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Staying in a loveless marriage but "moving on" to an extent emotionally ...


Ann.without.an.e
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Please don't quote, if this thread goes down the crazy path, I would like to be able to delete.

My sister and BIL have been having some struggles that she has discussed with me recently and has asked for advice. I would love to run the situation by you all because you often have insight and guts to say what needs to be said.

 

BIL has struggled with bouts of depression for as long as I've known him.  He is introspective, perfectionistic, and task oriented.  He has some amazing traits.  He is a fantastic provider.  They have a gorgeous home that he built with his own hands, he always has a project to work on to make their life better, they have 3 amazing kids, etc.  From the exterior, they are the perfect family.  He would go into these short bouts of depression and my sister would talk him through it.  When something triggered this mood (usually something small), everything and everyone in the world would be wrong (in his mind) but he would lean into her.  They were short lived.  It was manageable.  About three years ago, things changed.  She became something that he would add to his "everything is wrong in the world" list.  He would say things about her as well.  He has also distanced himself from her, he has even said that he simply doesn't feel any affection toward her. He is still providing for her, he still lives in the home, they still do things as a family sometimes, but mostly he works on his tasks.  He doesn't seem to want to make TEA ever, he really doesn't touch/kiss her at all.  She is harboring some deep pain from some of his remarks toward her in his bad times.  This doesn't happen routinely.  Since he never apologizes for them or says that he doesn't feel that way or didn't mean it, she feels like he actually feels these things about her and toward her.  It is becoming a bit of a mess.  When she has said anything about the lack of affection, he apologizes and says that he simply doesn't feel it and can't pretend. 

 

She wants things to be like they once were, where their relationship was strong through his own struggles.  I think after 3 years she is now admitting that it won't be right again.  She has quietly harbored so much pain from it.  She is a super calm person and doesn't lash out.  For 16.5 years, she never once turned down a tea party with him (she says) and she has always had the higher drive for TEA overall.  Now, the last 3 years he just isn't interested at all.  I guess he approached her about a month ago with a desire for it and she just couldn't.  She says it is too painful to consider now.  Suddenly, after not wanting to be intimate for so long, he wants to out of the blue.  She said no and apologized.  She says if he seemed interested in building an overall relationship she would be open.  

 

 

She has asked me for help on how to stay married and live amiably but separate herself emotionally without feeling bitter.  Neither of them want divorce.  She wants to accept that this is life without feeling so hurt and angry.  She wants to thrive now, rather than just survive day by day with this lingering feeling that someone is dying or something.

 

Facts:

They are Christian so religious thoughts are acceptable.

He is not abusive in any way.

She doesn't want a divorce for multiple reasons (she made a vow, they have children, she married young and has no career, etc).

They are going on 20 years of marriage.

They cannot take counseling (he doesn't want to spend the money).

 

Many of the things I see that recommend how to fix a broken marriage just don't apply to her situation.  Most things would tell her to initiate tea or pull close to him physically, etc but if he has stated that he is no longer attracted to her and he never wants tea...that just won't work.

 

 

Any books, stories, blogs, thoughts, etc to share.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Attolia
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I'm sorry they are going through this. I have heard this book recommended several times from Christian sources: "When Love Dies" by Judy Bodmer. I've never read it, so I can't comment on the contents. Kudos to you for walking through this with your sister and supporting her emotionally.

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I'm sorry they are going through this. I have heard this book recommended several times from Christian sources: "When Love Dies" by Judy Bodmer. I've never read it, so I can't comment on the contents. Kudos to you for walking through this with your sister and supporting her emotionally.

 

 

I was just looking at that one on amazon for her.

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What is her husband doing to address his depression?

 

It sounds to me like his irregular bouts with depression have deepened into something more chronic. He needs to address his mental health.

 

It is impossible to have a real relationship with someone whose brain is not functioning.

 

Exercise, nutrition, sleep, appropriate medication. If he doesn't address these things it is unlikely anything will get better and things may get much worse. Start with a full physical, get his thyroid levels checked, vitamin D, etc.

 

There is hope that the person she has always loved can come back.

