A mess of a marriage
Hello....my husband and I have been together 33 years. We have 4 children. We have both been to counseling in the past. I love my husband but I don't really like him. It has only been recently - in spite of all our counseling - I realize that a majority of our life and relationship are centered around him, his likes, what he wants, what works for him, with little-to-no-inconvenience for him (even though he would lead you to believe otherwise). I have told him that he is happy in our marriage as long as I keep my mouth shut and legs open. He denies this, of course, but it is how I feel. Then he gets angry and I try to explain even though he doesn't - say - that, it is how I - feel. I have stayed in the marriage because two of our children have special needs and I did not want to create more chaos and upheaval for our family by leaving. Now that our children are older I would like my husband and I to focus on working on our marriage. When I try to express what I need, or how something he does makes me feel, it usually ends with him yelling and being the victim. I find we cannot have a constructive conversation. I cannot say anything critical to him - no matter how calmly I say it, and I cannot be emotional. I have had two affairs while we have been married. They did get physical, but that is not what was important to me. What I really wanted was to matter to someone. I know the affairs were wrong and there is no justification for my behavior. I sometimes think about leaving my marriage, but still feel it would inflict so much emotional pain for everyone, and I feel strongly that our family has endured enough heartache and pain due to the circumstances of our two children with special needs. I also would be shunned for breaking up our family and I don't think I could endure that. I am wondering...do I just "keep my mouth shut and legs open" in order to stay in this marriage? And if I do that, am I justified in having an extramarital relationship (not physical) that brings me happiness? I am also wondering if anyone reading this has constructive things to tell me on what I can do to make this marriage work. Thank you very much for taking the time to read this.
Ask the community | communication, abuse
Supporting a partner through depression
One in five people will experience a form of depression at some point in their lives [1]. If your partner is depressed, you can play an important role in helping them get better. Depression is more than just a low mood. It’s a prolonged illness, whose symptoms include a lack of energy, a loss of interest in things you might normally enjoy, feelings of low self-worth, and changes in sleep and appetite [2]. A sudden onset of depression in your partner can have an impact on your relationship. You may have to take on a temporary caring role, which can put unexpected strain on you [3]. Some of your partner’s symptoms can affect you too: Low mood. When your partner is feeling down most of the time, it can feel like you don’t have access to the person who is most important to you. Loss of interest and energy. Your partner may lose interest in the things you like doing together, like going out, cooking, and even sex. Concentration. Depression can affect concentration, even to the extent that your partner struggles to stay involved in a conversation. Sleep and appetite. You may notice changes in your partner’s eating and sleeping patterns, which can affect their mood even further. It can also disrupt your own eating and sleeping as established routines get lost. Low self-worth. You may notice your partner being more critical of themselves and possibly lashing out at you too [2]. You may also wonder if you are responsible for your partner’s mental health problems. While there are sometimes external causes, including relationship problems, depression can often come along out of nowhere [4]. You can play a positive role in your partner’s recovery [3]. One of the first things you can do is notice the signs of depression and encourage your partner to seek help. Often, the quickest route to support is through your GP, who can make a diagnosis and refer your partner to appropriate support. There are many forms of mental health support, but it’s likely that your partner will undertake some form of talking therapy. They may be given exercises to take home. You can offer support by encouraging your partner to complete the exercises or, if appropriate, by getting involved directly. Your partner’s doctor may recommend couples therapy, which has been shown to be effective for people with depression [5]. If this is recommended to your partner, it doesn’t mean that your relationship is in trouble; it just means that you are being asked to get involved in your partner’s recovery. Attending sessions together means you can be better informed and more involved. Whether you are directly involved in your partner’s treatment or not, there are many ways you can be supportive: Encourage them to seek support. Getting your partner into professional support is one of the best ways you can help. Learn about depression. Read up on depression and its symptoms. A good place to start is the OnePlusOne and NHS guide, ‘Depression and low mood: A guide for the partner’. Set aside blame. Accept that the illness is happening, and don’t blame your partner or yourself. It’s here, and it’s treatable, so just focus on recovery. Notice the signs. Be aware of your partner’s symptoms and the things that can set off an episode of depression. Get support if things seem to be getting worse. Solve practical problems. When someone is depressed, problems can be magnified and may seem insurmountable. You can help your partner by solving practical problems, which could be as