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How can you help someone that doesn't feel like they can be happy

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This is an ongoing problem for my dh. I am at my wits end over it. I know you can't be responsible for someone elses happiness. But how can I help him feel like he has a right to be happy. Due to his childhood he only knows how to be unhappy and won't/can't give himself permission to be happy. All of his brothers have the same problem. I just don't get it. I had a bad childhood too(worse in many ways and I have no problem allowing myself to be happy and feel joyful) He is critical, sour and just hard to live with (his father was the same way) I used to take it personally now I know it is just that he won't let himself be happy. He actually realizes it too but can't seem to change the pattern. He doesn't like to play games, go to movies do anything fun. Please understand I am not rapping on him I really love him and want to help I just don't know how. I know he won't go for counseling (stubborn Italian family doesn't believe in it - yes this could be some of the problem) This has gotten a lot worse since his mother moved near us 3 years ago. Every time he talks to her (every other day or so ) it is like he has a black cloud over his head. I feel like I am always having to do backflips (not literally although that would be funny) to cheer him up. Do you have a suggestions or maybe books I can read. Thanks!

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Sounds like my dad... Son of two alcoholics, never learned the feeling of true love as a kid, not great at showing it as a man. He is also an alcoholic (high functioning) but it's still killing him slowly, through heart failure and cirrhosis of the liver.


Still, it's all about self-hatred. I just feel he does not understand what happiness is, to let himself feel it. My mom has tried for years. She loves him to much to ever leave. But it's hard... I sure have no answers, but I understand how frustrating it can be.


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Any chance he will go to therapy?


ETA: Nevermind, I just re-read and it seems he isn't thrilled with the idea. Do you think he would try it if you shared how much it affects you?? Maybe as a try-it-and-see type thing? Does HE want to change, because unfortunately if he doesn't want to change he's unlikely to put forth much effort. Good luck, and good for you for sticking around and trying to help him.

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First of all, I'm not a therapist...yet. I don't play one on TV, and I didn't even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, :001_rolleyes: so please don't take this as gospel, but merely as an observation of what I've seen in my internship (the psych ward of a local hospital):


Whether it's due to his childhood or not, he needs some sort of counseling. You said he knows no other way to be but unhappy. Kids who grow up in that kind of atmosphere (you said "critical, sour, and hard to live with") will be adults who act the same way unless they have some kind of intervention.


One thing that we always tell the patients in the ward is that we can never change others. No matter how unreasonable they are (or seem to be), they will never change as a result of what someone else does to them or for them. The only thing you and I can change about a person is how we react to their behavior. The same is true for everyone--high functioning, schizophrenics, depressives, mentally retarded, bipolar, borderlines (though it's a gymnastic feat in itself to try to change the way they think about this!), people with PTSD, and just regular people who have had bad things happen in their lives. He can't change his mother and father any more than you can change him, but he can change the way he processes and reacts to them.


You say he realizes this but can't change his patterns. This is precisely why counseling will work for him. The way he processes his thoughts and emotions is an unhealthy way because he grew up knowing nothing else. If a counselor does nothing else for him, they will reflect his thoughts and feelings and help him process what has happened to him.


You know as well as I do that it's not a sign of weakness--and by the way, it's not only people in psych wards who need this type of feedback. The challenge will be convincing your husband of this.


I would advise you to start by telling him what you've just told us. Be assertive, and use "I" statements such as "Honey, I see that you're just miserable and I feel like we have to jump through hoops to cheer you up. I need you to talk to someone so that we can be happier as a family" or something of that nature.


...and if that doesn't work, you can change the way you react to it. Don't "play the game." His happiness is not your responsibility, it's his. I know it's not outward manipulation, but it does affect you.


Good luck to you both. It's a hard journey, but it's worth it.:grouphug: Thanks for reading this far.



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Whether it's due to his childhood or not, he needs some sort of counseling. You said he knows no other way to be but unhappy. Kids who grow up in that kind of atmosphere (you said "critical, sour, and hard to live with") will be adults who act the same way unless they have some kind of intervention.


:iagree: with the entire post. This part is *so* true!

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I had two thoughts about your dh as I suffer from some of the same stuff.

1. If he is harboring any unforgiveness he needs to let it go regardless of whether the other party wants to be forgiven, is even alive, or even if your dh does not "feel" forgiving. Otherwise it will grow up as a root of bitterness (Heb. 12:15)


2. The tapes playing in head are lying to him, probably saying things like "you don't deserve to be happy and carefree", "nothing you do ever works out", or "you're not good enough"....things like that or worse.

