My husband travels for his job and I believe he is suffering from stress and depression. He doesn't want to come home on weekends but assures me that there is no one else and I believe him. I finally got him to confess, and he said he thinks that I'm too much of a “parent” to him. But he still expects me to handle everything around the house and will not come home to help! He says he is broken but won't go for counselling. I try to be nice to him and act as if there isn't an issue, but it is affecting our whole family. He won't talk to me anymore. How do I handle this situation?
The symptoms you describe do indicate that your husband is suffering from a bout of depression and it is important that he sees a mental health professional immediately. The longer he takes to seek professional help, the deeper he will descend into this deep, dark chasm that he can't navigate.
Unfortunately, many people have certain misconceptions and misinformation about mental health and are reluctant to seek help. Your husband, like these misinformed persons, would rather suffer in silence than be seen entering a counsellor's or psychiatrist's office. The stigma of “mad” man/woman is so engrained in their minds that it would require a complete restructuring of those negative thoughts and ideas.
Men don't like to feel that they have lost control and will try to project a tough exterior even though they are hurting on the inside. Going to a counsellor for them is an admission of weakness.
Is there someone else whose opinion he respects that you could talk with — a co-worker, a neighbour or relative? This person may have received mental health counselling and can attest to its value. Accompanying him to his general practitioner and sharing your concerns about your observations to the doctor could be helpful in urging the doctor to make a referral to a mental health specialist.
Ignoring your husband and pretending that everything is all right is certainly counterproductive and will only compound the issue. As he shuts down, your anxiety level will no doubt increase.
Could it be that because of your caring and nurturing nature he interprets your role as that of parent rather than wife? Or is it true that you do treat him as you would the children in the family?
Interestingly, there are some adult couple relationships that mirror a father-child or mother-child relationship. In such an instance the “child” adult will resist the speaking-down way the “parent” adult communicates. But you are right — if your husband fails to step up to his responsibilities as a helpmate then what he does not want is what he will invite by his inaction. If there are major decisions to be made and he refuses to make his input or engage in a conversation on the matter, then unfortunately things will happen around him that will make him feel emasculated, but he has no one to blame but himself.
So as you wrestle with the dilemma, continue to encourage your husband to get professional help. Use gentle persuasion as a loving “adult” partner would and avoid the temptation to treat him like a spoilt “child.”
Wayne Powell is a relationship counsellor. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Check out his work on www.seekingshalom.org and his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MFTCounselor/.