About a year ago, I wrote a series of posts about my experience with the fantasies of a better life that often prompt depressed men to leave their families. You can find the first of those stories here, here and here. Those brief pieces tell only a small part of a long and troubling story. To stay in recovery I have to know more, and so I’m starting a new series of posts specifically about why men want to leave, how we change, where we want to go.
Of course, this story is not mine alone. I’ve been there with many other men, and we’ve all been cold company. Whether depressed men leave by walking out or by emotional withdrawal or aggressive rage and abuse, they go through a baffling transformation and provoke the most devastating crisis for those who love them most. My own experience has been bad enough, but I read the same story and worse online each day. The pain, confusion and desperation are always fresh, even though repeated hundreds of times in forum after forum.
– He won’t look at me anymore. – Whatever I do is wrong. – I can’t understand the anger when he comes home after work – and I haven’t done a single thing. – If I ask him what’s wrong, he goes into a rage. – He gets so abusive and blames me for everything he doesn’t like. – His rages scare me to death. – I don’t know who this man is anymore. – I can’t do anything right. – This is not the life I thought I was getting into. – I feel so small around him. – What have I done to make him so angry? – It’s all driving me crazy. – I can’t take much more of this. – What can I say? – What can I do? – Please help!
It’s one thing for me to blame depression for causing behavior that inflicts such pain. It’s another to get clear about exactly what I did in order to recognize it early and stop myself from repeating the same thing over and over again. To stay in recovery, I can’t focus only on what’s going on in my head but need to be able to face squarely the effects on those closest to me. Seeing what the reality has been for my wife and children in those dark periods makes it so much more urgent that I get to the bottom of what I have done.
Only in that way can I break the forces of mind and feeling underlying my hurtful words and actions. What was I thinking and feeling when I was isolating myself from my family emotionally, if not actually leaving? Why didn’t I see sooner what I was doing? When I did see part of it, why couldn’t I stop? What was changing deep down? I have to be able to answer these questions and a lot more so that I’ll be quick to recognize the problem if it begins again. If I do see it, I’ll have to know what to start doing to turn that mindset and behavior around. Recovery depends on alertness and action every day.
Here’s a quick overview of what I want to explore in this series. This is the way I’m seeing it through my analytical brain. I’m sure as I tell the stories each evokes, I’ll change and refine the picture I’m looking at now. It’s almost a model of how this state develops, and that means to me it’s far too neat. I’m separating each element from the real experience, but it is never so simple as this line-up might make it seem.
- Control and Denial. Whatever the internal crisis may have been, I had to keep it under a tight lid, hide it from everyone, including myself. Denial is a common word. What isn’t always clear is how much energy it takes both to keep inner turmoil under control and to keep it from getting too close to awareness. That took so much out of me, I was always tense and run down with the effort.
- Refusal. If there was nothing wrong with me, there was no need to talk about it. Every time my wife would try to engage me about what I was feeling, I refused to talk about it. I was genuinely angry at the suggestion that I had a problem. This behavior is frequently described, but what many miss is the sense of power men can get from holding back words. There is a perverse satisfaction in keeping others guessing, and the silence also prevents me from knowing more than I want to know. Strong and silent are paired for good reason.
- Isolation. Isolating from others doesn’t mean physical separation so much as creating distance while you’re with family, friends, everyone who’s close. I could do this by being angry or abusive, or by an emotional and mental disappearance in plain sight. On any given day, I could shift from one unmindful strategy to the other.
- Blame. Naturally, if there’s nothing wrong with me, the explanation for that hurt and turmoil buried within has its cause in someone or something else – family, job, city – probably the combination of it all. The feeling builds that the life I’m living is a trap that’s ruining my chances for happiness.
- The Cure. Since the problem comes from outside, I can also find the cure for it there. Everything will be better there, everything is hopeless here. So the yearning to leave and the fantasies that go with it get stronger all the time. Whether they’re acted on or not, the damage to others is already done.
This is what occurs to me now. How does it sound to you? What’s your experience like?
Image Credit: Some Rights Reserved by lepiaf.geo at Flickr
Reading all these although breaks my heart it also makes me feel at as alone in a way. I have been with my husband for 26 years and a year ago I noticed changes in him. I thought it was midlife crisis sort of thing and then he started pushing me away, being emotionally and verbally abusive. I was rejected in every way. Feeling like I was unloved, unwanted, ignored, and I was looked through like a window. He slowly stopped talking to me aside from calling me names. I did everything for him. I went to all his Dr. Appointments because he said he couldn’t remember what the Dr said. I made sure all the Dr’s were doing everything in their power to help him. I got him referred to therapy and got him on meds, then got him on new meds. He said I was being motherly and smothering him, but he pushed me away as his wife so I went onto mother mode to get him back to normal so he would want me as his wife again. He has since left me. He packed a suitcase and left his keys on the counter. That was a month ago. Our 3 children and myself are devistated and so confused. How can a man do that? Marriage is the ultimate contract and commitment to love and cherish through sickness and in health for better or for worse till death. I didn’t make those promises lightly. I meant them, and I can’t live without him. He is my everything, my world, my glue. I need to be strong for our children. They need to know that at least one parent has them to give them a sense of security, to give them love and make sure they know they belong, and I’m not allowed to break, so I fall apart in secret and in silence. All I want is my husband back. If only someone can give me hope that he will return to me…
My boyfriend left in the middle of the night, took his things and just disappeared. He was fine, acting like himself that afternoon, then boom! He was gone! He left a note that didn’t make sense but I’m broken! We’ve been together 15 years and this came out of nowhere.
