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Depressed husband - am I being selfish? I don't know what's normal anymore.

Community Member

My husband and I met a decade ago. When we met, he was going through a very rough time. Life has been extremely hard on him. But we fell in love and, as it usually goes, everything was great. We spent our first 2 years together making grand plans for our future abroad - we were both going to work hard, save up - travel the world, experience the things we always wanted. It was us against the world.

Pretty much as soon as we migrated, he changed. We moved closer to his family, and I thought maybe that just triggered old patterns for him. Before I could really assess whether that was part of the problem or not, he was diagnosed with cancer. Under the conviction that he was going to die, he gave up on life entirely... except he miraculously got better. But he has had suicidal thoughts since (he had had them before we met, as well, but they were brought back by the cancer). He has debilitating depression. He can't work. He barely leaves the house. I work extremely hard to pay our bills - then I come home and do all the household work. We barely get by financially.

He has tried treatment, but his depression appears to be treatment resistant. Therapy did nothing for him. He tried 4 different medications over the course of years - none of them did anything. He's stuck. I am stuck. I am not happy with our life, I won't lie. I am embarrassed that I "do everything" (I hate saying it, but it's true) - he hates it, too, but we love each other and it keeps us going. I think we've grown into a pattern where our prime directive is just not hurting each other. I know if I leave him, he will fully give up on life (he doesn't say it, but it's so obvious). He knows that if he leaves me and gives up, he will break my heart.

It doesn't help he's not a "talker". He hates talking about feelings and thoughts. I end up feeling alone. I guess that's a long way of saying we have grown dysfunctional and accepting/aware of it. Couples counselling wouldn't work because he struggles so much to talk and is the kind of person to talk around therapists to avoid the hard conversations.

I'm getting to a point where I'm ready to start putting up boundaries. I'm in my 30s and I don't want to end up wasting my 'prime years' making myself smaller (which I noticed I have been doing, forgetting my dreams to fit our reality)... at the same time, he cannot help his condition and I don't want to punish him for his misfortune because I do love him. I want him to get better...but I also want to live.

3 Replies 3

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi Sandra, welcome

A well written account of your situation. Sadly, you are in a bind that after reading your story, I feel sad for you enduring such isolation with a cloudy future.

Carers like yourself, those that carry the bulk of the workload are in a bind. We all know depression is a debilitating way to spend your life but how much debilitation is it really? Eg is there a combination of poor attitude, lack of motivation and so on that is less to do with the illness that we are dealing with here?

I have a staunch view of this. Eg If a sufferer of depression can get out of bed to attend the bathroom then he/she can make a coffee for you as you enter the home at the end of your working day. If your partner can drive a car even once a fortnight to assist with grocery shopping then he can push a vacuum cleaner on the floors. If he can watch TV for more than two hours a day then he can spend one hour of that on a computer looking at ways to improve your lives, like searching for cheaper products to buy, doing internet banking and looking for part time job opportunities...and so on.

This analysis that you might have to do is dealing with raw facts and challenging him because, you are not in this world to carry him, only to care and support him.

There is no doubt you love him. Unfortunately love doesn't make a marriage. Love and many other factors make it. Among those is your future aspirations like having children, travelling and fun. It is a selfishness level that you are entitled to possess even though such state of mind is perfectly normal and justified. This situation is heavily dependent on his attitude. Does he play on allowing you to do everything because you will do it and he'd prefer that? Rather than figuring out what his disability stops him doing something, try to reverse that. What are his abilities? (as said above).

Once you have established what he "can" do, set about a timeline. Due to your age and possible aspirations of having a family, travel etc, a timeline of say 6-12 months of turning your knowledge of what he can do to getting him to do those chores could be set. During that period simply stop doing those chores. When they are not done - "why haven't you taken the garbage bins out this week"? (again, if he can check the letterbox he can put the bins out)

Teamwork is essential to a partnership. Even without love teamwork can keep a unit in tact.

At the end of that timeline be brave whatever your decision.

Carers need care to.


Community Member

Hello Sandra

You write with great clarity and it’s impossible not to be moved by your situation. I note the sensitive way you have provided advice to others in this forum and I will try to back up the excellent advice that white knight has already provided to you.

The world unfortunately is full of burnt out carers. It is neither fair or just. You are not entirely responsible to look after your husband in the face of such adversity with no end in sight. You write that your husband seems treatment resistant. Are you sure? I know you say he has tried four different anti depressants but what other treatment has he had? There’s more to treatment than medication. Is it worth trying to seek treatment for him one more time?

what about your husband’s family? Are they helpful, do they offer any further insight into your husband’s illness?

I understand you love your husband and you worry that if you leave the marriage the results for him will be terrible. But you must understand that by staying on the evidence you present, it is not necessarily helping your husband and it is certainly draining you. I agree with white knight that your husband must make more of an effort. He is not a talker, well it is about time he developed a sense of purpose to help you by agreeing to treatment counselling. If he was willing to make that effort, he should then see how his attitude will have a positive effect on you.

I think you need better clarity on how much his illness is contributing towards his attitude and how much is just character or personality. Anyway, I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful but by posting here you have at least won moral support from those who have read your post.

Community Member

white knight and Betternow - thank you so much for your responses.

I am so lost at the moment. I WANT to carry him and that is part of the problem. I want him to be loved and held and cared for and sheltered. But I am running out of "me".

I must confess that the situation is more complicated than the first post, too - part of the reason why I've realized I've run out of steam is because I have developed feelings for someone else. That "someone else" doesn't know - he might not even feel the same way. But that isn't the point. The point is that finding myself so emotionally invested in someone else has been a rude awakening that I have come to see myself as a carer more than a wife to my husband. It's a very hard thing to face. I want his story to be that he found me and he was loved for the rest of his life. He deserves that, he has a good heart.

I know that another person is never a reason to give up on a relationship. It's just a lot to work through at once is all. That other person will be permanently out of my life soon (he is moving) and I am counting down the days so I can see a little more clearly again and focus on my marriage before drawing any conclusions.

I think I'm going to have to be 'harsh' with my husband though - I need to figure out MY needs, share them with him, and ask him to meet them - even if it's with baby steps. I owe it to both of us to not fall into a slumber of just caring at the cost of loving.

I hate that I'm even in this situation. I'm sorry if I'm just venting in this reply. I guess I have nowhere else to go with this. The other person I have feelings for is someone I work with and he just told me today that he is divorcing his wife and my head just started spinning. Again - he has no idea how I feel about him and we have in no way been even almost inappropriate. I think this infatuation is just complicating my feelings... but at least it has been a wakeup call. It has woken me up to the fact that I can't be my partner's "mother", for lack of a better analogy... I cannot clean up after him, pay all the bills, stop my dreams to make him comfortable. I just need to find a way to translate that clarity into reality.

Thank you for letting me vent.