 

Counseling may also be necessary whether he wants to spend the money or not, he needs individual therapy with a CBT emphasis. It is unlikely couples counseling would get far until he is in a healthier place. My husband and I go together but the sessions really just focus on helping him overcome the false thinking patterns of depression; my role is support and sometimes a reality check.

Edited by maize
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I think illness or an affair is the issue here.  Illness (mental health, or nutritional/vitamin deficiency, perhaps low testosterone or other hormone issues) can be figured out with a physical and some honesty with a doctor.  Hopefully, that solves the problems.  

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What is her husband doing to address his depression?

 

It sounds to me like his irregular bouts with depression have deepened into something more chronic. He needs to address his mental health.

 

It is impossible to have a real relationship with someone whose brain is not functioning.

 

Exercise, nutrition, sleep, appropriate medication. If he doesn't address these things it is unlikely anything will get better and things may get much worse. Start with a full physical, get his thyroid levels checked, vitamin D, etc.

 

There is hope that the person she has always loved can come back.

 

Counseling may also be necessary whether he wants to spend the money or not, he needs individual therapy with a CBT emphasis. It is unlikely couples counseling would get far until he is in a healthier place. My husband and I go together but the sesions really just focus on helping him overcome the false thinking patterns of depression; my role is support and sometimes a reality check.

 

 

Nothing. He avoids doctors at all cost. He doesn't see the need.  If it was chronic maybe he would.  He actually seems fine most of the time now.  He is just simply not attracted to her and not interested in a physical relationship. It is like he has distanced himself from her emotionally and even he doesn't understand why.  

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He sounds deeply depressed and would probably benefit significantly from someone looking into his testosterone levels. She needs to get counseling for this herself if he won't go as well. Those are the only things I can see helping here, given the parameters. I'm so sorry she's in such pain :(

 

 

I think illness or an affair is the issue here.  Illness (mental health, or nutritional/vitamin deficiency, perhaps low testosterone or other hormone issues) can be figured out with a physical and some honesty with a doctor.  Hopefully, that solves the problems.  

 

 

 

I have wondered about low testosterone and mentioned that to her.  She says he will not go to a doctor.  period.  ugh

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(((Hugs))) to your sister. Thing is, IME, changing hormones at some point can influence either or both parties in this way. My DH is older than me and for several years, I felt that he was going through andropause. A lot of what you say sounds like things about my mate, although TEA parties did not stop, but they became much more occassional and pretty much scheduled like a dentist appointment. (Speaking of things that need deleting soon...) Well, anyway, some things have been rocky, but he seems more on the other side of that hump now, however, now it is my turn. I blame hormones again. Sometimes I don't think I would care if another cup of TEA ever makes it's way to my bed.

 

My personal strategy is that I have the TEA party even if I'm not feeling the TEA party. It's relationship glue and I know better than to leave him without glue. Usually, I end up coming around to the party anyway, KWIM?

 

I think one of the worst things for marriages as time passes is to think things should always be as they once were. It's simply not a practical expectation and leaves people searching for greener grass. I think if the mate is not a bad one, as you have described BIL, you just gotta go water your own yard and take whatever green grass you get there.

 

And get an electric hot water doohickey for instant tea alone or with company.

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Is the husband getting treatment for his depression? He needs to see a professional and get medication and/or therapy. 

Until his mental illness has been addressed, they should not make any decisions about their marriage. He is ill, and from what you write it sounds as if the issues can be traced directly to his illness. 

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I think one of the worst things for marriages as time passes is to think things should always be as they once were. It's simply not a practical expectation and leaves people searching for greener grass. I think if the mate is not a bad one, as you have described BIL, you just gotta go water your own yard and take whatever green grass you get there.

 

And get an electric hot water doohickey for instant tea alone or with company.

 

 

I love your thoughts here.  Well said  :001_wub:

 

ETA:  He is also a bit older than her so they might be in a similar situation?

Edited by Attolia
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I know what you mean by TEA but what does it actually stand for. This is tbe 3rd time I have seen this and I have no idea?

 

 

Im not a relationship advice type, so I dont have much to offer. Im sorry.

 

 

Gosh, I didn't think it actually stood for anything.  I thought it was metaphorical.  Hmmmmm .... someone should step in and save me.