simple as doing more than your share of housework for a little while. Listen more. Clear communication and active listening can help your partner to feel better supported and more in control. Do some exercise. Help your partner to get some gentle exercise, even if it’s just a walk around the block. This can have the added benefit of helping with sleep problems. Get your partner out of the house. While it might seem easier to avoid social situations, it’s often best to try and turn up to things that they would usually enjoy. Even if you plan just to go out for half an hour, you can help your partner break out of the loop of depression and inactivity. Notice what helps. What usually makes your partner feel better – a morning walk? Cooking a healthy meal? Make a note of what works, and encourage your partner to do more of it. Keeping a mood journal can also help you to show your partner that they have been making improvements, as they may find it hard to focus on the positives [6]. Seeing a partner go through depression can be upsetting but, with the right support, even the most severe cases can be treated. As with any illness, you should seek professional help if you are worried. Recovery is likely to be gradual, but it is possible, and you can play an important part. This article gives just a quick overview of how you can support a partner with depression. For a more in-depth look, we recommend reading, ‘Depression and low mood: A guide for the partner’, co-produced by OnePlusOne and Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust. References [1] Bolton, J., Bisson, J., Guthrie, E., Wood., S. (2011) Depression: key facts. Retrieved from http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/depressionkeyfacts.aspx [2] NHS (2015). Low mood and depression - NHS Choices. Available at http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/low-mood-and-depression.aspx  [3] Crowe, M. (2004). Couples and mental illness. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 19:3, 309-318. [4] Hickey, D., Carr, A., Dooley, B., Guerin, S., Butler, E., & Fitzpatrick, L. (2005). Family and marital profiles of couples in which one partner has depression or anxiety. Journal of marital and family therapy, 31(2), 171-182. [5] Bodenmann, G., Plancherel, B., Beach, S. R., Widmer, K., Gabriel, B., Meuwly, N., ... & Schramm, E. (2008). Effects of coping-oriented couples therapy on depression: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 76(6), 944. [6] NICE (2009) Depression: The Treatment and Management of Depression in Adults (Update). NICE clinical guideline 90. Available at www.nice.org.uk/CG90.
Article | depression
0 5 min read
Depression during pregnancy
One in ten pregnant women experience mental health problems, and often go undiagnosed until after the baby is born. The pregnancy and parenting charity Tommy’s has produced a video encouraging pregnant women to seek support if they feel anxious or depressed. The short clip follows the story of a woman’s journey through pregnancy as she realises she’s not coping and finds someone to talk to. Around 10-15% of pregnant women experience mental health problems like anxiety and depression [1] but, despite antenatal depression being very similar to postnatal depression, many go undiagnosed and untreated until after the baby is born. Symptoms of anxiety and depression can include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, irritability, and losing interest in activities that used to be fun. Most women feel more emotional than usual during pregnancy, but the video urges you to seek help if you notice that you’re unhappy more than half of the time, or if feelings linger for more than a couple of weeks. When you’re pregnant, it might seem like there’s a pressure on you to feel happy all the time, or to be flushed and glowing with the joys of impending motherhood. If this doesn’t describe your experience, it can be quite distressing and you may even feel guilty for not living up to the expectations of those around you. Your midwife or health visitor will understand. Speak to them and let them know that you need support. You partner, family, and friends can also offer support, by talking things through with you and offering practical support. Let them know you’re not feeling yourself and that you might need some extra support. If you can, hand some of your regular chores over to your partner, or ask someone to help out. Friends love to feel like they are helping, but sometimes need to be given specific tasks like popping to the shops or watering your plants when they come over. Try to eat as healthily as possible, take some gentle exercise, and rest whenever you have the opportunity. Getting regular sleep can have a positive impact on your mood. Take time out to focus on yourself and do something you enjoy. Allow yourself a chance to relax and ease some of the pressure. If you are worried about other areas of your life, such as finances, housing, or your relationship, look into the support available for these specific issues. If you can keep external factors under control, you may find it easier to cope with whatever feelings you are juggling. Keep talking to your partner. Help them to understand what you’re going through, what you’re doing to try and make things better, and what kind of support you need at home. References [1] National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) (2014). Clinical guideline 192: Antenatal and postnatal mental health: clinical management and service guidance https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg192 (Accessed July 2018) [2] Howard L.M, Molyneaux E, Dennis C et al (2014).  Non-Psychotic mental disorders in the perinatal period.  Lancet 384: 1775-1788.
