I Think My Husband is Depressed - Can I Save My Marriage?

    is-my-husband-depressed.jpgPart 2 of 3

    In our first post, How to Save My Marriage - When My Husband Doesn't Love Me Anymore, we introduced you to a couple, Carrie and Al, who are dealing with several issues threatening their relationship. Let's continue looking at Carrie's description of her marriage. With the problems they are facing she's now wondering, "Is my husband is depressed?"

    Carrie's husband is unpredictable -- in his responses, behavior, and especially his emotions. She says she walks around on eggshells because of it. But could this really be a sign her husband is depressed?

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    The list of symptoms for depression can vary, but for men anger and moodiness are certainly on the list. So the idea that Carrie’s husband could be depressed is not a reach.

    As we talked she said that to try to keep the peace, she tells their 6 and 10 year old kids to "Let Daddy have a pleasant evening."

    Despite her peace keeping efforts, she says his anger is becoming more regular. At Christmas dinner, in front of the whole family, he screamed across the room at her, "If you want to stay married to me you'll never do that again."

    She cried in her hands as she recited to me in counseling the numerous ways he degrades her and hurts her with his words.

    At other times, Al tells her that he doesn't deserve her and says he knows that his anger will lead to the end of their marriage. She often wonders if he's given up, if he's having an affair, or what his Facebook page may contain.

    She tried to kiss him last week and he turned away saying, "Don't pressure me."

    "I hate my life," he told her. "I hate myself."

    After telling me this, she said to me, "I think my husband is depressed. What do you think?"

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    We talked about what depression can look like in men. I told her in men it often looks just like stress. Here are some common depression symptoms in men:

    • Anger
    • Irritability
    • Moodiness (this can be grumpy, or an emotional roller coaster, much like the eggshells Carrie walks around on)

    For some men depression may manifest in a lack of ambition or energy. He may be indifferent to everything, and simply allow his wife to make all the decisions. Or he might withdraw completely from all social or family interaction.

    It wouldn't be surprising if her husband Al is depressed, I told her. A lot of men are depressed, but with men in particular it can be hard to tell since the symptoms can vary quite a bit and be somewhat vague. In fact, most men, when they get depressed, still function quite well in many areas of their lives, particularly professionally. This means the external symptoms can be misleading. The signs are most often evident in their interpersonal interactions, particularly with loved ones.

    One of the challenges with this is that the symptoms can come on gradually. By the time they’re evident to those around him they may just seem like a regular part of his normal behavior. It can be weeks or months before the people he’s closest to stop and realize there is something wrong.

    Another problem with depression in men is that they (men) are very good at explaining away their behavior. They often don’t even recognize themselves that their behavior has changed. It isn’t uncommon to hear a man suffering with depression put his actions off on things like financial problems, job stress, or family strife. And there likely is some connection between his behavior and these things. But with depression the response is often disproportionate to the problem and sometimes extreme in nature (remember Al’s “I hate my life and myself” comment?).

    As Carrie and I talked she kept crying. She just couldn't forget the feeling that "he doesn't love me" and kept questioning how that could be connected to his mood. "How can I save my marriage?" she asked.

    I suggested to her that he may still love her despite what his actions show. However, that love has been covered over and she just can't see it right now. Depression, stress, and unhappiness with himself cover his love for her and keep it hidden. With help those things can be removed and it's possible she could see him begin to love her again.

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    Carrie is far from the only wife asking, "Is my husband depressed?" All of her husband's actions described above are signs he very well could be. But it's also likely that's not the only thing going on with Al. Clearly he has an anger management problem, possibly brought on by depression, and his behavior towards Carrie has become abusive. But I wonder if those are only occurring because he's depressed or if they're signs of other problems?

    For some wives, all they have to deal with a husband who's depressed. For others like Carrie, she likely has a depressed husband, but she's also got an abusive husband and a man with a serious anger management problem.

    In what ways can you relate to Carrie? Does your husband look something like hers?

    This is the second post of three examining a marriage in which a wife feels her husband doesn't love her anymore and she seeks the expertise of a marriage counselor for help in finding out what she can do. You can read the first post, How to Save My Marriage - When My Husband Doesn't Love Me Anymore here. In the third and final post, I Can't Get My Husband To Change, we take a look at some things Carrie can do to change her husband and save her marriage.

    Editor's Note: This post was originally published February 23, 2010 and updated on August 30, 2014. It has been updated again for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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