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I don't know how to help my husband

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This topic contains 24 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by avatar dinoceros 3 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #844950 Reply

    I’m sorry that this is so long. I’m lost and I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to divulge the details to my family or friends, but I feel like I need an outside perspective on this.

    My husband and I have been together for 10 years, married for 2. He’s the best part of my life and our relationship has always been a source of support and joy. He’s loving, encouraging, interesting, and we have great chemistry. Basically, I feel that I really lucked out when I found him and I never want to be without him.

    That being said, the past 2 years have been a form of hell that I don’t know how to recover from.

    After our wedding, he started drinking heavily. I didn’t know what was going on because he was good at hiding it, but I saw alarming changes in his behavior. He frequently called in sick to work when he never missed a day before, he ignored and rebuffed the dog (sounds like a small thing, but he freaking loves the dog), he was impatient with everything, and he said some really cruel things to me. When I asked him what was going on, he basically…fell apart.

    He confided in me that he had been sexually abused as a child and that the memories were resurfacing and torturing him. He was afraid to sleep, couldn’t eat, and was having sudden panic attacks at work. The level of shame and guilt he feels due to his abuse is heartbreaking. Looking back, I can see little indicators that I missed all through our relationship, but I failed to put the pieces together. I knew it took a lot of courage for him to tell me, and I’m grateful that he did.

    After much convincing, he entered therapy and recovery treatment. He hasn’t had any alcohol for over a year now. He’s been to 2 therapists and 3 psychologists so far. He’s currently doing EMDR treatment. I can see some progress, but he doesn’t see any. He WANTS therapy to help, but he’s giving up on it.

    In the past 5 months, he lost his job, failed the college courses he was enrolled in, and stopped helping me around the house. He’s started saying things that really worry me, such as calling himself a “loser” and saying that he’s angry, he’s hopeless, he’s never been happy.

    We used to have what I thought was an amazing sex life. We’d both initiate and we’d have it several times a day sometimes. He’s now told me that sex is disgusting and demeaning and that he’s never enjoyed it. We maybe have sex twice a month now, and I never initiate. I don’t want him to do something he doesn’t feel safe and happy doing. His aversion to sex and my reluctance to initiate has resulted in almost a complete lack of any kind of physical intimacy. He feels so far away now.

    Before we got married, we were both eager and excited to have a child together and we began actively trying to conceive. Sometimes he still tells me how much he wants to have a baby, but we can’t bring a child into this. I’m back on birth control, but I haven’t told him because I feel he’ll be crushed.

    I’ve asked if we can go to couples counseling. He sobbed when I asked and said he’s ruining our relationship and dragging me down.

    I don’t know what to do anymore. I’ve tried pouring all of my energy into encouraging and consoling him. That just seemed to give him license to obsess about everything. His dark thoughts were all I heard about for 2 months straight. And, to be honest, I’m tapped out.

    I’ve tried pushing him to work and put his energies into positive things. He’s been trying to get a job for 5 months without much success. He’s back in school, but unless I actively help him study, he’ll fail.

    On good days, it seems like he’s regressed into being a ~13 year old. He wants to spend ridiculous amounts of money on video games and board games, he wants to eat junk food all the time, he doesn’t want to do any chores and interrupts me when I’m on the phone, etc.

    On bad days, he’s angry, depressed, and despondent.

    I hardly recognize him anymore. I hardly recognize ME anymore.

    Is there anything I can do? How can I help him? Do I need to try more tough love? Has anyone here done EMDR with great results?

    Thank you for any advice you can provide.

    #844959 Reply

    Hi Threepwood. I am sorry things are so difficult. I am guessing you have had no responses yet because your situation is a truly tough one. You also have tried a variety of things already without positive results.
    He needs to start to help himself,but can’t seem to “get there” and the games,crappy food etc. is just an avoidance tactic.
    I think going to a therapist for yourself would be helpful. You can talk out your stress and frustration etc. and perhaps get some ideas for how to help your husband.
    I had EMDR and found it helpful. Parts of it can also be used as a self helping technique outside the therapists office,once it has been learned. Not sure if it would be good for him as he has many severe issues and problems,but a therapist could tell you if it could be helpful to him.
    I wish you luck to get yourself first to a healthier place, and then to see what could be done for him.

