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.
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.
What to do once he broke up with me?
Should I not contact him anymore, or should I text him once in a while to let him know I’m here for him? I don’t want him to forget me… it’s been 6 months since the break up and I can’t let go. But he told me to move on. He said he doesn’t feel like being with anyone, but he’s on dating apps. I’m heartbroken. He blamed his depression, and I never understood then why he was on dating apps (since he didn’t want to be with me) until I read this article. It all makes sense now, even though it doesn’t hurt any less.
I knew my boyfriend had a drinking problem right away but he was a functioning one and was so nice at first then i noticed a porn addiction and sex addiction and hed talk to me at night say really mean things then hang up? If i mentioned it the next say hed act like i was crazy? So i let it go 6 yesrs later we arent together he started leaving me im sure for other women he never would tell me hed blame it on me it never was my fault he hadnt talked to me in several months he called a month ago didnt really wanta see me? I thought that was weird he usually would always come back im very attractive and i used to me so sweet to him but after he kept abusing me i started firing back at him i saw the women he was chasing they didnt hold a candle to me but he liked being treated bad these girls didnt like bim euther but they said he call drunk and go off on tbem? I guess one finally liked him back cause he said i was the blame for everything i wonder if he ever loved me now?
My husband left 2 months ago as he needed time and space to sort his head out. Before he left he was increasingly detached from family life and was very irritable with our children. He at first said he did not have a problem with me or our relationship. Then he started saying that we hadn’t been right for ages, he wasn’t happy anymore, he thought he loved me, then he didn’t, then he wasn’t sure. Things seemed to be worse when he moved out. He became more detached and reclusive and kept changing his mind about whether he wanted to come back or not. He was blunt in many of his conversations and quite self absorbed. He started antidepressants about the same time that he left. He is meant to be having counselling but hasn’t arranged this yet. A few days ago he said he will be better on his own and cannot come back. He says he feels no further forward in his mind. We have been married for 20 years, he gave me an eternity ring only 6 months ago and his behaviour is very out of character. He has never previously said he is unhappy or wanted to address any issues. I love him and want to be there for him but he has pushed away all help from me. He is now making some effort with our children but hardly communicates with me. I don’t know how to support him without pushing him away, but also know that I need to support our children and look after myself too.
I know that you posted this some time ago, but your situation sounds almost similar to mine. My husband left me 9 weeks ago now, and like you, I had months of uncertainty, him telling me he loved me but questioning his feelings for me, constantly telling me he wanted to end the marriage and leave but then telling me he wanted to work at it. He became quite verbally abusive and I retaliated in the same way – he’s now adamant that he doesn’t love me and wants a divorce. I’m just wondering how your situation panned out in the end?
Hi I’ve been with my boyfriend for nearly six years we have two little boys and even been engaged and also he asked me again a year ago. We’ve been going through this for the whole time we’ve been together but he is actually in denial that he is depressed but when under the influence of alcohol he tells me he is depressed and thinks about ending his life almost everyday but it’s his sons that stop him from doing this. There is a pattern with him he will get really low and then one thing that wasn’t a big deal will make him walk out our lives or he will do something purposely that will split us up and he’ll blame me for everything insult me and so on he’s even told me he doesn’t love me etc, then a few weeks will pass and then he comes back telling me how much he loves me and and we are everything to him, hes full of affection and so on but then 6-8 months later sometimes less we’re back to square one again. When we’re together we don’t argue he treats me to holidays city breaks for birthdays and valentines day we go out for meals etc. It’ll firstly start off wirh him not speaking he stops all affection no more telling me he loves me he gets angrier goes away to his bed really early. At the moment he has been away from us for nearly 5 weeks but still comes to see our sons doesn’t speak to me and doesn’t make eye contact but will text me asking me things nothing to do with us or what he’s doing though, just now he’s putting on a front acting like he’s happy that he’s not in a relationship or living with us which he usually does and puts everything into his work and training to keep him busy then the angry stage with the nasty texts etc will come then him wanting back. The thing is there are mental health issues in his family such as schizophrenia and also depression, but he will not go to the doctors he did go once but didn’t open up and tell the doctor everything so the doctor thought it was just day to day stresses that everyone goes through. Even though he blames me I know it’s not down to me because he was like this before I met him and thought he had manic depression but yet he’ll still put all the blame on me etc and be in denial about everything he’ll also lie and keep things from me and even accuse me of things that’s never happened. Right now I’m at a point whether I walk away for good or hang on to see if he’ll actually get help the hard thing is that I love him so much and we have two little boys, right now I don’t contact him unless it’s about our boys I’m hoping the space will give him time to think but then again there’s also a chance that he won’t get help and then move onto someone else. It’s such a hard thing to go through especially when kids are involved but how can he help us if he wont help himself…… On another forum someone mentioned bipolar but he doesn’t seem to get the high hyper part of this illness but I’m not sure if everyone with bipolar have this symptom
Check vulnerable narcissism, of then they are also depressed.
