone in this.

And remember that you can’t cure someone else with your words and love. They only backfire. At most, you can help your partner gradually gain awareness. …

What my wife did was to confront me with I was doing to her and demand I get treatment before I destroyed our marriage. Having dealt with the danger of alcoholism in her own experience, she knew about codependence. She knew she couldn’t take care of me by blaming herself and putting my feelings ahead of her own. I got that message loud and clear.

She has told me that at first she experienced only the anger and the hurt it caused. We did couples therapy in two separate periods. Both helped. The second led to a breakthrough that re-established the basic bond between us. Slowly but surely, though, I took many steps backward.

As time went on, she felt the impact of other types of behavior besides anger and aggressive emotional abuse, but they all had the same effect – she was cut off from the love and support she needed from the relationship. That was devastating, and she had to deal with it over and over again. As she tells it. the most important realization for her was that all this grew out of severe and chronic depression and that it was unrelated to anything she had done. She knew I was the one who had to turn it around.

She was sympathetic and loving but repeatedly forced me to see the horrible impact of my behavior on her. No matter the cause, that was real, and it had to stop. And I had better do something about it if anything was to be salvaged.

That was what she could do at the time – be honest with me and try to take care of herself.

Our experience doesn’t cover everything, of course, but this is what we can offer. I hope you can feel free to talk here about what you feel you can do – or have already done – to deal with a depressed partner.

38 Responses to “Why Depressed Men Leave – 2”

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  1. JJ says:

    Hi, I have spent many evenings reading this blog, trying to understand and make sense of what is happening in my life…I hope the bloog is still active and you read this.

    I think my husband has depression/maybe even bipolar. He has always been very up and down with his mood, but somehow my children and I have coped with it. However lately he has been quite withdrawn and now he pretty much ignores me. He seems very down. When I ask why he is ignoring me we end up rowing and he blames me and our marriage for making him miserable. Now I am confused as to whether it is depression, or maybe he does want the marriage to end.

    My husband works in a family business and his family have noticed a difference in him. He doesn’t like his job, but he still insists the main problem is his home life. He now does not come near the house if he knows I am here.

    After years of avoiding telling anyone else, I have finally turned to my family and my husbands family for help. He hates me for doing this. He said that he detests me for involving his family and that my ‘outburst’ will never work. He even said that he hasn’t loved me for years and that he doesn’t need help as he’s fine.

    I just don’t know what to do now. I want to be with him, but I’m not sure he feels the same. I have suggested he move out of our home to try and work out what he wants and get some help. Is this a good idea?

    Thank you

  2. tammy says:

    My husband left 2 weeks ago by text message, I was in Ca for a family reunion. I thought he was acting different before I went on vacation, but when I left he seemed fine. He just rented a place, changed his number, wont talk to me at all. He has been on anti depressants but 2 weeks before he left stopped taking them. I was unaware of this, his brother told me about him not taking them. Supposedly hes back on them now. He did send a text telling me he doesnt love me anymore. Im devasted, in shock…..he is also a recovering drug addict, 6 years clean. We have been married 5 years, im his first marriage, he just turned 54. I love him very much. Would you classify this as depression….mid life crisis….?

  3. Emily says:

    My husband and I have been through the ringer the past 6 years. We have now been married for 27 years, 6 years ago we struggled financially with the economic crisis. I emotionally checked out for a while, we lived apart for a while (nothing structured, it was more because of our jobs) – and 5 years ago we tried to work things out. I thought things were getting better, but he just dropped a bombshell on me. He says he has been unhappy the entire time and wants to leave. Says he is done with the marriage. This hit me out of nowhere because I thought we were better. I really worked on myself and how I was treating him and really tried to work on my communication with him. He says he is just not happy with me. I’m heartbroken, because except for those 12 months in 2008, I have put 1000% back into the marriage. He doesn’t sleep, he has told me that if he doesn’t leave he is going to have an affair, so he has to be separated for a while so he can “have his own 2008.”