    #844960 Reply

    I’m really sorry you’re going through this. You need to start individual counselling. Not couples. You asked him to go to couples and he responded by sobbing out words made to make you feel guilty and console him. This is…not great. It’s a clever and selfish way of saying “no” without having to say it, while also making it so you’ll be afraid to ask again in the future for fear of upsetting him. A decent partner who is actively working to change things would simply say yes. individual counselling will help you to make decisions about what changes you are going to make to get to a better life for yourself, and define the timeline and resources you need to make them. Whether that is inside or outside your marriage.

    My personal opinion is it’s time for you to leave. Having trauma does not cause or excuse someone being verbally abusive, emotionally manipulative, and irresponsible. You dont have a marriage in any sense of the word. There are a lot of red flags in your letter that his issues seem to be almost entirely your responsibility (to manage his feelings for him, manage the household, bring in all the income, support him in every way, do his freaking homework for him) but beyond “wanting therapy to work” I don’t see how he is getting better in any measurable way. I’m not saying what he went through wasn’t awful and worthy of a some leeway and support, but you’ve sacrificed two years to this and it isn’t changing. You also say there were pieces of this behavior present for a long time. I think you have done enough, 10 times over, for your husband and the question isn’t what more/what else you can do for him. At this point any changes he makes will be the result of his own decision to do something differently. The question needs to be, what are YOU going to do differently to get your life back regardless of whether your husband makes any changes or not? And a therapist can help you decide on those changes. It doesn’t mean you have to leave if you don’t want to or aren’t ready. It’s a process, and whether you ultimately stay or go, you need to start making changes for yourself to get your life back

    #844961 Reply

    So sorry to say this, but I’d recommend preparing yourself for a split. If he gets himself together in the meantime, great. But you have to look out for yourself, because he isn’t looking out for you.
    1. See a lawyer, and don’t tell him you’re seeing a lawyer. Hide the payment to the attorney.
    2. Cut off credit cards that you have in common.
    3. Check all financial documents. You may find something odd. Keep that evidence.
    4. Go to Al-Anon or at least an individual therapist for you. “Recovery treatment” isn’t a one-shot thing; he should be treating his alcoholism on the daily, and it doesn’t sound like he’s doing that. In other words, he’s not acting in good faith. He’s not giving you anything to work with.

    Again, sorry, but I am wondering why all of this started right when you got married. (Married two years ago, and it’s been going on for two years, right?) Something isn’t straight about how this happened out of the blue.

    Your instincts are RIGHT — you DO have needs of your own, a marriage is about TWO people, and propping up another person to this extent is not your role in life. When you see no end to that, it’s time to make other plans.

    #844963 Reply

    I agree that you should seek therapy. Figure out how you can start the next steps- whatever those are.

    Stop mothering him. You need to tell him that at the bare minimum, he needs to be taking care of himself and doing his schoolwork. You’re exhausted. You can’t keep treading water and trying to hold his head above water, too. Think about this first, but I think you should tell him that you both need to be in couples counseling, and if he can’t do that – what? Could he move in with friends or family? Are you prepared to kick him out until he can start pulling some of his weight? Are you prepared to start initiating a divorce?

    Reach out to your friends. Meet for coffee or drinks, or if you can afford to- go away for a few days and clear your head. This does not have to be your life. I’m sure he’s in pain, and it’s hard wading through this, but he’s not even trying to get to a point where he’s functioning as an adult or partner. You can’t heal him. He needs to work to get better.

    And yes, make sure your finances are safe before you start any of that. Good luck.

    #844964 Reply

    This is way beyond me, but it does seem strange that you were together for 10 years and all was fine, except for little signs which you now see in retrospect and think you missed. You had a great sex life, he held a job, he wasn’t obviously drinking. Then about the time you married, he and just about everything about your relationship completely fell apart. It seems to me that something new must have happened around the time you married. It just seems too coincidental that his childhood abuse resurfaced with such vengeance at the time you married, when he had things held together for 10 years of relationship with you prior to that.

