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Staying or leaving - what is worse?

Community Member

You all must have heard 1000 versions of this story by now. But I'm hoping to get some insights, maybe, to help me along my road wherever it leads.

My husband and I have been married for 10 years - we started dating at 23, got married at 25; no kids. Over the past year I have unexpectedly found myself at a fork in my emotional road and I don't know how to look at it to progress from here.

He had issues with depression (due to trauma) before we met. But we were so happy our first few years. When he was diagnosed with an at the time seemingly terminal illness, his depression returned. He won the battle for his life, but his depression came back and never fully let up again.

He hasn't worked since a year before our wedding. I was always okay with that. I never minded being the financial provider. But in the long run it turns out it isn't 'just' about income. He has no passions for anything. He has no hobbies or interests that keep him engaged with life to any extent. No friends or desire to make any. He has no ambitions - no dreams or goals. It's intensified after his illness. I appear to be the only thing that keeps him engaged in life. Not because I think I'm great - but because he's literally said so. He has had suicidal episodes and has stated what keeps him from doing it is the thought of me being sad and alone if he ends his life. He will not get professional help. He tried it for me twice, both times didn't work out, and now he just refuses. He truly just sits at home all day waiting for me to come home.

I love him. I still want to grow old with him. He is more than the sum of his suffering. I love his soul. The trauma he experienced in his life was thrust onto him - as his partner, I have always felt that what happens to him, should happen to me; we are a team. But I am also starting to feel more and more suffocated. Though I am not sure if I would be happier alone - how can I know? What would I regret more, staying or leaving?

For a year now I've been going back and forth between growing old with the man I love and simply just not living the life I wanted (travel, adventures, excitement - which he knew I craved in life when we met)... or leaving and dealing with the no doubt grim consequences for us both (I don't WANT to lose my best friend). I have nobody to talk to - I do not want friends and family to get involved. Could you offer me perspective... is my line of thought reasonable? Is it selfish of me to not want to live like this?

10 Replies 10

Hey JuliaJuly,

Welcome to our online community, we are so glad that you reached out to us here today. We are really sorry that you are in a situation where you have immense love and care for your husband but also feeling like you are obliged to stay even though it is affecting your wellbeing. This is a very challenging place to be in and can hear the anguish in your post.  It sounds as though you are needing some extra support and we want you to know that these forums are a safe space for you to express yourself, and our community is here to provide you with as much support, advice and conversation as you need. 

We recognise that this must be a very difficult situation for you, so we just wanted to let you know that if you find yourself feeling particularly overwhelmed, please know that there is always help available to you. The kind counsellors at the Beyond Blue Support Service are always there for you- day or night- on 1300 22 4636 and through Wechat 3pm to 12am AEST at www.beyondblue.org.au/getsupport, or you can also reach out to our friends at Lifeline on 13 11 14 who can provide support and advice 24/7. Please do feel free to use these services to talk through what's on your mind when you are feeling overwhelmed and alone in your struggles.

Many in our community have also been through a lot in their lives and will be able to talk through these feelings with you. Please keep posting here and let us know how you are feeling, when you are up to it.


Thank you so much Sophie.

When this train of thought started about a year ago, I went to the GP for a referral to a psychologist so I would have an independent person to talk to about it. My husband at the time was very nervous about this and said he was afraid the therapist would tell me to leave him (he has low self-esteem; and it's hard to not contribute to that with my issues with our life). I told him at the time it was to treat another trauma just to avoid escalating the discussion until I had more insight.

I was put on a waiting list and told it would be a few months - after 3 months of waiting, just as I was about to follow up, I was admitted to hospital for an urgent medical issue and by the time I got out, lockdown/COVID started so I stayed in self-isolation. Now a year later I don't know how to re-open that touchy conversation again. Maybe I should push through it once restrictions lift.

Hi JuliaJuly,

To sum up what you've written it sounds like you want both your best friend/ husband and travel, adventures, excitement. But something is also niggling at you to leave but being without your husband is also unknown territory.

Can you have both your husband and your outside interests and see how you go from there. You might find that doing things without him makes you a happier person and the decision to leave could be an easier one.

Or you might decide you love him too much and the balance of fulfilling your own interests away from him make you miss him and you'll want to stay.

I don't think anyone should feel guilted into staying in a relationship because of a spouses poor mental heath and inability to survive without them which also may or may not be the case.

Feeling suffocated probably means he's relying on you too much.

Is it possible to get councilling together to discuss all these issues?

I hope I've helped,

Reply anytime.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi JuliaJuly,

Welcome to the forums, and no, everyone's story is unique and valid for discussion.

As much as with people's stories, the unique qualities of individuals encompass a broad range of desires and personal preferences in life choices - your husband seeks the simpler aspects, whereas you seem to be more adventurous. It may be what you have already known and it's what makes you love your husband for who he is - warts and all.

You do not have to curtail your own needs to suit those of your husband - quite often those with the 'complacent' attitude are happy to be a part of (without essentially becoming involved in) any activity you wish to instigate. But that can be daunting as you become the source for all future motivation and entertainment provision as a couple, and you really would like the enjoyment to be mutually shared and spontaneously created in return.