He told me that night he was depressed. I tried to help, or at least comfort him. In his note, he said that I was the kind of lady who shouldn’t know his needs and desires, and that he’s been dishonest with me about that. He also said he left like he did because he couldn’t bear seeing me broken.
I have no clue where he is. He isn’t answering my calls. He kicked me off his Facebook. I’m at home screaming in agony.
I don’t know what to think. This was literally a week ago. I don’t know what to do. I keep visualizing him with another woman because I always told him that if he met someone else, please leave me before you tell me. Yeah, he left alright and didn’t tell me a THING. He said in time after he heals (no clue what that meant) he’ll tell me.
Help me somebody! Do men leave because they are so depressed, or is that all gaslighting? He ALWAYS showed me love, stood up and protected me. I don’t get it.
I am so sorry to hear what you are going through. I have gone through the exact same thing with my husband of 15 years (more than 20 years of friendship). And after months of trying to support him have just found out that there is another person he has been in contact with that understands what he’s going through and he is interested in exploring that relationship. It’s devastating. All I can say is please – love yourself first. Look after yourself. Rely on getting support from friends and family to get you through the hard times. I have been seeking assistance from a therapist and it’s the best decision I have made. Please reach out if you need to
My boyfriend of 2 years has been suffering from depression and he recently decided that he couldn’t be in a relationship anymore because he felt like he needed to put himself first and really take time and space to work on himself. I am heartbroken and devastated because I love him beyond measure and it’s terrifying to not know how he’s doing or be there to support him. I am trying really hard not to reach out because he asked for space but I am struggling really badly. We were so happy and in love and I never ever thought anything could come between us. I don’t know first hand hwo depression feels but I was doing EVERYTHING I could (I worked on it with my own therapist, I joined a support group for people who’s loved ones have depression, I did research, and most of all listened to what he needed) and as much as I don’t want to be mad at him for this because I know he’s extremely emphatetic and has a hard time putting himself first, but I am so hurt that he felt like he had to push me away. I don’t know what to do….it’s only been 2 weeks but it feels like an eternity. We never used to go even a day without talking and now I’m just lost and confused and above all scared. I have severe anxiety and it’s causing me to lose sleep and I can’t eat…..I know I need to be strong, take care of myself, and not dwell on it but it’s excurciating and I don’t know how much loner I can go without reaching out to him. Does anyone have any advice- should I wait until he’s ready to reach out? He promised we’d see each other again but he couldn’t say when…..or should I reach out to see how he’s doing? I know it’s kind of an impossible question, but how long do I wait and suffer like this? I just don’t know how much more I can take….
I’m wondering if anyone else has gone through something similar, me and my ex were best friends for over a year before we started dating, things were so good at first and i was the happiest i had ever been. He was so loving, always sending me flowers, always wanting to spend time with me and wanting to do things together. I know he struggled with social anxiety, and i helped him through it, because i had struggled with terrible anxiety in the past, he told me that he’d never told anyone about the way he was feeling before and was so grateful to have me. Fast forward a few months, and i started to notice a change in him, he had a lot of stresses going on in his personal like, university, family illness ect.. this all started to build up and he became very depressed very suddenly. He was being different and snappy around me but i just wanted to help. He then went back to his university to finish some exams, one night he randomly called me hysterically crying to say that he couldn’t be in a relationship anymore, i calmed him down and talked him through things and we agreed that i would give him some space, but we were still together. A couple days later he reached out and i went to his uni to bring him back home, i spent a few days with him and it was lovely, when he was back home I noticed he started being distant with me again, and not even a week later he broke up with me, after this we didn’t speak for about 4 weeks, he then reached out to me, we talked as friends and agreed to meet the following day. I picked him up and it was like the old him, he wouldn’t stop touching me, kissing me, telling me how much he missed me and how good it was to see me,it was so clear that there is still something there between us, but we agreed that jumping back into the the relationship wasn’t a good idea, and we wanted to see where things went slowly. I was so happy because it finally felt like i had the old him back. However, not even 2 days later, he text me to say that meeting up was a mistake, and that we should just be friends and nothing more, he also said we could never get back together. I have tried so hard to be there for him as much as i can, but I’m broken. Why was he constantly changing his feelings? Is this the depression talking l, or does he really mean the things he’s saying?
Omg! I am going thru this too! I am not positive it is depression because it all seems like a big secret but looking back and reading up I see that it very well looks like it. I think I am dealing with it all wrong so that is why I started researching and just found your story..