    I am willing to do a separation, but I’m terrified that he won’t come back. We have two grown children and so much water under the bridge. I found out recently that he has feelings for a 24 year old woman he works with – it started as a friendship but they spend too much extra time together. I told him it makes me so uncomfortable but he really refuses to stop, says I am holding him back. He tells me that he feels like he is just “waiting” to leave. I am devastated. I’m not perfect, but nobody is perfect… and neither is he… but there is nothing in our marriage that is overtly wrong. We have the same political, spiritual, financial and societal views. We have always had the same goals.

    Could he be depressed or is it really over for him? My secret wish is that we separate and he finds out that the grass is not greener on the other side. But I think what he really wants is to have a relationship with someone else without feeling guilty about it.

    Heartbroken.

  4. cass says:

    Liz, I feel every word you’re saying, as I believe a couple months ago I hit my breaking point and I told my ex again want to speak to him…. but it was just too hard and I couldn’t take it anymore I could not watch man I love slowly kill himself. it hit me really hard I realize how long it has been since he asked how I was. we were supposed to be trying again but I didn’t feel like he was trying anything at all…. it was like we had a 2 week honeymoon and boom it was even worse. I feel like I spent the last year walking on eggshells but nothing I said was right. from the moment he left until the very end he said he loved me didn’t think you could ever love anybody else but he with no good and I deserve better…. I think that’s the real hard part for me I do feel like I had was deserved it was someone who loves me and that it was worth fighting for. but now I start to feel like I was just his fantasy… that I was actually the escape from his depression… the promises to be together forever no matter what… the better life we started too plan and the ring shopping all his idea, a cruel joke. it’s been almost 4 months since I heard from him I am the 1 who told me
    never to talk to me can but I didn’t mean it and now his birthday Thanksgiving and Christmas all nightmare they truly have no idea how he is and I feel like sometimes that’s killing me even more I know I nust can’t figure out how to just leave them in the dark and not look back

  5. Karen says:

    Also, what is the best way to get him to come back home? Leave him to it until he starts to miss me? Keep reminding him of how great our life was and what an idiot he is to abandon it? Obviously without the ‘idiot’ bit!

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, Karen –

      If you look at other posts, you’ll find a lot of stories about the problem of what to do – especially in the comments. The best I can advise is to remind him of your love and support from time to time (sometimes people keep bombarding the depressed partner with messages of all sorts, and that rarely helps.) It’s not so much that he might come back because he misses you but because he’s made a breakthrough in treatment and has a different perspective on what he’s going through. In other words, he has to work on getting better himself. There’s no way to argue or persuade him into serious treatment or self-examination – or coming back. That’s the hardest thing to accept, but that’s usually the way it works.

      John

  6. Karen says:

    Hello, oh how much my heart aches reading this. Even though it is good to know I am not alone it is sad to know that this is so common. What happens though if your partner takes the meds but not the counselling? Don’t the drugs mask his feelings so how will he ever come back to me whilst still on the drugs? Or indeed get better in himself without proper counselling? At the moment I am sitting typing this at 120am not able to sleep as he is moving out tomorrow. When I cry he looks at me like I am an alien and I so recognize the whole escape thing…he seems happier as though he is escaping a Gulag and not a 10 year loving happy relationship.

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, Karen –

      I’m so sorry that your partner has decided on leaving. I hope you can get your own counseling to sort out how his depression is affecting you.

      As far as his treatment goes, it varies with each person. Some do fine on meds alone. For others, the advantage of medication is that it can take the edge off the worst symptoms so that you can do more in therapy – whatever form that might take. Sometimes refusing counseling can be a sign of unwillingness to commit more deeply to dealing with the problems. All I can say is that there’s no hard and fast rule.

