Find answers to some of the more frequently asked questions on the Forums.

Forums guidelines

Our guidelines keep the Forums a safe place for people to share and learn information.

Wife has long term depression - Stay or Leave?

Community Member

I’m in a pretty dark place right now.
I’ve been married for 12 years and my wife has suffered from serious depression and anxiety for 9-10 of them. She's received ongoing treatment but things don’t seem to be improving.

It first began with an injury and the loss of her job. I didn’t earn much money at the time but it was just enough for us to live comfortably. She started taking pain meds and antidepressants, but soon needed psychologist and psychiatrist appointments and other therapies and meds. Her mood began to drop lower with the good days becoming fewer.

The costs started rising and I fell into debt. I worked harder, longer hours which luckily led to promotions, still with the extra money we were only just getting by. Trying to pay for the extra medical bills and debt while paying for everything else was just killing me. I had nothing to show for my hard work but kept pushing on knowing it was all for my wife.
Things kept getting worse, we stopped being intimate because of her low self esteem. She became too anxious to leave the house. We missed family events and outings with friends. I couldn't go out by myself very often because of the distress it would cause her. I now have very few friends because of this. I work 9-10 hour days, 11 days a fortnight, do all the cooking and most of the cleaning. I was always fine with all of this because I know its not her fault. I know she suffers a hell everyday that I could never imagine. It kills me inside to see her in so much pain and distress.

I really thought I was managing ok and felt strong until I had this moment of realisation. I went out for a night in the city with a some friends and met this really nice and very attractive girl. She was all over me most of the night but I refrained from anything other that chatting. She stuffed her number into my pocket when we left but I didn't keep it. Believe it or not, I met the same girl the next weekend and she was still lusting after me and made me feel amazing. This was when the moment of realisation came, I had truly forgotten what it felt like to be wanted, needed or loved, like I had been numb all these years. I didn't do anything with this girl but she made me realise and feel a lot of things. Im certainly not happy and miss the feeling of love and companionship. I don't want to miss out on life and can see it slipping away but i'm afraid of what would happen to my wife if I left her. I feel truly stuck. Can it get better? Any advise would be appreciated.

17 Replies 17

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi John117 and thanks so much for your flattering words!

Your positive attitude is awesome and a mirror that lots of us could look to.

I was already intending to post you today when I got home about one more thing - I always feel much much better after vigorous exercise, and after today's swim I thought about you and your wife.. Something to do with endorphins, oxygenating the brain cells and stuff. So was just wondering if you wife would benefit from regular exercise, assuming she is able to. Anything from brisk walks to gym to cycling to swimming etc.

I have learnt over the years that if any activity is subject to a programme with regular timing, it achieves a better result. This is because us humans respond to routines and order, not chaos. Building on this theme of course is to create a regular daily routine for your wife of almost anything - from activities, music, learning a new subject on the internet, cooking, creating things etc etc. That focuses our brain and leaves less time for reflecting on how we feel and drowning in emotions.

Anyway, I hope you don't mind this follow up. I have no idea what your wife is able to do physically, One of the guys in our riding group was a confirmed substance user and alcoholic and the regular riding has changed his life completely.

Once again, you are an inspiration - all the very best.

The bro

Hi John117,

I understand your first paragraph it’s important that you look after yourself too! In terms of doing things that you enjoy doing…… fishing, walking ect

and seeing your friends aswell…. Maybe you could talk to your psychologist about how looking after your wife has worn you down a bit…. Talking to someone helps….

Thanks John, I really hope you can find someone who does metacognitive therapy in your area ….. I did mine at a university it was run by trainees and overseen by a doctor….. I really enjoyed being in a group I felt less alone and realised I wasn’t the only one….. I was also told that people who do group sessions get better results than one on one…. My therapy was for 8 weeks and then it was up to us to use what we were taught to get the best out of it…… while being in the group for 8 weeks we had the trainees to lean on if we needed them…

My gp also put me on a antidepressant to help me to manage my anxiety……… I understand your thoughts on medication being on them for so long but I think if they help then that’s great! I’m grateful that we have antidepressants the people in the old days weren’t so lucky….

Thats ok John I’m happy to help you ..I’ve been recovered for 4 years now and very grateful to be on the other side 😊

please let me know how you go with metacognitive therapy 😊

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi John,

I’m sorry that you have had to carry this weight for so many years, it can be such a burden and it’s only natural for the well person to want to be free of it at times. It can be hard enough working like a dog and making sacrifices, but then for it to seem as though you are making them in vain or endlessly with no end in sight must be even more difficult. And people who are unwell do feel bad that their partner has to pick up the slack, but then rather than acknowledge that and show thanks, can inadvertently turn it around and make it about them.
You went out and saw another side to life, one simple and free of obligation, and felt alive. And your interaction with the woman reawakened some feelings in you. That can be incredibly powerful but often isn’t based in reality. Most people have issues of some sort in their life but present their best selves when they fancy someone, so who you get can often be someone else entirely. That’s not to say that you should stay in an unhappy marriage out of obligation but just that it’s not often an accurate representation. I suppose what you need to do is question whether you love your wife and your life together as a whole. I do think you need to speak to your wife about this, whether one on one or with a marriage counselor present. It may be that you need to start incorporating things into your life that bring back some fun. I think it’s unfair of your wife to begrudge you that.

Community Member

I think I’ve reached the end. I don’t think I can fight anymore. I can feel myself starting to feel the types of things that my wife has been describing and feel that it is our whole situation that is causing it.