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Also, I have recently been reading and really like the book, "It Takes One to Tango." It helps to deal with a spouse who would not seek help or ever dream of asking/talking with someone about the marriage. It's subtitled something like, "How I saved my marriage with (almost) no help from my spouse."

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Does he want to stay married? If he does, maybe if she starts talking about separation, it will prompt him to get help in order to save the marriage? 

 

She must go see someone on her own if staying in the marriage is her goal. She needs help walking through to the other side of this. 

 

 

Yes, I guess.  He never says he wants to leave? 

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What is her husband doing to address his depression?

 

It sounds to me like his irregular bouts with depression have deepened into something more chronic. He needs to address his mental health.

 

It is impossible to have a real relationship with someone whose brain is not functioning.

 

Exercise, nutrition, sleep, appropriate medication. If he doesn't address these things it is unlikely anything will get better and things may get much worse. Start with a full physical, get his thyroid levels checked, vitamin D, etc.

 

There is hope that the person she has always loved can come back.

 

Counseling may also be necessary whether he wants to spend the money or not, he needs individual therapy with a CBT emphasis. It is unlikely couples counseling would get far until he is in a healthier place. My husband and I go together but the sesions really just focus on helping him overcome the false thinking patterns of depression; my role is support and sometimes a reality check.

 

 

Everything maize said.

 

 

Over the long term, real marriage can't be sustained over real mental health issues that are not being addressed.  

 

What you have described is a mental health issue first; the marriage issues are secondary (real, but not meaningfully addressable until the underlying mental health issue is first addressed).

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I know what you mean by TEA but what does it actually stand for. This is tbe 3rd time I have seen this and I have no idea?

 

 

Im not a relationship advice type, so I dont have much to offer. Im sorry.

It harkens back to a thread in WTM Epic Thread history. I'll see if I can find a link so you can read for yourself. It became a thread loaded with hilarious metaphors.

 

Eta: http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/55527-what-the-world-needs-nowwarning-ot-intimate-content/. The metaphor is born right around post #74 or so.

Edited by Quill
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It harkens back to a thread in WTM Epic Thread history. I'll see if I can find a link so you can read for yourself. It became a thread loaded with hilarious metaphors.

 

 

I remember the thread but I can't remember it being an acronym or anything right?  It has been so long.

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I remember the thread but I can't remember it being an acronym or anything right? It has been so long.

No, it's not an acronym. It was born out of talk about having an "appliance" and from there went on to be about the Instant Hot Water thing. So, the tea euphemism was born.

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It's unfortunate that the husband doesn't seem to be open to the things that would likely help the most.  Depression (and mental illness) is like that.  Such an awful, horrible, ugly monster.

 

But for the wife, I would just recommend trying to figure out how to be happy more-or-less independent of him and his illness, like you mentioned in the OP.  There are so many ways to do this.  She could take classes, teach a class, learn a skill, etc.  Hopefully, she will figure out she still has much to offer the world, even though the person she loves the most doesn't seem interested.  :grouphug:

 

Best wishes to them.

 

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Given a similar situation that happened in dh's extended family, I would wonder if maybe he was secretly homosexual. 

 

This is a common thought, and I'm sure sometimes it's the reason (and sometimes it's a heterosexual affair instead), but depression and other mental illnesses are very sneaky in this way. They completely change how the sufferer sees the world, and how they perceive themselves in it. 

Edited by ILiveInFlipFlops
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Given a similar situation that happened in dh's extended family, I would wonder if maybe he was secretly homosexual. 

 

That is exactly what I was wondering. Christian, married young, wife has always had higher desire, the bouts of depression-  it would be a plausible explanation.

 

If he is same-sex attracted but both want to stay married, then their best bet is to go to Biblically-based marriage counseling even if it costs money. I have heard that it is possible for such a marriage to work (though I personally have my doubts about the wisdom of staying married to a same-sex  attracted man).