      All my best to you — John

  7. mlg25 says:

    Hi John,

    I am so glad that I found this website. It is very helpful to hear that I am not the only one going through such a tough time. My husband sent me a text message saying that he wasn’t coming home with no explanation. He has been gone for 4 months and doesn’t seem to be getting any better. He says that he has been to 2 therapy appointment but I feel that I cannot trust anything that he says. He tells me that he’s not sure that he is in love with me anymore and that he doesn’t know if he wants to work on the marriage. I don’t understand why someone would just give up. He has told friends that he’s never been happier living by himself and that he sees his kids more now than he did when he lived with us which doesn’t make any sense. He says the most hurtful things to me one day and then the next day he is nice. He has acted irrationally around our kids. Is it possible to salvage the marriage at this point or should I just give up and move on? I really need some good advice right now. I love my husband very much and want desperately for my marriage to work but it feels like my efforts are of no use. Please help.

    mlg25

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, mig25 –

      It may not help much at a time like this, but there are so many in exactly your position. There is no easy answer since people are so different and relationships so uniquely complicated. What you describe is behavior all too familiar to me from my own actions with my spouse when depressed. It’s especially difficult to respond to because depression changes people so much – he is the one who has to recognize that his behavior is more about depression and avoidance than about helping himself. I can’t say, of course, exactly what he’s going through or what hope there may be for the relationship. But it sounds like he says he’s happy because he’s dropped the demands of an intimate relationship. It’s easy to feel great – for a while – when you can enjoy the lightness of friendly people without the self-searching and need to respond deeply to an intimate partner. It also sounds like he’s not serious about getting help – two therapy sessions in 4 months won’t get you very far. It’s likely that he would continue to straddle the fence about “not knowing” if he loves you or can work on the marriage. Depression often does that – leaves you confused, fearful, self-absorbed, evasive of responsibility for your own and your spouse’s well-being. You try to leave hard decisions to the non-depressed partner. That could go on forever, and I think you need to do what’s best for you. Counseling or therapy could be a great help in sorting this out and getting an objective view of what’s going on and what choices you can make that would help you get on with your life. If you decide that you can’t take his behavior and want to move on, that could also be the wake-up call he needs to deal with depression. That’s the effect a similar decision by my wife had on me.

      I hope you can find a way soon to resolve this in a way that keeps you well.

      My best to you — John

      • mlg25 says:

        Thanks John,

        Our children and I are going to counseling and it does help some. It’s just so hard to understand how things could’ve been going so well (so I thought) and then boom. Why does he treat me like I did something wrong? I am trying my best to keep everything together. I’ve thought about going to file for a legal separation but am afraid that it will backfire on me. I really want my marriage to work. He is not a bad person. He always treated me well and was an excellent father until the depression took over. He has told people that his children are number one to him and come first in his life. I recently told him that I did not agree. I feel that if his kids were number one then he would try to work on their family for them. I told him that it seems as though the only one that he is concerned about right now is himself. I don’t know if it was the right thing to say. I feel like I’m constantly walking on egg shells. I need some good advice on how to handle all this.

        mlg25

        • John Folk-Williams says:

          Hi, mig25 –

          I can understand how confusing this is, but trying to figure out his motivation probably won’t get you very far. Depression isn’t rational. He can satisfy himself that he has reasons, that he’s justified in what he’s doing, but if depression is the root problem, that is driving his behavior. You’re right that he’s mostly concerned about himself, but that’s another quality of depression. It wraps you tight inside yourself, and what you see of other people comes through a very dark filter. I have written several things about this. If you go to the Relationships in Crisis section, you’ll see a list of links to posts. You might take a look at How Can You Communicate After Your Depressed Partner Leaves? and another about healing after a partner has gone. Let me know if those are at all helpful.