    I don’t see a solution to save your marriage if your husband is determined not to do any more therapy, couples counseling, or psychologist/psychiatrist assistance. It seems beyond obvious that you can’t fix him and he can’t fix himself. I have to wonder whether he didn’t ditch the therapeutic help, because it was getting too close to the root of his current problems — whatever happened 2 years ago to spark his severe psychological reaction. I think the ‘in the long distant past…’ explanation he has given you is too facile. Even if that childhood abuse is the ultimate source of his current problem, it seems something far more recent must have happened to resurface the pain. It doesn’t have to be something in your relationship, but you may have some clues.

    Individual counseling for you is an excellent suggestion. It should help you to understand what is going on and help you to protect yourself. I think you have to regard divorce as likely. He seems to have given up on treatment and to be continuing to slide downhill.

    #844967 Reply

    I’m not going to tell you to divorce him, but I think individual an couples counseling is a must, for both of you. I think you should insist that that he continue his own treatment, you see a therapist on your own, and he should go to couples counseling with you.

    Because the situation isn’t sustainable as it is. You can’t shoulder this burden alone. There’s a difference between being a supportive wife and being expected to help with his severe, incapacitating mental health problems. You’re not a psychiatrist. You can’t give him the help he needs, and it’s ridiculously unfair and selfish for him to put that burden on you.

    I don’t know what the legal/ethical rules are around spouses and mental health treatment. If he had cancer, the two of you would be working as a team with his doctors. But it sounds like you’re not involved in his care?

    #844968 Reply

    Thank you all for your kind and thoughtful responses. I think you’re all right–therapy will be a good next step for me. I’ll definitely pursue that. This whole situation has altered my view so much that I think I need to get my head back on straight.

    I do feel like I’ve slipped into the role of mothering him just as he’s regressed into acting like a child. That’s certainly not what I want in a relationship. And you’re right in saying that I can’t fix him. Thank you. I think I needed to hear that.

    It also struck me when FYI said he’s not giving me anything to work with. I’ve felt that way for so long, but I didn’t know if I was just being frustrated and selfish for wanting to tell him to try harder.

    He has admitted to me and to his therapist that he had a better handle on everything until we got married. His therapist suggested that perhaps he finally felt safe enough for all of these feelings to surface. I’m not sure how much of that is the case, but he definitely shifted about 3 months into marriage. Thinking on it, it seemed to follow on the heels of some experimentation we did in the bedroom. I don’t know if that triggered anything or if it was just coincidental. Either way, part of me feels like I eagerly agreed to marry one man but I instead got a different version.

    I’m not ready to leave him or prep for divorce…I’m sorry, I know it sounds like I’m asking for advice but not prepared to take it. Despite everything, I just love him with all of my heart.

    Peggy, I’m glad EMDR has been helpful for you. Did you find that it made things worse before it made them better?

    Again, thank you all for your kind replies. It really does help me and has brought some peace and perspective to me. Thank you for what you do.

    #844970 Reply

    Essie, I did go with him to his appointments initially, but the EMDR therapist said that it would be too distracting to have me join the session…at least this early on. I see her point. Maybe it’s time I ask again? I’m somewhat curious to see how deep they are digging.

    I think Ron may be right and I think my husband got rattled because the therapy was getting too close to the root of all the issues. He did come out of sessions a few times visibly shaken and needing to vomit.

    #844971 Reply

    Eh… Honestly, he pretty much sounds like a headcase from hell. MOA. Trust me, the longer you stay with him — the more times you will waste.

    #844972 Reply

    PS — he LIED to you. Worse, he MARRIED you under false pretenses. That’s manipulative as fuck.

    #844973 Reply

    I was about to add to my post because I was afraid asking if you weren’t involved with his care sounded like I thought you were being dismissive or uncaring. I just wondered if perhaps his doctors weren’t allowed to discuss his case with you.

    I understand now, and I definitely see how he’d be uncomfortable having you sit in on those sessions – I would be too, in his position.

    I am thinking that it might be time for the two of you to sit down with his doctor(s) and talk about his current condition and expectations for his treatment. He seems to be in pretty bad shape at the moment, barely functioning. Are his doctors aware of just how bad things are?

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