Some employment (on any level - even volunteering) would be good for your husband to avoid feelings of him becoming a dependent, as well as a hobby (enforced if necessary) for the retention of autonomy.

Love demands many compromises and sometimes we all must leave our comfort zone to meet each other's needs. I hope you can consider the benefits of adapting, and seeking adaptation, without undue suffering.



Hi Julia

I would have to agree with monkey_magic. Your decision does not have to be a binary one - i.e. stay or leave. There are so many other option in between, especially when it come to relationships. Sometimes, you can have the best of both worlds.

In this day and age, some men take on a domestic roll while the woman brings in the income. As long as both spouses contribute to the best of their ability, this should not be a problem, for either of you.

Community Member

Thank you everyone for your responses - I'm sorry it took me a while to reply, I lost my initial login, hence this new account.

Unfortunately I need to add some context regarding your suggestions (which, thank you for taking the time and effort for those, I appreciate it, it's so nice to have others thinking with you).

He has made pretty clear he has no intention to work or volunteer or really leave the house for anything; we've gone down a very long road to get down to that point. Our first years together he still 'pretended' to apply for jobs and be trying - this eventually escalated into severe anxiety attacks and some of his suicidal episodes. Eventually a year ago, he told me he wanted to stop trying alltogether - I think the words were: I would rather want to live than keep doing this and want to die. The thought of work or volunteering fills him with severe anxiety and he doesn't know exactly why. And his stance is; if he tries to change it, it just gets worse.

I never had a problem with being the breadwinner and him being a stay-at-home husband initially, but I also do most of the housework; like a very vast majority. This is something I've raised with him several times, and then for a while he'll step it up (clearly begrudgingly - I don't think I've ever seen him load the dishwasher without a bit of an underlying attitude about it) but then it drops down again. And I really loathe to live like a nagger so after bringing it up for years, even at one point with telling him I was considering leaving, I just do it myself.

He is for all intents and purposes a dependent, with seemingly no will to change that. If I just made the money that wouldn't be the issue; but I also do most of the housework, I do all the finances and bills, I'm even the one who keeps in touch with his family (I do that lovingly - but my point is he loves his dad and mum but just doesn't put into the relationship at all, I initiate everything).

He also has no hobbies that he's in any way passionate about. He keeps mildly occupied most days but there's nothing he really wants in life.

There are also many good things about him. He has always been my greatest encourager. We have the same outlook on a lot of things in the world. We both like a similar 'lifestyle' (i.e. I like to be at home and indulge in my hobbies and he obviously has no issue with that).

I know it sounds weird, possibly a little arrogant, but sometimes I feel like he just wants to quietly disappear in me.

Hi Julia

You are in an impossible situation, and I don't see an easy solution. If you were to stay, your husband will have to step up and carry his own weight; either domestically or in the workforce. If you decide to leave, you will lose the last 12 year of your life and will have to start over again. Either option has its challenges.

I don't know how you can help someone that is unwilling to help themselves? If you decide to stay your husband will need professional help. I think that is a must.

At a minimum, I think you and your husband need to have a serious talk about the future of the marriage. Who knows, it might just be the wakeup call he needs.

Stay in touch!

Hi JJ,

Thanks for re-registering - welcome again!

Although there are so many frustrations for you in your post, nothing suggests you love your husband any less because of it.

His complacency may be being enabled by your willingness to perform. Housework, for instance, is something your husband should feel compelled to do in consideration of your occupation - his contribution in appreciation. Doing this only when told, negates the sentiment behind the endeavour (regardless of whether it is done or not).

Would your husband be perturbed by living in squalor? How long could you endure to find out?

Hypothetically, what if you quit your job? How poor would you need to become before your husband showed initiative to find work?

You may want to test the boundaries on this (please don't quit your job!) by setting some scenarios to map his responses...

  • "My doctor said I can't do heavy lifting for a few months"
  • "It looks like I might be being retrenched"
  • "I think we will hire a maid"
  • "We're having X (some unpleasant relative) stay with us and you can entertain them if you have nothing else to do"

Use your imagination to determine a Scale of Laziness, so then you will have some parameters to work with.

This may help you determine the behaviour as one of choice or condition.



Community Member

Good afternoon JuliaJuly.

I just want to start off by saying how courageous you are for being so extremely supportive for your husband and you are defiantly not alone in this situation. Actually, this can be quite common in any relationship. From what you've mentioned, It sounds like your husband is suffering quite badly and that you may feel like you've run out of options.
  • It's absolutely okay to feel like that.
  • I'd like to ask if you could stand in his shoes for a moment and imagine if you were in his position?
  • What would is be like and how would you feel if your Husband was contemplating leaving?
  • Having remorse and empathy for our partner can be difficult and is something we have to continuously work on.

Sometimes, the more healthier partner becomes stuck in a fake realty that the feel trapped or suffocated by their not-so health partner. Sometimes we start to see the flaws in them, our minds turn them from being a good person into something else.

I want you know that you are stronger and better than you believe, still being with him part of his journey make you a very self- compassionate person which means that you are compassionate to others and that you have every right to celebrate your life with your amazing man

Let us know how you go. : )