          John

  8. Cirkel says:

    Hi John,

    It seems that I’m finding myself in the exact same situation as one of your readers. When I’m reading Tanya’s story it’s like reading my own story, except that I’m living in Europe. My partner of six years left in the middle of the night without a warning, without a goodbye and without an explanation leaving everything behind. In my mind we’ve had build a strong and good relationship thanks to lots of good, but also not so good times as we’ve just battled and won a very difficult period due to my Cancer. My partner was there all the time and helped me threw one of the most difficult times of my live. The Cancer and the treatment have dominated our lives for a long time and also took away a lot. For a long time we didn’t have a live, we lost a lot of friends and we lost the possibility to have our own children which was a big desire of ours. But finally things started to look positive again; I was recovering well, we were planning to get married and were in the midst of an Adoption process. Everything was focused on better times in the future and we were both working hard to make positive things happening. Then suddenly he started to withdraw, got more and more irritable, started picking fights all the time and trying to hurt me and sometimes even cry. He couldn’t tell me what was going, or he told me there was nothing, or it was all about me. One day he told me he was very busy and thus very tired, I knew he was right so I accepted it as an explanation.

    For many years he had lived the life of more than one person en due to his character of course he didn’t want to delegate anything. He has a responsible job in which he has to work long hours and travel the world including countries where a war is going on; for al long time he had me and our household to take care of and it still wasn’t enough. He also wanted us to have a good live so he started to renovate our house, organized vacations, citytrips, evening outs and took long hikes with our two dogs. I often told him to slow down, but he kept on going and it was not up for discussion. He always told me he was the strongest, it was his job to take care of us, there was no problem and he could handle everything.

    He has been gone for ten months now and things are still the same as when he left. He still hasn’t spoke to me and so I’m still guessing about what has happened. He did send me a few emails in which he doesn’t say much. It’s clear he is avoiding every form of contact in which he could be confronted with what he has done and the way he has done it. He is fleeing, fighting, avoiding and erasing me, our relationship, our history, our love, our live and our future. Maybe I’m delusional but I think I see things quit clear. I see his hurt, I see his loss of energy and his loss of control, I see his anxiety and I see his coping mechanisms. I love him and though he left me and things are so unsure of how they will turn out at the end, I will wait and be there for the one who has always be there for me when I was struggling live.

    John, thank you for creating this place and sharing your own experiences, and thank you for ‘listening’ to what has happened to me. I look forward to hear your thoughts about it all and could use any available advice on the matter.

    • John says:

      Hello, Cirkel –

      I can well understand the shock of such a sudden departure and the deep frustration of not knowing exactly what drove him to the decision to leave. Whether or not it was depression, he seems to have had the sort of collapse I’m familiar with. Fleeing in the dead of night is a strange thing to do, but I don’t want to speculate about his motives and feelings that I can’t possibly know.

      He’s made his choice, but what about yours? Ten months is a long time to wait when he refuses all contact – and a long time to keep your emotional life on hold. Do you have supportive friends, or a therapist, who can help you work through this trauma – for that’s exactly what it is. It sounds like his choices will determine your future happiness, and that’s not a very satisfying way to live. It may not seem possible now, but at some point I hope you can worry less about him and more about your own needs. Sorry if that sounds too blunt.

      All my best to you

      John

  9. meliza says:

    Thank you so much for the things you say and suggest…….I am so interested when you mention your own ‘fantasies about getting better by leaving’ and things like that. It says in your ‘introduction’ above that she knew you were the one who had to turn it around. I do know that, but he doesn’t. And I don’t think he wants to turn it around. Also above, it says something about the impact of the behavior and that it had to stop if anything was to be salvaged. But that can only work if he wants it to be salvaged. It keeps coming back to the fact that it seems he is just done, although he is still here, and saying things to make him realize that the marriage will not work if this continues, are pointless because that is what he has already realized and seems to have decided anyway.
    Also it is difficult and strange for me to see depressed husbands talk about it in a way that sounds like they care about their wives beyond the natural caring about humans in general. Is it only after you have made progress that you feel that? Or is he actually caring while acting unfriendly and impatient in his quiet, subtle way). I think he thinks it is okay because of his polite thank yous and polite conversations about our schedules. Those common symptoms of the person feeling anger and resentment and believing that it was never good and never can be, are still there. And the person can believe all of that, which is all part of the depression, and leave during this stage. And if he has convinced himself that the marriage is dead, I guess he is not going to try, but those thoughts are part of the depression. I would hope that the therapy is moving towards more rational thinking about that. It does feel like I am doing nothing at all (for him) and he has accused me of just leaving him alone and not helping or caring about his depression while I go about everything as normal. But he has rejected hugs, me saying I love you, has found conversation or questions annoying but my silence is uncaring, my presence is distracting or unwanted but me going out or in another room has been selfish.
    I have been strong, productive, social, happy and healthy but he has interpreted it as not helping him- and my staying with him as me having low self worth. He has interpreted my demand for a more respectful way of speaking as me being too sensitive. So it really feels like a catch 22. Reading my own typed words seem to make it so obviously hopeless, but since it is so unreasonable it seems impossible and risky to just end it without any reason or sense coming to the surface. But I’m sure sometimes it never does. Depression itself is so terrible; I do feel terrible for those who have it, every time I feel my spirits lift deep inside me, in spite of all the difficulty, it reminds me that I do not have depression, and that I imagine depression sufferers never get that relief, and it makes me cry just thinking of how terrible that must be. But at the same time I feel that you can’t help the feelings, but you can choose how to act, and to choose to act mean to me in any way is unacceptable.
    I can’t help feeling bad that I haven’t mentioned it is wonderful to try to help others by sharing your personal experience….

  10. Meliza says:

    I just found this website and saw a note someone sent back in May 2010. So similar to me except that my DH knows he is depressed and is going for help but is insisting on leaving but doesn’t say when. I am not doing much of anything except giving him a little hug a few times a week. Every few weeks I have to express whatever I am hurt about so it is never a good conversation since I am usually quietly angrily crying while I’m talking and I’m sure it is not attractive or appealing or making him feel anything good about me. But I have to speak every once in a while or I will really go crazy. I know the reason I am not saying much else to him about anything deep, is because of years of criticism about anything I tried or said or didn’t say. But I’m just sitting here waiting for him to leave? It just feels so strange. If it wasn’t a peaceful atmosphere with happy kids, it would be easier for me to be the one to just move things along. internally I am in terrible pain wondering what is going to happen and figuring he mostly likely will leave. In most of my ‘research’ I keep getting the same answer – that there is nothing I can do. And that is comforting because that’s what I feel anyway, it takes the burden off of me. But I guess i just sit here and wait until i can’t control the tears anymore and it affects my life and then make my decision that i’m done? once we take the step to tell the kids then it is over then i can just move on but until then there is always that one in a million chance that the depression will lift. but it feels like i am just at his mercy waiting. he was diagnosed a year ago but only 4 months ago insisted on leaving. it seems such a short time to change our whole lives and our kids lives after 20 years together. the kids are young, or it wouldn’t be such a worry. what is my question? can i possibly be asking again – what can i do for him? i know the answer. sorry, something about getting the perspective of a depressed person bothered me, meanwhile i don’t know what i am asking.

    • John says:

      Hi, Meliza –

      I’m sorry to hear that you’re going through what really sounds like torture. It’s good you’ve been reaching out for help and information, but I wouldn’t interpret all advice as telling you there’s nothing you can do. What you can’t do is cure him or lessen his depression through any action or change in your behavior. Giving him support and love – which apparently he isn’t taking to heart – is the one thing you can do for him. You can and should do a lot for yourself, though. For one, you need your own support system – and therapy would be good to help you get through one of the worst crises of your life. The second thing is really tough and may seem too risky or frightening, but I believe it’s important to shift the focus away from a depressed partner to oneself. So – after you’ve had a lot of help from a therapist – it seems to me that you should get clear about your needs and tell your husband the obvious truth. You can’t and shouldn’t take any more of his treatment – which sounds from what you say as controlling and abusive. Judging from my own experience and that of others, being frank about this – first with yourself and then with him – can help and, apparently, couldn’t make things much worse than they already are. My wife gave me an ultimatum to get serious about treatment or face the end of the relationship. For her, it was as good as over anyway since I was “gone” emotionally and often hostile (having my own fantasies of getting better by leaving). I’ve never felt good about anything when I thought my happiness depended on what someone else did or felt.