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I've been through something remarkably similar.  She may not want to hear it, but expecting a marriage to recover from that can take more than a decade even with professional intervention.  It did for us.  And no, it's never ever going to be the same.  Relationships evolve.  When factors like certain personality types, depression, crisis of faith (my husband's), external stressors, internal stressors hit at the same time time, it evolves rapidly.  If there's no abuse going on I would say focusing on love being long suffering is critical.  We throw that verse around over annoyances and we rarely think about it in serious situations like these. 

Her husband's personality type is very similar to my husband's and I have to ask, since it's one of the least touchy feely personality types out there, doesn't it make sense that it would be even less so during clinical depression? 

She should encourage him to seek professional help for his depression which will likely include mediation (be warned, the long term studies on medication alone aren't very hopeful) and cognitive therapy.  Someone has to teach him to handle his thoughts and feelings differently than he does now.  That's the single most important part of dealing with depression. If he's like my husband, very academically and professionally successful, it will be hard to convince him that his thought process is the problem.  Our culture rewards academic and professional success and often gives kids and adults prone to them free passes about developing themselves outside of them. A resilient, fully mentally/emotionally developed person has more going for them than academic and technical skills that result in high earning potential.  These unbalanced people go out into the world, are confronted with this, and often have no idea how to handle it.  They think it's hopeless because they don't see it as a void in themselves that can be fixed; it's a problem with how the world is.  Being introspective is their norm-thinking outside themselves is counter intuitive. 

She needs to watch for this in her own children.  Reading The Optimistic Child will likely help her recognize it and address it with them.

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Depression affects more than one's mental health and relationships. It is impacts the risk of many chronic illnesses, heart issues, and cognitive decline. Perhaps her dh would go to the doctor for physical reasons. 

 

I think for your sister, a handful of things would be wise: 

 

1) She should work on telling herself that this is not about her; it's about him and his own issues which she really has little control over.

 

2) I would suggest that she mentally adjust and treat him like a roommate who pays bills and helps with whatever it is he helps with. She can be warm and friendly while having her own life. She probably needs to help him to see the boundaries of this as well---for instance about TEA.

 

3) She needs to build a full life without him: increase time pursuing her interests with her friends, etc.

 

4) I would also suggest that she periodically make overtures of a non-intimate sort such as giving him small gifts in line with his interests, complimenting his projects, etc. 

 

 

Edited by Laurie4b
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Nothing. He avoids doctors at all cost. He doesn't see the need.  If it was chronic maybe he would.  He actually seems fine most of the time now.  He is just simply not attracted to her and not interested in a physical relationship. It is like he has distanced himself from her emotionally and even he doesn't understand why.  

:grouphug: 

 

FWIW, chronic depression can look like not much of anything from the outside.  Meaning someone can be suffering from long term chronic depression but from the outside it seems they are "normal" most of the time.  They learn how to "act" normal, but really their inner thoughts are not normal.  Situational depression that comes on for short periods of time is usually easier to spot.  People can suffer from both. From what you have posted I don't think his overall depression is short term/situational to the moment.  I think he may very well be dealing with long term chronic depression that he is able to mask relatively well most of the time.  If this is the case then focusing on whether they are having TEA or not is honestly not going to fix anything.  That is often just part of the symptoms of a poorly functioning brain. There could be dozens of reasons for long term chronic depression.  Without professional help he will almost certainly never be able to get into a healthier place.

 

Unfortunately, many people who suffer from long term chronic depression become locked in their own poorly functioning brain and are completely unwilling/unable to seek the treatment they so desperately need.  

 

For her own mental health and well being she should try to find a therapist for her, to help her, since he is completely unwilling to help himself.  It may take several tries to find someone who is a good fit and finding someone who is a good fit is paramount.  And hopefully eventually he will be willing to get help for himself, too.

 

I would also, if I were her, get a separate checking account if she doesn't already have one and start saving money.  If he has complete control of the finances that could be a serious issue down the road.  She should probably also start trying to get a part time job.  There are a lot of worst case scenarios that could leave her in a really bad place if she cannot take care of herself.  There is no way to predict the future or to really know what is happening inside his head.  I would be doing everything I could to make sure I could stand on my own two feet should something happen to cause this marriage to end.  

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Just wanted to say this: I have seen one marriage go the distance where one spouse was seemingly disinterested and the situation was similar to what you described.