Article | pregnancy, depression, postnatal depression
0 2 min read
How addiction affects your relationship
A substance use problem often leads to changes in a person’s behaviour that can be damaging to a relationship. They may be emotional and unpredictable. They may feel ashamed or afraid of the consequences of their addiction being discovered. They will sometimes lie to conceal the true extent of it. If this sounds like your partner, you may wonder what impact it is likely to have on your relationship. Secrecy and deceit can cause a breakdown of trust in the relationship. As the partner of an addicted person, you may feel suspicious of the reasons for your partner’s behaviour. You might also feel confused, scared, or angry at the change in your partner and the unpredictable situation. “The worst thing when I discovered their addiction was that I’d been lied to”. A partner with a substance use problem may have highs and lows – they may be happy and positive one moment, and anxious, irritable, or depressed the next. They may be preoccupied and pay less attention to their partner. This unpredictable behaviour and mood can often cause arguments. If an argument starts every time you try to discuss the problem, both of you may give up trying to talk, leading to a breakdown in communication. A distance can grow between you, and there may be a loss of interest in sex or intimacy. “If I try to explain why I started drinking it turns into a row. It’s easier not to talk to each other at all”. However, problematic substance use is not always hidden. You might know that your partner has a problem but feel like you are walking on eggshells as you try to keep the peace. You might also fear that, if you rock the boat, you will drive you partner further into their addiction. Sometimes, people will take on more responsibility in the home, with childcare and finances, to compensate for their partner becoming unreliable. You might feel you have to take control of everything and even become a ‘parent’ to your partner. Children in the family can also suffer. The parent with the addiction may become withdrawn and lose interest in family activities. The other partner may be distracted because of juggling extra responsibilities. Children are often aware of arguments and tension in the home and feel scared and confused. If they get used to seeing addictive behaviour, they may learn and develop similar behaviour themselves. What to do when dealing with a substance use problem Facing up to a substance use problem can feel hard, as it often makes the problem seem more real. But, in a relationship where one person has a problem, both partners may be in denial. If you both feel powerless to make changes, it can feel easier to pretend nothing is happening. You may feel like you can’t talk to family and friends about the problem. You may blame yourself or just feel embarrassed that outsiders will see your partner or your relationship in a negative way. Your partner may have asked you not to tell anyone. There are then two people feeling very scared, resentful, and lonely within the relationship. Talking to an unbiased person outside of your relationship can feel a real relief and a step toward change. If you are experiencing problems in your relationship as the result of addiction, it may be worth seeking professional help. Online relationship advice such as our listening room, support, information, and counselling can be very valuable in many cases. If you are experiencing domestic violence or any form of abuse in your relationship or family, it may be advisable for you to seek support from a specialist agency. If the problem is long term, involves cutting or physical harm, or has been triggered by traumatic life events, it may be advisable to seek face-to-face counselling via a specialist agency or your GP. If you are worried about someone close to you, you may find it helpful to check out Relationship Realities which features real stories by real people who are affected by alcohol and drug use problems.