      I’m not saying you should do the same thing – no two relationships are alike. But with the help of a therapist you could work out the best approach for you. I just hope you can get your own support, whatever that may be.

      John

  11. Anonymous says:

    Hi john, this story is really helpful not just in me but im sure with others too, it’s really hard to deal with it but you’re right it needs a lot of determination and time in your way to recovery. Thanks john for this wonderful post. i was enlightened after reading this blog. More power to you and your family…Great Job!

  12. anon says:

    lots of words and opinions, however, yet again, little help

    • john says:

      Hi, anon –

      It is hard to find the posts that get more specific, and I’m working now on a way to reorganize this site to get those right up front. If you subscribe to the rss feed, you’ll hear when it’s ready. I might also email all the commenters on the blog.

      Once again, my best wishes to you for feeling better.

      John

  13. Lisa says:

    I am living this nightmare as we speak. I too suffer from depression and have sought treatment for almost 10 years. I know what it feels like, looks like, and am all too familiar with the desperation you feel. This winter my husband changed almost in a flash. After about 2-3 weeks I was completely convinced he was suffering from depression. For nearly six months now he has done all of the things you talked about and I have felt all of the things your wife has felt. I am living in hell. Just last week he told me the only way he can live a full life is if he leaves. He cannot see how absurd this sounds. We have two young boys and this is going to rip our family apart. Of course I am the reason for his unhappiness and the says he has no feelings for me anymore. I don’t believe this is really what he wants, though I do believe he thinks it is his answer. I have gently suggested for months that maybe he is suffering from depression, I have BEGGED him to seek help and if I’m wrong then I’m wrong. But I know I’m not. He feels trapped by me and there is nothing I can do to change his mind. Even when I suggest that he do everything possible if only for the boys he says ” there is nothing wrong with me, I am thinking very clearly!” This is destroying our relationship and our family. I am desperate. He told me yesterday that he has no intention of changing his mind. What more can I do?

    • john says:

      Hello, Lisa –

      It’s terrible you have to go through this – but I doubt there is much you can do just now. I well remember being in that frame of mind, and neither my wife nor anyone else could possibly have snapped on a light in my brain. The illusion is that liberation day is at hand and all will be made well by breaking out of what feels like confinement. To get that far into fantasy, it takes a strong shock of reality to see how destructive you’re being. I was lucky enough to be open to that shock when it came, but some men can inoculate themselves against reality quite nicely.

      The best advice I can think of for now is to get help for yourself because all this is so damaging to you and your kids.

      I hope things can turn around eventually.

      My very best to you –

      John

  14. Tanya says:

    Hi John,
    Its been 2 months since my partner has left …He wont see me or talk to me by phone, He will email and sms but only if i send him an email or sms first and as long as its general stuff im talking about. He wont talk about us at all or acknowledge we even had a 9 year relationship…All his things are still in the house and he is still paying some of the small bills. He keeps saying he will transfere these bills into my name but still hasnt done so. I write at the end of emails love always and that im here if he wants to talk but get nothing back but thanks… Im so confused is this a normal thing for someone with depression or is he really trying to tell me it is over… I have asked him straight out if we are over then say it but he wont answer… Can you please give me some insight. I have sent him a link to your website hopefully he is reading it… I dont know if he is on medication or getting any help as he wont talk to me.
    Thank you Tanya

    • john says:

      Hi, Tanya –

      I’m sorry to hear this – it must be terribly frustrating and painful. I doubt there’s anything normal for a depressed man in this situation, but not talking, unwillingness to go into his emotional state is certainly typical. So is isolating himself from the closest relationship he’s had. You might have a look at the last four posts I’ve written for Health Central about depressed men. This page lists my posts there.