If he is refusing to seek help, she can establish a sort of parallel life. I would encourage her to cultivate hobbies and outside interests, have solid women friendships and find satisfying outlets for her need to have conversation and share emotions.

 

It's far from ideal but if he is truly digging his heels in and neither are inclined to force the issue, this is one way I have seen it "work;" this does not feel like the correct word but I can say that the woman does not appear deprived, emotionally shriveled, resentful and lonely. She has a network of friends and activities that fulfill a need and they are coexisting peacefully.

 

The far better way to deal with it would be to get him evaluated. So I want to second what Maize wrote up thread as the better way to approach it but just wanted to let you know - and by extension her - that some have walked this path.

Edited by Liz CA
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It doesn't sound like there is much she can do about his behavior. Realistically, she probably needs to make a plan about what she can do if he decides to take off. I have seen this happen more than once in recent years among men who were previously decent, good providers, and it is devastating.

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You can decide to stay even if your "bests" are not meeting in the middle. Agreed that you can live in a marriage that lack intimacy. What she needs to realize is these may not be temporary and fixed. As posted above, it could take a decade or it could be never that either one is regained. I was there and I had set a boundary point for myself on what I was willing to take, he crossed it. I was committed to my marriage, I had a child and loved my spouse despite all of it. Then got to be a point that my own emotional well-being was gone because of his behavior and he was refusing to change or seek help. 

 

It's been 4 1/2 years and I walked out with damage that took at least 2-4 years to overcome - there are still other things I'm working on. Ds lived with the chaos and as I was posting in another thread last week, I realized he missed about 3-4 years of intentional parenting and creating steps to be a responsible adult because we were dealing with chaos. Like I said, he crossed the very lenient boundary I gave him, and maybe some can live with the chaos and not lose themselves. I couldn't. I walked away from a 20 year marriage and have no regrets. There were other factors at play, but many of those choices stem from an untreated mental illness.

 

It is true that long-term marriages change and parties need to navigate those changes together, but it's hard to steer a boat trying to go in two different directions. If she is willing to fight the fight for him, then fight, but she needs reflection time along the way so that she does not lose herself in the chaos of this war. 

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What concerns me is that he went from not verbally attacking and blaming her, to blaming her.  That's a change in the wrong direction and it seemed to happen suddenly.  What if there is another sudden change in the wrong direction?  I agree with the advice to look out for her future financial needs. 

 

 

They have faced some tough things that have pressed into him.  He has a new job that is more stressful, they have suffered a few miscarriages, he had to end his relationship with his only sibling for the sake of his own well being, etc.  I think that he hasn't handled it all as well as one would hope.

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You can decide to stay even if your "bests" are not meeting in the middle. Agreed that you can live in a marriage that lack intimacy. What she needs to realize is these may not be temporary and fixed. As posted above, it could take a decade or it could be never that either one is regained. I was there and I had set a boundary point for myself on what I was willing to take, he crossed it. I was committed to my marriage, I had a child and loved my spouse despite all of it. Then got to be a point that my own emotional well-being was gone because of his behavior and he was refusing to change or seek help. 

 

It's been 4 1/2 years and I walked out with damage that took at least 2-4 years to overcome - there are still other things I'm working on. Ds lived with the chaos and as I was posting in another thread last week, I realized he missed about 3-4 years of intentional parenting and creating steps to be a responsible adult because we were dealing with chaos. Like I said, he crossed the very lenient boundary I gave him, and maybe some can live with the chaos and not lose themselves. I couldn't. I walked away from a 20 year marriage and have no regrets. There were other factors at play, but many of those choices stem from an untreated mental illness.

 

It is true that long-term marriages change and parties need to navigate those changes together, but it's hard to steer a boat trying to go in two different directions. If she is willing to fight the fight for him, then fight, but she needs reflection time along the way so that she does not lose herself in the chaos of this war. 

In my experience there isn't chaos.  There's dramatic change for sure, and that can lead to serious conflict, but that's not the same as chaos.  I hate chaos more than most things, so I'm not tolerant of it when it's around. Conflict has to be recognized, dealt with and worked through, but that's not chaos. Dramatic change is unsettling and difficult, but that's not chaos. So maybe there was chaos in your situation but that wasn't my situation.

