My husband said he doesn’t love me anymore. Should I give him space?

We recently received an email from a very distraught wife. She told us that, out of the blue, her husband of 23 years told her that he didn’t love her anymore. She was shocked, of course, but as she been to investigate a little further, it became more and more apparent that her husband was showing signs of depression.

He said that he didn’t want to feel old, that she didn’t provide any excitement. He responds to her questions about it only with, “I don’t know.”

There are several ways you can help a spouse who is depressed.
There are several ways you can help a spouse who is depressed.

If this sounds even remotely familiar, you know how difficult it can be. See, the largest hurdle with depression is that it paints the entire world gray – people suffering from depression can’t see the good in things, and because they feel so miserable, they often will begin to place blame on their spouse, their job, their family, their life in general!

This happens because when someone feels so miserable, their brain needs to find a reason (or reasons) for why they feel that way. Depression has many causes and can be difficult to diagnose, but one of the more common embodiments comes in the form of the “midlife crisis.”

Essentially, a midlife crisis is when feelings of depression collide with a broad evaluation of one’s own life. In examining their lives, people suffering through these crises basically discover that their present life is not what they thought it would be, and their knee-jerk solution is to seek massive changes, no matter how destructive their choices might be to their family – or their own long-term happiness.

This desperate attempt to find some sense of happiness can cause people to quit their jobs, separate from their spouses, make frivolous purchases, etc. – they are willing to throw their lives in the blender to try to make some sense of the unhappiness they can’t escape.

The main problem here is that depression feels helpless and hopeless, so many sufferers are already convinced that no one can help them.

So, if your spouse is showing some of this behavior, what can you possibly do?

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The FIRST step is letting them know, in no uncertain terms, that you aren’t giving up on them, and you aren’t giving up on your marriage. The next part is more difficult – helping your spouse seek professional help, instead of trying to navigate the problems on their own.

This may be a little different for everyone, but it helps if you let them know that they don’t have to feel they way they do, that there IS help out there if they are willing to try it (remind them that all they have to do it try – no obligation to stick with any one method or professional).
Even if your spouse is trying to push you away (along with everyone else), you made a promise to support and love one another through thick and thin, and in this scenario, your spouse truly does need your help.

I like to use this analogy: you don’t scrap your car when it runs out of gas, right?

If your spouse is suffering from depression, it doesn’t mean your marriage is over or that your life together is destroyed – it means you and the one you love have a big challenge to overcome, but it’s not impossible by any means.

Whether it’s counseling, antidepressants, lifestyle changes, or another recommendation from a doctor, psychiatrist, etc., there are ways to overcome depression and midlife crisis. Your spouse just may need your help to seek out the solutions that will get their life back on track – even if they don’t see it for themselves!

If you’ve overcome bouts of depression in your marriage, let us know how you worked through it in the comments below.

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Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com

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12 comments

mike 8 years ago

guys just need to be left alone sometimes. smothering him when he's already not wanting to talk to you is not going to work. let him miss you duh

lindsayt 8 years ago

My husband still assures me that he loves me, but he's so distant. Doesn't say hardly anything to me. "I don't know" has become his catch phrase. I don't want to give up but it feels like my only option.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 8 years ago

Hi, Lindsay - it can be hard to keep up the lines of communication in your marriage. Try following some of our advice here - https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/communication-in-marriage/improve-communication-in-relationship/

Mike_Olsen_SMN 8 years ago

That's very true, Mike, but you need to remember your wife communicates differently that you do. Try to bridge the gap, and you may find she isn't so smothering. https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/marriage-advice-understanding-differences-communication-styles/

Guest 8 years ago

You might check to see if he is having an affair. These are classic signs if that too with "I don't know"& "I don't love you" being the 2 biggest red flags! I say this from experience. It happened to my husband.

Lisa 8 years ago

My husband after 21 years together decided he didn't want our "boring" life anymore (wanted EXCITMENT & PASSION in his life); and more importantly realised how much he wanted a family now at age 48! He can't father children but wants his own kids. Never wanted to adopt or foster with me and I had to give up on my feelings of wanting to be a Mum. He said he was severely depressed, suicidal as well so I tried to get him professional help - he didn't want it. Then discovery of affair with married next door neigbour's wife!!! Had been going on for a year starting off with being "just friends". All hell broke loose and her husband found out just what my husband (his friend) and his wife were doing behind our backs. My husband became a totally different person like Jeckyll & Hyde - found out after he left our house that he'd been stealing from work to provide free engineering equipment to a male neighbour that he seemed to have a drinking buddy type friendship with. Think this older male was trying to break us up and telling husband what to do. Long story short - husband completely and utterly destroyed our lives together and we are now separated and heading for divorce. He has blamed me for everything - every decision we made as a couple (or so I thought), blames me for "ruining" his life and that I have "ruined" other people's lives. How, when he was the one having an affair, lying, cheating, thieving from work, porn addiction (again found out later) and binge drinking (now classified as an alcoholic). I had such respect for my husband but when all this stuff started being revealed it was like I never really ever knew the person I was married to. And he rapidly became very abusive - verbally, psychologically and finally physically to the point of trying to strangle me when he realised that the other woman's husband now knew what was going on between them. I am better off with him out of my life I know, but I wonder how I never saw the "red flags" before. Maybe I just put him on a pedestal and couldn't see the real him. Was he suffering from depression? Yes, I suspect so but he claims there is nothing wrong with him and he doesn't need help. A mid-life crisis? Yes that too. I hope he finds the exciting and passionate life he so craves now. Oh and yes to have those miraculous children at age 50 now that he says he knows is not rational but that is how he feels. For me, I'm getting on with rebuilding my life and learning to live life again on my own without him trying to control me, which I now recognise he did in a passive-aggressive way throughout our marriage.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 8 years ago

Hello, Guest - Hopefully opening lines of communication will reveal if that is the case or not.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 8 years ago

Hi, Lisa - while we're pro-marriage, we're pro-happy and healthy marriage. Yours hit all three for grounds of separation and divorce - Abuse, exhausting your options, and for your sanity, space, and progress. I wish you both the best.

KcM 8 years ago

Ok. so my boyfriend of 7 years separated from me. We have a child. He says I wasn't doing what I should, cooking, cleaning ect. And he's right. I was depressed. But now Im trying to save this. He's talking to another girl, but while she's out of state, we fool around. I know he ahas depression. Am I beating a dead horse by changing my ways and improving how I treat him, so that he can see I can do and be what he needs? I want my family to work so badly.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 8 years ago

Hi, Kc - I think you both need to have a heart to heart. Tell him that you are working on becoming a better companion for him. Tell him why it's important to save your relationship, besides just to raise your child together. Here is some advice on stopping the arguments ans I hope you are both able to talk to someone about your depression. https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/how-to-stop-the-fighting-and-the-pain/

KcM 8 years ago

We hold hands( sort of) and he doesnt push away when i hold him if hes laying in bed. Do you think that means there's a chance? Unless I talk about getting back together he does all this. So maybe continue to ease in, no words and him and I stay living separately...basically me woo him? And then after he decides to work on things, my friend is giving me the number or a relationship counselor.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 8 years ago

Hi, KcM - If you are not living together but you are still staying the night, then that brings in the issue of sex while separated and if separation can help a marriage - https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/can-separation-save-marriage/. I think there is a chance for you both. Keep showing him you want to make it work in ways besides words for now.