My husband hasn’t been himself lately. He’s seemed down. Distant. Very grumpy. He gets angry a lot. Things have been very unpleasant. Finally, after putting our daughter to bed the other night, I broached the subject.
“Honey, is there something that’s been eating at you lately? You don’t seem very happy…”
“I’ve been grumpy, haven’t I?”
“Well, yes, you have. And it’s not like you. I’m concerned.”
I desperately wanted him to tell me my instincts were wrong. Reassure me. Say I had misconstrued the situation, and there was nothing going on. Instead, he sat down and let out a long, heavy sigh. His shoulders sank, and his body language told me something big was coming. I was terrified of what I was about to hear.
Then he used the words I don’t think a wife ever does want to hear: mid-life crisis.
We talked for a couple of hours, during which he outlined all the things about his life he is unhappy about:
- The status of his career and the lack of opportunity for advancement with his company.
- A feeling he has not accomplished enough (particularly in comparision to others).
- The lack of other job options.
- The fact that having a child later in life means he will not be able to retire anytime soon.
- Our financial status since we decided I would quit working and care for our child full-time until she starts school.
- The things he can’t do because of the above.
- His physical state – the signs of aging he is noticing.
- Our lack of a social life.
- All the issues we are dealing with concerning our own parents. And how much worse things are going to get. Soon.
I was relieved to not hear him listing our relationship or family life. He said those are the things that keep him going and bring him the only happiness he has. Although he is not able to enjoy them as he once did.
He is not enjoying much of anything these days.
I calmly pointed out that some of the issues concerning him are under his control, and some are not. I asked what he thought he could do to change or improve the former, and how he could learn to let go of or accept the latter. Furthermore, what could he do to invest in himself? Carve out time just for him, to engage in something that will truly make him happy? He has a number of hobbies he loves, but he hasn’t been devoting any time to them recently.
It was a good conversation. He seemed relieved to be able to get it all out and that I accepted his concerns without judgment. He hadn’t thought about some of the things I brought up and seemed somewhat encouraged.
Since then, however, he continues to sink deeper. Grow more distant. I fear he is becoming severely depressed.
I’ve been through a major life transition myself. In fact, I’m just coming out of my own period of discontent. The transition to motherhood was not an easy one for me, but I am finally in a good place. I’ve made changes and taken control of my own happiness, which has made all the difference. I have a better outlook on my life – our life. But have I been so focused on myself I haven’t given him enough? Or could my recent experience help me help my husband through his difficult time?
What was most noticeable and concerning to me during our conversation was the tone of his voice and the pained expression on his face as he talked. He was a man deflated. I hurt for him.
I’m going to admit I had a selfish reaction as well. What does this mean for ME? My marriage? Will it survive? I want to support him, do everything I can to help him, but I also feel a strong desire to protect myself and my daughter in the event this ends badly.
I fear there is a storm coming, and I don’t know what to do. I am so scared. I want to help my husband get through this. Most importantly, I want US to get through this.
Please, The Band, help.