 

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In my experience there isn't chaos.  There's dramatic change for sure, and that can lead to serious conflict, but that's not the same as chaos.  I hate chaos more than most things, so I'm not tolerant of it when it's around. Conflict has to be recognized, dealt with and worked through, but that's not chaos. Dramatic change is unsettling and difficult, but that's not chaos. So maybe there was chaos in your situation but that wasn't my situation.

 

 

True, in my case, he refused to even believe there was conflict, so he couldn't/wouldn't recognize it or deal with it at all. The chaos was the fallout. 

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No personal experience, but I'll echo those who think it would be safest to prepare herself in case he decides to leave. It seems like there might be something else going on with his change in behavior toward her. Could she be willing to lose her marriage for a slim chance to save it? If she prepares to be on her own, she might feel stronger pushing him to get help for both their sakes.

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They have faced some tough things that have pressed into him.  He has a new job that is more stressful, they have suffered a few miscarriages, he had to end his relationship with his only sibling for the sake of his own well being, etc.  I think that he hasn't handled it all as well as one would hope.

 

It's not unusual for that personality type to struggle with holding them selves accountable when appropriate.  They're always focused on themselves and not others.  They're often "emotional hypochondriacs" measuring their internal levels compulsively,  so they're myopic.  It helps in advanced academics and technically challenging work to focus on details all the time, and that work pays well and gets cultural recognition, so they normalized that in their minds.  They don't tend to question themselves because they have all sorts of external feedback that they're really smart and that they know about things better than most people.  They aren't getting feedback that that's only applicable in a part of their lives. 

 

Another book that lays out personality types and their common struggles with people is The Unwritten Rules of Friendship. It's directed to parents of children with these problems.  The personality type we're talking about isn't good at reading people or intuitively seeing other points of view, so they do things that provoke other people, people react negatively, then they feel attacked for no reason and blame the other person.  Like the kid who will continuously kick the back of a classmate's chair, the classmate will turn around and give them a look, the kicker doesn't read the look as fair warning, so the kicker keeps on kicking, then the classmate calls the kicker a name or throws something at them, then the kicker goes crying to the teacher about how the classmate is picking on them for no reason and demands, out of a sense of justice, that the classmate receive consequences. 

 

Or the smart kid who likes knowing things and admires smart people (Spok, scientists, mathematicians, etc.) and unconsciously assumes everyone else does too. Parents and teachers often do, but peers usually don't.  Then they go around being a know it all. When the other kids give them negative feedback in words or deeds, the know it all plays the martyr unable to imagine he's done anything wrong.  He was just correcting/telling/clarifying facts.  So he puts the blame (accusations of cruelty) on the other child(ren) who gave the negative feedback.  Some parents, like my in-laws, actually reinforce the know it all behavior by saying things like, "They're just jealous of you. " when they should've gotten to the bottom of it and considered that the kid might have been rude or condescending to his peers. 

 

So again, getting help that changes the thought process to considering others and holding themselves accountable for their part in conflicts is really important. They have to learn not to believe every idea/explanation that comes into their heads.  The only thing a spouse can do is encourage them to get that help and not feed it.  It's OK to say things to them like:

 

No, that's unreasonable.  Here's why...

What evidence do you have that someone else is being unfair/unkind etc.?

There are plenty possibilities other than (insert whatever negativity they're making up here)   like_____________ or _____________ or _________________.

What role did you play in that conflict?

Giving up hope isn't the only option.  Other options are ______________ or ____________ or __________.

 

You have to remember that people who haven't struggled haven't developed the strength that comes from pushing back and soldiering on in spite of challenges don't handle life's troubles well in general.   Plenty of people who went through school environments that were aged based rather than ability based spent a whole lot of time getting used to things being easy.  They didn't fail, try again, get a little better, try again, get better and finally succeed like most people do at times in their K-12 or undergraduate years.  That builds experience with overcoming difficulty into their view of the world and how it works.  The kid for whom it was easy gets to adulthood before developing those psychological traits and they have no emotional strength to deal with life's challenges.  They assume it's hopeless because they haven't worked their way through struggles before.  It's often in an aspect of their lives they aren't great at anyway (interpersonal relationships) and they're ill-equipped to handle it. 