Very sorry of what you are going through
Wow can’t believe there is alot of us going through same thing,thank you all this has actually made me realise its notmy fault.thank you
Can I ask something? The depressed people who leave for the “perfect better life”…. Does it make them happier? Has anybody experienced doing that and sought out changing the external and the excitement and the new life and found it made them happier? As the partner left behind, it sometimes makes me feel better thinking maybe at least he’s not as miserable. And I’m curious to know.
my partner felt he needed to get away to be a better man, at first. To go off all alone and make it work and fix him so then he could fix us. Actually what happened is that he left. abandoned me and pretty soon started a new life in quite a manic way, he started to do anything he could. Found a new girl. At each and every step tho, I would receive his text telling me he was still depressed. Actually he needed to get on medication after he left. None of the escape and possibly good things he managed to get in total freedom seemed to stabilize him. Now months and months after I still receive his suicide text. I don’t know if he will ever realize that the outside world is not the issue. I even stopped to believe he will ever understand and come back because he just cannot appreciate anything so why would he appreciate what we had. Answer to the question: it does not get better by changing life and as left behind partner you just feel an incredible loss. Nobody wins in this matter.
In my case my ex boyfriend, not just left me, but he started a crazy search for someone else on internet, I dont know if it is about sex or love, what I know is that he stays untill late at night on a chatt app, and I noticed, he looks for the ones he used not to be atracted to…anyway, it was so bad, soooooooo bad, that i got my own depression and just thinking about him, makes me sick, I dont know if I can forgive any more….
Man I would leave all of you! I am a female quit trying to figure it out and give up on it right now. Walk away walk away walk away yourself..and go and do great things for you and your children now. Immediately! Yes most likely he is depressed or in a mid life crisis etc.. Is your self worth And self esteem really based solely on him loving you. Yes it’s painful I get that. Extremely I’m sure if your self worth is based only on a man reassuring you of your greatness. Or are you wanting his love out of selfish reasons. Holding him tightly like a possesionyou own. Either way it does not matter. Have some respect for yourself my God forget him right now. Take care of you all that you are and let go set him free. Love is patient, love is kind, love is giving and receiving mutual respect for one another.. you cannot love someone by controlling them or smothering them. Making them stay in your life this isn’t love!
Go. Realize he is a fool for leaving you then a devoted loving kind person as you are. Or realize he is in a crisis and can’t help it. Give him space set him free. If he comes back to you he is yours. If not he never was. I’m sorry but do great things for you and your children now don’t wait. Realize life is a precious gift and so is love. It’s about mutual respect and admiration. If someone loves you they will be there for you. You won’t be asking yourself what happened where is he you won’t. If not release them you don’t own them and you certainly can’t make him love you. You only have control over you and the love you give..love yourself right now life is short. Then maybe just maybe he will return and maybe you will give him a second chance.Give your children the love they deserve enjoy life. Show your children you believe in yourself even when life is toughest. Teach them to be strong when life is hardest. Also realize if your husband is this selfish If he is truly selfish then it’s best he is gone out of your life. If you don’t love yourself no one else can and this also could be why he left. You held on so tight and needed his admiration etc.. he felt smothered and had to go. Just my thoughts…, love you first always. Never give anyone no not even your husband control over your life.
So refreshing and probably what we need to hear right now.
Lastnight my husband of 3 years told me for the 4th time he wants a divorce. Each time previously I’ve been a broken mess. But this time I’m numb although still hurts now in the cold light of day. He has severe depression bought on by traumatic PTSD from a prison sentence (he’s not violent) and also a gambling addiction. So there are so many factors at play. I’ve read up about depression and symptoms and yes he is showing classic signs, he will leave then after a few weeks realise he’s wrong and he Does love me , he says this time he won’t and part of my ofcourse loved him and want the life we both dreamed of but the logically side is screaming to take his words seriously and go my own way. I’m conflicted but he doesn’t want help. When he is in his “normal” moments he will promise the earth & promise he will get help. Then when I made a appointment for him to see his GP he point blank refused to not only go but also he had any problems at all, which led to him saying he wants a divorce. His actions are so erratic and causing me my own mental health problems. I have put up with his gambling for 6 years (3 years before our marriage) and I was will to stick by him till the end but this is something I don’t think I or anyone should have to put up with. Him saying he doesn’t love me and he doesn’t want to keeping hurting me.
I feel so relieved that there are others experiencing the same. My partner of four years suffers from depression. We have a son who is now 3 years old, this weekend he walked out on us. I am absolutely devastated, we have supported him for almost two years. This man who I would do anything in the world for has displayed every single thing in this article has finally managed to push his family away. I just want to know it will get better and how could he just walk out while his son slept on with out a clue? I know he is ill but how can we make him see it. On his good days when we are all together as a family it is perfect why can’t he focous on that? I understand he will have black days but to throw it all away? We are both in the military and we do have to spend time apart and this is when he deteriorates badly, usually I can help him through and help him think of the good days. This week though he had it planned. As soon as I got through the door on Friday every single item he owned was gone from our family home and he said he was leaving, I even took him up to look at his sleeping son and asked him if he really was walking out of his boys life, he said nothing and left us. I hurt so badly it’s like some one is opening my chest and crushing my heart. I just hope he comes back to us once he hits rock bottom and then re builds
I am so glad to have found this site. Two week ago my significant other blurted out that “he just didn’t love me anymore” “that God must have put me in his life to show him that he was meant to be alone.
I know he suffered from depression, he was very reserved with his feeling and always quiet. I am an open book and wear my heart on my sleve.
His words were so hurtful but maybe he was trying to be as honest with me as he was with himself. Is there any help for us or will I always sit outside the jar?
These men who leave seem to always have a bolt hole. Some where to go be put up to allow this destructive behaviour towards wife/partner. Would they go if they has to take responability and sort out a roof over their heads etc.