Replace the tapes with Scripture. He needs objective truth outside of himself to put his trust in. Try to find out what lies he is believing and combat it with Scripture that speaks to the opposite of that lie. Memorizing the verse will erase the original tape. Put it on an index card and tape it to the bathroom mirror or the visor of his car.

And then pray for him and see what God does.

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It sounds to me like he suffers from depression. Possibly. Sure, he needs some counseling too. But, based on my experience with depression, he fits the bill.


I had a rough childhood. I changed a lot through counseling. And I still needed help with medical depression. That little blue pill I take does wonders.


Just a thought...

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I am bi-polar, although I don't go full blown manic too often. Right now I am stable and doing well and have a little perspective on this sort of behavior.


I grew up in a home with a Dad like you are talking about and it isn't fun. How is he with your kids? Does he take any "moods" out on them for instance or even you?


He is engaging in some destructive behavior and unfortunately only HE can change it. Somethings I would wonder is:


1. Is he aware he does this or is different from other people or is this just how he is and he is oblivious?


2. Was he ever different than this?


3. If he is aware of it, does he enjoy being like this? Ask him.


4. Does he want his children to grow up and live in this same pattern?


His children (maybe not all of them) will grow up and behave this way. I grew up with a Mother who was all light and joy, but who am I more like- yeah, Dad the pessimist- so is my brother and there were only 2 of us. It is so learned that I still struggle each day not to be that way. I am like a grown-up Mrs. Eeyore. My glass is not half empty- it fell onto the floor, broke, and made a huge mess!


My hubby and I freely talk about this behavior and so he is quick to point out when my thoughts or speech patterns seem to be taking a bad turn. While irritating, it does help me to right myself and see how ridiculous I sound. In my head it doesn't, but when he says it, it does.


Counseling would be great, but I think if he will start even talking with you about this and you could open some dialogue you can get far. His family wouldn't have to know about his going to counseling. I am assuming they are just anti-psych?


Does he have triggers? Find them out (like talking with his Mom) and find out what about that is triggering him. Is she saying something negative about him or just to him? If she is just going on like gloom and doom he needs to learn how to let that sail in one ear and out the other. He cannot take on her junk obviously when he has enough to deal with.


Would he possibly journal? Men hate this, but if he could spend some time writing about how he is feeling it might help a pattern emerge.


Write down what he says and then write out a positive replacement he could have. Make copies and put them where he will see them daily. I did this and had them by my bathroom sink.


I agree with previous suggestions about self-talk. He needs to learn a whole new language there. It will take time.


If all this falls on deaf ears, what happens if you do fun things without him? Does he get mad or maybe would this spark some interest in going? Every person is different.


To keep your sanity, counseling for you may become necessary and may help a lot!


I wish you the best, I know its rough!


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and I STILL can't get my depressed Italian dad to go to counseling! So, I can relate...and I'm so sorry because I know how hard this must be for you. Take care of yourself and hang in there.


I do have one suggestion that I don't think has been mentioned yet. I'd suggest that you start by encouraging DH to go in and talk with his medical doctor about possible depression (as opposed to a therapist) and see if some medication might be a good place to start. In my "professional" life (I'm happily a full time mom at the moment), I ran across many depressed men who would refuse to go to counseling. However, not too many of them would refuse to go to a doctor for a medical consult. At least most of them could view this as "solving a problem" whereas the counseling bit was too esoteric and seemed whiny to them (my DH included!). Remind him that he'd probably take an antibiotic if he needed one...an antidepressant for a medical condition is no different. A good dose of an antidepressant might give him enough of a leg up to realize that he needs some help and that counseling might be able to do something for him. Antidepressants can make a world of difference, though they aren't the full enchilada IMO.


Even if he refuses counseling after medication, at least he'd be a little bit better or maybe more energetic. If he ends up on one, just make sure that he remembers two things: 1. many antidepressants take at least 2 wks to reach full strength and 2. if one doesn't work or has unpleasant side effects, he needs to try another one. There are many good ones available now.


I'm so sorry. Prayers going out for you both.

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maybe having your husband listen to some tapes by Dr. Laura :)??



Her book BAD CHILDHOOD, GOOD LIFE is really good. It helped me to realize alot of thigns about my parents. My childhood was not Horrendous, but there were some down times, and it really helped me put them into perspective.

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