 

In general, Americans do a poor job of raising gifted and accelerated children.

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The change in attitude towards her can just be part of the illness. That happened in our marriage after a time--i went from originally bring exempt from being seen as part of all the everything internally/externally that was wrong to being perceived as part of the problem and an enemy.

 

When dh's depression is in remission he doesn't see me that way.

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Bottom line: If he is unwilling to make some concessions (counseling, help for his depression, doing marriage exercises from a book, etc), then I sadly don't see much hope for their marriage. She needs to hope for the best, but plan for the worst. 

 

I really, really hope he wakes up and decides to do something to help the situation. Hugs for your sister.

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Went through something similar with my ex (obviously the relationship didn't last as long - he initiated the breakup).

 

Three books that helped:

 

Stop Walking on Eggshells by Paul Mason - This is ostensibly about borderline personality disorder, but it helps with severe depression too.  I don't think I would have been as susceptible to getting into a relationship with my ex if depression wasn't normal behavior in one of my parents.  More than any other book, this one helped me develop boundaries.  And understand the dynamic of men who put women on a pedestal, then turn on them and blame them for all of his problems in life.  It's hard not to get depressed yourself when that happens, and this book is AMAZING at giving you some emotional distance to separate yourself from his wreck of a life.  It's better than most therapy.

 

Boundaries by Henry Cloud Townsend - Basically further moral Christian arguments to not take abuse (and having your husband constantly criticize you, blame you for his problems, act unloving, and other dynamics you described here IS emotional abuse).

 

The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian - This book is about praying scripture for your husband and it helped me learn to love unconditionally.  I picked out the prayers that most concerned me for my ex, I recorded myself praying them, and I would go for a walk and listen/pray along every day. Sometimes twice a day when I was upset. I also included my favorite worship songs. What's interesting about praying scripture is not that it changes him (although he was nicer, at least temporarily), it's that it changed ME.  I fully emotionally separated from him and what he said to me without ceasing to love him. It felt amazing, and gave myself a lot of confidence again, and when he decided to really end our relationship I was able to do so amicably, without bitterness or hatred.   And before he decided to end things I was able to be kind and loving no matter how he was acting at the time - in a genuine unconditional way that made me happy to have that skill.

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I would bet money on chronic clinical depression, with other things in the background, but knowing that doesn't solve her problem. 

 

She needs to start preparing herself to make a living right now. Like right, right now. My personal choice would be to not tell him about those efforts until absolutely necessary. She might be willing to stay, that might be a solid choice, but she cannot control how long he is willing to stay. Although I admit I would have no problem guilting him into staying longer if that's what I needed. If I were homeschooling, the kids would go into school ASAP, because I wouldn't think it likely for us to stay together, and I wouldn't want going back to school to be a negative thing that happens at a time of stress. 

 

While she is doing that, she can be figuring out what she can and cannot change. Part of how I reacted and what I was willing to put up with would depend on how old my children were, and if I had a strong support network (not just emotionally, but people who could and would help with things like a place to stay and so on). She can work on staying and making it as good as possible if she wants, but she needs to be job prepping at the same time. 

 

If they decide to have sex, she needs to prevent, prevent, prevent. A baby will make leaving him 10,000 times tougher if she ever needs to do so. 

 

He doesn't like doctors and doesn't see the need to go, but how would he react if she set it up and said that it was super important to her that he go and get a blood panel and a physical? That might be the beginning and end of it, with no helpful results, but it might show something or the doctor might get through to him. The doctor cannot talk to her, but she can talk to the doctor ahead of time and alert him to things. If he doesn't read the paperwork, she can tell him it's a new insurance requirement (which it often is!).

 

Best of luck to her and her family. 

 

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This may have been suggested already, but I think with as serious as the issue they have are that a professional of some sort is required if they want help.  Since they are religious I wonder if there is an option for free counseling of some kind through their religious organization.  It seems like they aren't leaving any options open for anything to change and are even opposed to counseling, but in my experience if you aren't willing to take some sort of action or change something then things will stay the same or get worse.  

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