      Staying in touch occasionally is about all you can do, but I think you need to make up your own mind about how much of this you can take. It often helps to let the man know what your limits are so you aren’t taken for granted. Also it’s just part of looking after your own needs and health.

      I hope things get more resolved for you soon.

      John

  15. Joe says:

    Hi John,

    First of all, thanks a lot for creating this site. Excellent and long overdue.

    I have been fighting depression for over a year now, always taking three steps forward and two steps back. It is a slow and exhausting process and I have a long way to go.

    As far as this subject is concerned, it is probably the most difficult one depression confronts you with. I have a wife and two great kids whom I have been withdrawing from more and more over the course of this battle. On the one hand, for very selfish reasons. I need all my energy and space to focus on changing myself and healing. On the other hand, I recognize I am not with them even if I am in the same room, which causes a lot of pain for them. Also, my behavior is unpredictable. Personally, I have made the decision to live in a separate apartment for three months and be with my family three to four days a week in order to give myself space to find my path, as well as to give my family space and some relief from me, so they can have some relief.

    I am sure there is no right or wrong way. The only thing I am certain of is that everybody in my family is impacted hugely by something that is intrinsically my problem.

    Cheers,

    Joe

    PS: I am from Holland, so please excuse the mediocre English…

    • john says:

      Hi, Joe –

      I’m sorry to hear about your depression and the way it has been separating you from your family. The new apartment may be helpful as you say, but I hope you’re also working with a therapist to help with this difficult problem. I found that my wife and I needed to deal with the impact of my depression by working with a counselor. My wife had to go through long painful periods, but she kept talking to me and reminding me of the big picture of family life. Actually removing myself for a time wouldn’t have worked well in my case. But each of us finds a different way through.

      My best to you – and thank you for your kind comment.

      John

  16. liz says:

    Thanks John–your blog has been instrumental in my understanding of what my ex-partner is going thru. I don’t know if we will ever get back together. I can’t hold onto that thought any longer and it makes me so sad. I have communicated every single feeling I have felt with him and what it has done is allowed me to hold on but in the end, it hasn’t changed the reality of our situation. He suffers from a major illness and, as a result, needs to take care of himself first and has no room for a loving, supportive relationship even though I told him how much I would support him thru all of the ups and downs he will be experiencing. He says he loves me but it doesn’t mean anything. Now I need to think of myself first…I’m very nervous that I let too much time slip by. Life is too short. He is a beautiful soul and I would have loved to spend my life with him but I’m tired of fighting. I remember when I first started communicating thru this blog about 7 months ago, you mentioned that I would have to determine how much I can take take and create boundaries. I really didn’t understand that until recently. It was something I couldn’t relate to because I didn’t truly understand how dark things could get. Now I do.I feel it in my bones. In my soul. I’m at my limit. He has rejected me while loving me time and time again. I can’t do it anymore so I guess I have to be done for my own mental well-being.

  17. liz says:

    John…what happens when its more than depression and the person is also dealing with BiPolar 2 and/or Borderline Personality Disorder? It seems like the person has no choice but to rely on medication as its critical to maintaining a sense of normalcy. You talk about medication being just one element of recovery but in these more severe cases, its vital in addition to counseling and maintaing a low stress, healthy lifestyle. It’s bad enough when it’s depression on its own but coupled with other forms of mental illness and the devastation to the person and their loved ones can be catastrophic. I know as I’m living thru it now with my ex-partner. At first, it was just depression and now he has been diagnoes with bipolar tendencies. Emotional withdrawal, abandonment…then to have him come back to our relationship (not completely) and then for him to pull back again. A rollercoaster ride that I can’t take any more. I love him more than anything but it’s difficult to see where the depression/bp ends and the real man begins. I know exactly how Tanya, Brandy and every other partner of someone with mental illness feels. Its just as tragic for both.