Article | addiction
0 4 min read
Moving on from addiction as a couple
The first step to moving on from a substance use problem is facing up to things together. When substance use is a problem in your relationship, you both need to take the same first step – you and your partner have to be honest with yourselves and each other that the problem is there. If it feels like the behaviour is just beginning to get out of hand, like drinking too much every Friday night, it may still be possible for the person responsible to try to cut down, particularly with support from their partner. However, if it feels like you are past the ‘take it or leave it’ stage, or communication between you has broken down, it may be time to seek professional advice, information, or counselling. It is often valuable for both partners to seek support. If you are not the partner with the problem, you may wonder why you need counselling. Living with an addicted partner can cause personal stresses and strains. You may have bottled things up, worried that you might upset your partner or make things worse. Counselling provides a safe, confidential space to talk through your thoughts and feelings. Attending counselling as a couple can be a great step forward. It can allow space and time for you to be honest with each other about your thoughts and feelings and to deal with problems that may have arisen in your relationship through the addictive behaviour. The counsellor will make sure you both have space to say what you need to say, and will support you in improving communication with each other. Often, one of the biggest hurdles to overcome after a substance use problem is the betrayal of trust. As the partner of an addicted person, you may have been on the receiving end of broken promises before. You may wonder, ‘How can I be certain this time it will be different?’. If the problem was hidden, it may feel harder to trust your partner, and you fear a relapse being kept from you. The partner who has stopped their behaviour may feel frustrated at the lack of trust, wondering, “Will I ever be treated as a responsible adult again?”. It may take time, but you can work together to rebuild trust. Every relationship is different. You should only try these suggestions if you think they might be right for you. Online advice, support, information and counselling can be very valuable in many cases. Sharing your story with the Click community may help you feel less isolated. If you are experiencing domestic violence or any form of abuse in your relationship or family, it would be advisable to seek support from a specialist agency. If the addiction problem is long term or involves drugs, alcohol, cutting or physically harming yourself, or has been triggered by traumatic life events, it may be advisable to seek face-to-face counselling from a specialist agency or via your GP. If you are worried about someone close to you, you may find it helpful to check out Relationship Realities which features real stories by real people who are affected by alcohol and drug use problems.
Article | addiction
0 3 min read
Letting go of other people’s stress
You may have experienced days at work when your colleagues have been stressed, and you’ve started to feel that way too. This can also happen at home when your partner gets stressed. When people around you have strong feelings, it’s easy to soak them up and take them on as your own. You might even unconsciously adopt the body language and tone of voice from people close to you. If your partner is tense and agitated, you may become more inclined to dwell on your own troubles. This second-hand stress can make it harder for you both to relax and you might start arguing more. Long-term stress, when not addressed, can lead to greater problems like depression and relationship breakdown. So, what can you do when a partner, friend or colleague is making you feel stressed and exhausted? Take a mental step back. Breathe deeply and try to separate their stress from your feelings. You’ll find it becomes easier to recognise and acknowledge their stress without taking it onboard yourself. Walk away. Sometimes you just need to remove yourself from the situation until you feel more able to help. Leave the room, make a cup of tea, look out of the window, or even take a short walk until you feel calmer yourself. Offer support. If your partner is stressed, listen to what they have to say. Try to remember that a comforting ear may be more useful than offering practical solutions. Your partner may just need some stress relief before they get to a place where they can solve their own problems. Look for the positives. Remind your partner that they can lean on you for support and try to help them see the positives. Bring the topic of conversation back to something more light-hearted and personal, like planning something fun to do at the weekend or remembering a nice experience you recently shared. Stay calm. There’s no value in getting wound up or shouting at your partner if they are stressed. The calmer you are, the more easier it will be for them to see a way through to letting go of their own stress. Do something soothing. If you do feel yourself catching your partner’s stress, do something comforting like taking a bath, reading a book or listening to some relaxing music. This can help clear your head so you can support your partner better. Do you think stress is ‘catching’? Do you find it easy to keep your own feelings separate, or have you found yourself exhausted by your partner or colleague’s stress?
Article | stress
1 2 min read