My husband and I have been married for almost 7 months. For the past 2 or 3 things have gone seriously wrong. I began to feel like his roommate and when I approached him about it, he basically said he wasn't sure if he could handle being married. He said he didn't feel the spark between us that we once had. He is suffering from signs of severe depression. He went on antidepressants about 6-7 weeks ago. I'm not sure they are working. He has told me that he loved me - the problem was the marriage. He has told me that he was glad that I was moving away with him to go to school. But he kept pushing and pushing until we couldn't take it anymore. One night he came over to me and kissed me on the lips and told me he loved me and appreciated what I've been through with him. The next day, he pulled away so far that a few days later I moved back home to my parents and he moved 1500 miles away to go to school.
In spite of his depression we get along great. We enjoy each other's company and rarely fight. He says he is attracted to me and I am to him. He told me he wouldn't leave me because life would be miserable, but he is miserable. He has resisted counseling because he knows what they are going to say. He has had trouble in the past with relationships and intimacy and blames himself for all of the relationships failing. I love this man dearly, and want our marriage to work. I want to fight for him and for us. I don't want to be apart from him. I still love him very much and don't want a divorce.
Is there anything I can do to help us get through this? From what I've described does it sound like depression or is it that he just doesn't love me? He is on antidepressants but continues to drink on weekends. Could this cause the meds to not work? I miss him terribly and want to be with him. Should I give him time by himself or should I keep in contact with him? A friend suggests I do anything possible to save my marriage since he is not thinking rationally. She suggests I move to where he is to help us work on this. Would that be a huge mistake? Is it possible for someone to stop loving so easily?
It really sounds like are experiencing a very difficult set of circumstances. I can hear your genuine concern for your husband's psychological and emotional well being loud and clear. I also feel your confusion and anxiety, which certainly is legitimate. I want to acknowledge your supportiveness of your husband's professed need for space. This demonstrates your love and respect for him and I am impressed. I am sure this is painful for you.
I have read and re-read your question, searching for something I may have missed and I remain full of questions. For instance, I'd be interested in knowing more about the history of your relationship with your husband. You have been married for the past seven months, with a lot of difficulty in the past two to three months. How long were you a "couple" prior to marriage and during that time, how were "things"? I hear you describing a lot of push-pull behavior on his part. Has this always been the case, throughout your relationship with him? It sounds like you attribute his behavior to depression and that he attributes it perhaps more to being married. This leads me to believe that prior to your marriage there were problems. It makes me wonder how the idea of getting married evolved in your relationship, i.e. whose idea was it originally and how equal were each partner's interest in taking the relationship to the level of marriage? How was this negotiated or otherwise arrived upon as a course of action? I may be off base, but I get a sense that there was an imbalance of interest in marriage within the relationship prior to marriage and that your husband entered the marriage with a sense of resistance. Perhaps he did not experience this on the level of conscious awareness. Now he is legally bound and fully realizing the seriousness of his commitment to you. Depression is known to be caused by repressed feelings, often anger. You may have heard it described as "anger turned inward". In a person predisposed to depression (which I will elaborate on momentarily), the combination of three life stressors as significant as marriage, beginning a new career path (school), and making a major move in residence is certainly highly predictive of a depressive episode.
Regarding the validity of your husband's diagnosis of depression, you seemed to indicate that he has suffered in the past, as well. This may sound ridiculously obvious, but one of the most reliable indicators of future depressive episodes is the existence of a past episode. In other words, once it happens, a person is then officially predisposed to depression. Other factors that constitute predisposition are a family history of depression, addiction and/or eating disorders, a personal history of substance abuse and/or eating disorders and any life experiences of sexual or physical abuse. There is also evidence that the way a child is taught to perceive the world outside him is highly influential in the future development or prevention of depression. This begins with the way an infant perceives the responsiveness of the primary caregiver and globalizes outward, encompassing the manner in which a child is taught to view himself and others and the manner in which he is taught to problem-solve and cope with feelings.
Kathy, you made reference in your question to concern about your husband's alcohol consumption. I am curious about the degree to which alcohol intake comes into play in the total picture. A lot of experts view substance abuse as a means of self-medicating an untreated depression. Conversely, there are many professionals who believe that anyone in a seriously abusive relationship with a chemical is bound to become clinically depressed even if they weren't when the chemical abuse first began. At any rate, the combination of depression and alcohol is unquestionably a double-whammy of very destructive and unhealthy, self-defeating forces. Specifically, in answer to your question, I'm not aware of alcohol consumption causing antidepressants to not work, however I do know that certain antidepressants can cause a heightened effect from the alcohol and an increase in blackouts in people who have a history of them (the occurrence of blackouts is an indication of alcoholism).
Your question regarding what you can do to help the marriage is poignant but it is possibly a bit off-target. As I stated, I believe you are being very supportive as it is. From the sound of it, if he is now living 1,500 miles from you, he definitely has "time by himself". If he is not requesting "no contact", by all means keep in contact. The fact is that you are still married to one another. Your friend's well-meaning suggestion that your husband is not thinking rationally does not appear to me to be accurate, based on what you have described. I would like to know, has your husband professed love for you or does he deny it? Has he asked for a divorce or a legal separation? The answers to these questions are all that you have to go on - that and his actions. I have seen a lot of truth in the adage "actions speak louder than words". Believe what he does before you believe what he says.
You ended with a question that I think many before us and many to come will ponder endlessly throughout all of time. It is one of those that can only seem to be answered from a philosophical perspective. Your question is "is it possible for someone to stop loving someone so easily?" From my own personal perspective, I view love as a choice and also as a living thing. I believe that the "real" kind of love is in the act of loving, especially when it is not convenient or easy, and particularly when it is known that there is nothing to gain from it. Love will grow if it is fed and watered and will whither and die or else just barely exist if it is not taken care of. Is it possible for love to stop? Yes, I believe that it's possible. Does "real" love stop easily? No, I don't think it does.
If I were asked to recommend a course of action I would strongly encourage both of you to seek individual psychotherapy. Kathy, I think that at this juncture your healthiest course of action is to focus on yourself. What do you want for yourself, aside from marriage? What are your personal, individual goals? This truly may be an optimal time to enter therapy. You sound very open and willing to look at different ways to approach your current life experience. Both of those characteristics put you in an excellent starting position for growth and rewarding self-discovery.
This question was answered by Melanie Fisher, L.S.W, A.C.S.W, she is a licensed social worker and professional psychotherapist in private practice in Pennsylvania. Trained and experienced in clinical social work, she uses the theoretical framework of attachment theory, object relations and ego-psychology. Her specialty areas include mood disorders, family dynamics, relationships and addictions.For more information visit: http://www.geocities.com/mfisherlsw/MelanieFisherLSW.html