Dear Wendy: Depressed Husband Is Emotionally Abusive

Let me first start off by saying that I love my husband more than anything else on earth. We have been together for 10 years (no kids yet) and we have a very strong connection and bond, but we have one major problem that is starting to weigh on our marriage. My husband is depressed. He has been as long as I have known him due to a very troubled and unhappy childhood. I have grown to look past it, but it is becoming worse than ever and I can no longer ignore it. The thing is, his depression has a very ugly side. He becomes emotionally abusive to me, often calling me names or making me feel worthless. Although I understand that he is projecting the feelings he has for himself onto me, it still hurts and I am having a very difficult time maintaining my own happiness. He has been out of work lately, which is only adding to his depression. He becomes very angst-ridden and restless and starts to feel like the walls are closing in. He says it has nothing to do with me and that I am the best thing in his life. When I told him that something has to give because I can no longer tolerate the way he treats me, he told me that this is who he is and if I don’t like it, I need to ask him to leave and he will. But I don’t want him to leave! I love this man with all I’ve got! There are moments of happiness, but they are usually few and far between and usually only come when we have some money to spend on things other than bills. He is not one to take anti-depressants (his mother became highly addicted to them) and we are financially unable to afford a therapist. How can I maintain my own happiness and help him at the same time? I must reiterate that I love him and I want nothing more than for us to make it through this. — Depressing Love

OK, so let me get this straight: your husband has been depressed as long as you’ve known him, you’ve known him for 10 years, and his depression is just now beginning to weigh on your marriage? Despite loving this man “more than anything else on earth,” you’ve “grown to look past” his depression and have trained yourself to ignore it for 10 years? DL, that’s not the way love looks, and neither is his emotional and verbal abuse. What you’re describing is not so much a relationship in crisis, but two people so deep in denial they’ve traded a chance at genuine happiness to avoid confronting their demons. You’re in a co-dependent, emotionally abusive relationship whose only moments of “happiness” come when there’s a little money left over after paying monthly bills to buy a brief escape. DL, your husband isn’t the only one in need of professional help — you need it just as much, if not more, than he does. At this point you can’t not afford therapy.

For the sake of your future and emotional well-being, find a therapist you can afford and begin seeing him/her in earnest. If you have health insurance, double-check and see if mental health is covered in your plan. If it’s not, research community health centers in your area that may offer sliding-scale, low-cost, and even no-cost therapy to those who qualify. Research colleges and universities in your area and see if the graduate departments in psychology offer low-cost or no-cost counseling to members of the community. Finally, contact organizations in your area that assist female victims of domestic abuse. A man you describe as “angst-ridden and restless,” who lashes out at you verbally is a danger to you and you need to seek help. There are community organizations created to help women just like you get the kind of emotional and physical support they need to get their head back above water. This isn’t something you can tackle by yourself and this certainly isn’t something you can continue sweeping under the rug.

“John” and I go to school together. We dated for six months earlier this year, but he ended it saying that it was impossible for him to go to school and have a girlfriend at the same time. After that, we did not speak very much, despite seeing each other in class a few times a week. Last week, I heard that John had been offered a job. I missed him, and missed his friendship, so I emailed him and offered to take him out for a celebratory lunch. To my surprise, he responded immediately, and we went out the next day. John was incredibly courteous and complimentary throughout the meal, the conversation was great, and I did not hesitate to go back to his apartment with him afterward to continue our conversation. Mid-conversation, John said that he was afraid that he had lured me into his apartment under false pretenses, and then kissed me. I stopped him, and reminded him that we were not together, and that he had told me that he was not interested in having a girlfriend. He said that he knew he had treated me unfairly in the past, but that that didn’t mean that he didn’t want to be with me. I couldn’t help myself after that, and the two of us hooked up. Afterward, I went back to work, and he left to catch a flight to his parents’.

It has now been a week since I’ve heard from John. Yesterday I emailed him to see if he wanted to get coffee sometime this week, and he has yet to respond. I understand that he was busy visiting his family, but I’m beginning to worry that I’ve been used. I’m not sure how to handle this — if he used me for sex, I clearly cannot be his friend. But I would hate to cut such a great guy out of my life, even if we don’t have a future together as a couple. Should I confront him? Should I ignore him? Should I simply write him off and move on? I don’t want to believe that I guy I like so much could be so malicious. — Used

Your sign-off name says it all, Used. Clearly, this guy is not as “great” as you thought he was. He basically told you that just because he wasn’t interested in you as a girlfriend didn’t mean he didn’t want to have sex with you again. Then he lured you back to his apartment and did just that. Despite having classes together several times a week, the guy ignored you and only showed any interest again when he thought he might have a shot at getting you in bed. Now that he’s gotten what he wants, he’s back to acting like you don’t exist. Why in the world would you want to keep this guy in your life? Ignore him and move on. Not every guy is as disrespectful as this one.

*Do you have a relationship/dating question I can help with? Send me your letters at