I told my wife how I have been feeling about our relationship, that I don’t feel loved, appreciated or respected anymore. I feel like a slave. She said she knew I wasn’t happy and that she felt terrible for the way it was effecting me. We both cried together and continued to discuss what we should do. She suggested marriage counselling which I’m not really open to. With all of the treatment she has received over the years, I don’t think marriage counselling will fix her depression. I suggested exercise and outdoor activities but she didn’t respond with positivity. She didn’t even seem interested in trying metacognitive therapy.

When I last posted here, I had taken time off work to thoroughly clean the whole house and get it back to a state that was respectable. I spent days making it perfect for her and I’m sitting here again in the same situation just weeks later because she refuses to pick up after herself. She just expects me to do everything. If I don’t do it, then it doesn’t get done.

I really thought after telling her how I felt and that our marriage was at steak that she would have made an effort to improve things, even if it was just a small effort. But nothing. I feel exhausted and irritable all the time and it’s now starting to seriously affect my work. I can’t keep working the hours I do and then come home and continue to work till I go to bed. I fell asleep on the couch the other night, which I never do. Woke up at 2:50am with the lights on and she had gone to bed. She just left me there with no blanket and didn’t even try to wake me up. She couldn’t even turn the lights out or lock the doors.

I’ve spoken to friends and colleagues about my situation and they’ve all told me to leave, enough is enough. Yet, I’m filled with guilt for even thinking about this.

I really don’t know what else to try before giving up. The only thing stopping me leaving is how separation is going to affect her. I’ve been the rock in her life for so long, I don’t know if she will be capable of taking care of herself and that worries me deeply.

Surely I deserve some sort of happiness, love and support in my life too? This whole situation is making me feel like a failure. Am I a bad person for wanting to leave?

Hi John117,

We are sorry to hear that things have been so difficult in your relationship and that you are considering leaving. We understand this must be such a hard decision to make, especially with all you have had to go through, so please know that you never have to go through this alone, and support is always here for you.

If you would like to talk to someone, the Beyond Blue Support Service is available 24/7 by phone on 1300 22 4636 or on Webchat 1pm-12am AEST on our website: www.beyondblue.org.au/getsupport  One of our friendly counsellors will be able to talk through these feelings with you and can offer support, advice and referrals.

We would recommend that you get in touch with an organisation called Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277 who provide relationship support services for individuals, families and communities.

Please feel free to keep reaching out here on your thread whenever you feel up to it.

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hi John, it is a difficult decision to make, but my wife left me and then divorced me because one reason was being depressed, so our house had to be sold, but as soon as I lived alone I picked up, and I'm not blaming my wife, but realised that I had to go shopping, do the washing and cook, whether it takes a few weeks or just a day doesn't really matter, it's the knowledge that I had to survive on my own.

While you are there doing everything then nothing is going to improve and she may think that she doesn't need any help because you are doing everything for her.

I realise your apprehension and understand this, but you also need to look after yourself.


Hi John 117,

I've read through the thread and can see in the short time you've posted how you were first seeking advice, but now your seeking help.

I can relate to what you're going through. My husband is a depression and anxiety sufferer. He was quite bad several years ago and has slowly improved. He sought some treatment and medication, but he didn't really like doing that, so he just did what he could to make life liveable because he had too. But it's still not enough for me anymore. Living like this for upwards of 10 years has drained me too. I am now suffering depression and seeking help of my own - all whilst still trying to be the strength for the family and do all the things because his issues remain. I enabled a lot of his behaviour thinking I was doing the right thing. I thought I was helping him by making his world easier and less stressful. But all I was doing was taking all that stress and unhappiness and putting it onto me. It took me 10 years to realise that. By enabling his behaviour, I wasn't forcing him to change it. I missed events and functions as well and have also lost a lot of friends. This part seems lost on my husband who thinks it's just part of life.

I too have been grappling with the thought of leaving, but how do I do that? What does that look like? How will he cope? They're all questions that fill us with guilt and we harbour those thoughts and feelings inside and they eat us up.

I've tried to talk to my husband about my feelings and I get dismissed. I get how he's doing it worse, or there are others in the world doing it tougher than me. I know in their own way people think they are helping when they say that, but it's dismissive and a form of emotional abuse. They expect us to support them and understand them, but they can't do the same in return.

I know mental illness isn't black and white and as a partner to a sufferer, it's so hard. There is so much pressure on us, but at times it feels like we're not allowed to feel it because then we're not being supportive enough.

I'm still with my husband, but there's a lot of times I think that I'd be better off on my own. But after all he's done and all the restrictions he's knowingly put on my life, I'd be in the wrong and the one left with the guilt.

I guess after all that, my point is that there does come a time where we're no longer helping them, but enabling them. And then all that's left in us is a big black hole. You sound like you're close to that hole.

I hope you're ok.

Hello Emotionallydrained, a good comment you've just made and I agree with what you've said.

If you enable his thinking then all you are doing is holding yourself back with the possibility of becoming affected, alternatively, if you go along with what he says, then he believes he doesn't need any help.

Neither of these are beneficial for your own health and certainly not for him, so you need to develop your own thoughts and behaviour and if he refuses to get any assistance, unfortunately, that's his choice, but encourage you to draw yourself away and seek help.

If you leave him that doesn't necessarily mean you don't love him, but it takes on another type of love.

Look after yourself.