    • john says:

      Hi, Liz –

      You’re completely right about medication, and I don’t think I’ve suggested it isn’t important. It was never enough by itself for me, but that was my experience with depression over a very long period of my life. And I still take medication while doing “talk” therapy, and trying to lead a healthier, far less stressful life. Cognitive therapy and meditation have also been helpful – the list of things I’ve done is a long one, and they’ve all helped me in some way. The key for me was realizing that I had to think of treatment in a holistic way and not imagine myself as a passive subject waiting for a packaged cure to come along. Nothing worked until I changed my thinking about the process. But that was my struggle, and no two people are alike. Medication has been a life-saver, quite literally, for many people I know with depression and/or bipolar. The role of medication – when I finally found a combination that helped – was to strengthen me enough that I could finally pull all the treatments together and make progress toward real recovery.

      I put my wife through just the rollercoaster experience you describe – . The only thing she could do was confront me with the suffering I was inflicting on her and tell me she couldn’t take any more. So long as depression dominated me she couldn’t rely on me emotionally at all. It took years of struggle to change that.

      I hope your partner can make enough progress to have a stable relationship with you once again.

      John

  18. Tanya says:

    My partner told me 12 months ago he was clinically depressed i told him to promise to get help and we will work through this … he didnt and now 12 months later he has walked out and told me he doesnt think our relationship can be fixed.. He has blamed everything from the kids to me to his job to the town we live in… I havent seen him for 2 weeks i dont know what to do ?

    • john says:

      Hi, Tanya –

      That’s a sad but familiar story, and I’m sorry it’s turned out this way. What he’s done is so predictable, but of course that doesn’t make it any less terrible for you. At this point, there aren’t so many things you can do, but one would be to communicate honestly what you feel – whatever that is. My wife made it clear that I had to get serious about treatment, and that worked since I didn’t really want to walk out the door or lose my family. But your partner hasn’t been able to look inward and drop the blaming as an explanation for what he’s going through. Until he can recognize his problem, it might not be possible to get through to him at all. He’s the only one who can begin to change – no one can do it for him. He should know that if he can get real and stop blaming you and everyone else that you want to make the relationship work again.

      I so hope he can see a little light soon.

      Thanks for telling this here –

      John

  19. brandy says:

    I am going through this right now. Your wife’s words…what you wrote…that the depression is cutting her off from the love and support she needs from the relationship. I have felt this too. It’s a strain. He needs my support, and he gives some some times. But I don’t feel fully supported and it hurts to have him gone emotionally and physically.

    • john says:

      Hi, brandy –

      I’m sorry this is all happening to you. I hope it will be possible for you to have a talk with him, if you haven’t already, so that he understands what you’re going through, that you have limits and have to take care of yourself. He can turn things around if he makes a commitment to work on recovery by getting (additional?) help but also assuming an active role in treatment. I often fell into the trap of waiting for a medication to get rid of depression, and it’s not that simple for someone who’s struggled with it for a long time.

      My best to you –

      John

  20. john says:

    JS –

    Thank you so much for this comment. It means a lot to hear that you can relate to the post – though it’s too bad we have to go through these experiences.

    I’m glad you dropped by — John

  21. JS says:

    This post so eloquently captures the struggles that so many couples endure. I also just want to point out that the feelings of anger, hurt and sometimes guilt and responsibility of a wife whose husband is depressed can also be present in other relationships. I can say from personal experience that immediate family members such as siblings and parents of someone with depression go through the same emotions of anger and realization that you are not the cause and cannot be the cure. Thank you for your honest explanation which I find so easy to relate to.

  22. Evan says:

    Thanks for a very honest and personal post.

    Thankfully my partner who battles depression is very aware of the impact of their behaviour, when going through a depressed period.

    • john says:

      Evan – Thank you for your comment. I’m glad the relationship works well. There are so many moving disaster stories!

      My best to you — John

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