Partner with depression isolates and stonewalls


I’ve been with my partner for 7 years and since we first started seeing each other there has been something he has ocasionally admitted wasnt quite right with him. He has never been able to verbalise how he feels and prefers to ignore and mask. All along, it has been very difficult to discuss and resolve things, which has been frustrating for me. Communication is essential to my sense of security.

I have learned to respond rather than react. It was hard; for a few years I found his behaviour that seemed selfish and cruel… we now realise he has been severly depressed) caused agressive reactions from me, like yelling or arguing. He told me he didn’t like my emotional reactions and threatened to leave me, so I learned to stop and respond and never yell or get upset, which has been a great lesson thsat I am actually thankful for. He, however, he has still not learned to speak and communicate. So I have done the work on my part but he has not - because he is too depressed. For at least two years I have gently tried to encourage him to seek help and he has refused.

Over the last year, his anxiety has been increasing to the point where he has become very isolated and unreliable. He functions at work, masks with neighbours, vents and complains to me all the time, doesn’t come many places with us, and if he dips he simply shuts me out entirely, as if even looking at me is a reminder that someone else sees his pain and vulnerability. I have been meeting him with patience and compassion, and he has opened ever so slightly and recently finally admitted he has anxiety and depression. I think its actually quite severe.

When things are ok with him, we are a beautiful team with a deep bond. Trouble is, this may last a few days or a week and then something (like an invitation to dinner, a car issue, asking questions, an extra activity) will trigger his anxiety and he will fall into a depressive episode during which time I can tell he views me as an enemy and behaves as if leaving me would be the best thing for him. He has tried to leave in an episode before, but realised his rashness a few days later and started being nice to me with no real explanation or proper closure as to why he said he wanted to leave.

This has all left me very insecure, so that when he dips I feel anxious. I have learned not to show my anxiety and be patient and wait for him to try to talk. Our talks are usually me expressing how I feel, asking him what he needs and him saying “ok” and “i dont know.” He doesn’t share much.

I have sought help from counsellors and have a good support network of friends. I exercise and work hard and take care fof myself so I’m ok independently, but he has never learned to behave in a way during an episode that makes me feel safe. He pulls away, stops touching me suddenly, doesn’t speak, acts like its a bother to even have me anywhere near him, acts totally annoyed with me. I can see he is still wanting to help with the house and kids and everything. He just cannot and will not get close or reassure me or explain what’s going on inside him. He doesn’t know.

So all of this loving and then pulling away rollercoaster and lack of stability has taken its toll on me. His latest anxiety episode has had after effects on me, as it always does. I am tired, unable to comncentrate on work, worried about him, anxious about our relationship. His anxiety and depression have left him in a hole; his unwillingness to do anything about it has made that hole deeper and his continued behaviour toward me when he’s feeling low has left me scarred. Amongst all of this is a relationship in tatters.

How do I support while holding on to my dignity? He doesn’t speak at all. The words literally stick in his throat like he is a selective mute. He has never learned to speak about his feelings or relsove conflicts. I feel alone and insecure and on eggshells when he is like this. I do see him trying though. But it has been a long hard road, being patient, as he is almost frozen and unable to take respomsibily for himself.

Today, after a recommendation from a friend, he has finally decided to call a therpaist. Thank God. But I dont think he knows just how far gone we are.

We will have to begin the recovery process for our relationship, too. We have been living pretty seperately this past year or so. He hasnt come on holidays with me and the children or to many events. I have learned to become independent - maybe a bit too much so. I worry that on top of his own healing jounrey we have to heal this relationship and that might be too much for hin to take on. He will never go to couples counselling, he has already said that.

I am also afraid that I will be his carer forever, that we will not rekindle a partnership, that we will never learn to discuss and resolve. I cannot live forever with someone who is emotionally unavilable.

How do you excuse behaviours when a person is depressed whilst still holding them accountable? How do you hold onto your self worth when you aren’t getting what you need and crave from a relationship but you know its not the person’s fault? How do you get someone else to take responsibility for themselves when they are so severely stubborn?

Is he capable of changing? Does he want to change?
He sounds very controlling, and I’m worried that you are expected to make changes to your behaviour because he won’t or cannot.
Only you can say when enough is enough. Why do you stay?
How do the children cope with this?