Husband Emotionally Unavailable - What do I do?

Hi All,

It has been a while since I posted on here, but now I need some advice. My husband and I have been married almost 4 years and have a beautiful daughter together. We have been cursed with misfortune since we’ve been married culminating in my husband being laid off and us having to move in with my parents. Slowly my husband has been backing away from me emotionally. I noticed that he seemed depressed and tried to compensate by being more attentive to him and loving, which seemed to make the situation worse. Now I find out that I need to have surgery and will need someone to stay home with me for a week or so. Instead of being supportive and concerned, he pretty much ignores me completely. If I can get two words out of him, I feel lucky. I ask him if he wants to talk about whatever is eating him up inside and he just shrugs and walks away. My heart is breaking and I cry myself to sleep at night. I love my husband so much and fully believe in my vows. I want to be a wife to my husband, but I also need him to be my husband. What should I do? I would like a husband’s perspective on this, too, if any care to comment.

In His Love,


As someone who was laid off from a carreer position - and was the sole breadwinner for my family, let me tell you - he IS depressed. I distanced from many of my close friends and family for a long time, in fact, it is only in the past couple of months I have been back to myself.

Networking is the best way to find a new job, help him do that - you call people and talk to them.

I will pray for your health needs.

Most men when they are not providing for their family see themselves as a failure.

We live to provide. We live to provide a wall of protection and security around our family. Help him through this.

It seems to me that you need to continue to be there for your husband. He’s no doubt very depressed that he is not able to support his wife and daughter. The fact that this is so visible to his inlaws must make things worse.

My suggestion is to make sure you always offer sincere appreciation for his accomplishments. Keep in mind that accomplishments are different from effort. By that I mean “sending out a resume” or “landing an interview” are accomplishments while “looking for a job” is effort. If your husband is a normal man he is going to want to be appreciated for his accomplishments rather than his mere good intentions.

I pray that your husband can find decent work soon.

I agree… your husband may even feel “unworthy” of the love you are giving him while he is out of work and that is why he is “rejecting” it. Keep loving him and praying for him. I will keep you guys in my prayers.

I am not married yet but I am going to tell you that when my fiance lost his job and got into the car accident he did he was a completely different person, and I do mean completely different! I didn’t know whom he was and he was very lazy, unwilling to cooperate, rude, and making me pay for his needs because he would stay in my house most of the day and late at night for a long time and that was another expense I couldn’t deal with…

I kept taking him to see our Priest, and I demanded it whenever he would refuse, I wouldn’t take no for an answer…I was patient with him but after a while I just couldn’t take it anymore…

Now he’s been great the counseling really helped…Maybe that’s what he needs if you can’t get him out then get someone in…

And give him the time he needs, don’t stop caring for him and taking care of him…I know it’s a huge sacrifice but sooner rather than later he will return you will see…

Pray, and you as well seek counseling…Take care, GOD bless and don’t give up!


I have struggled with depression for a long time, and what I have found to be the best approach when people have dealt with me is for them to take a hard line. When they “pussyfoot” around or treat me like I am broken it just angers me which then turns to more depression. The way I see it is this (and I know its a bad analogy, but bad analogies are all I have ;-)) I see myself as, in part, a tool that should be put to use for what my family needs and what God needs. The only tool that is left to rust or babied is a tool that is either broken or wont work. I dont like feeling like that. When my family stopped babying me and told me to wake up, in none to kind words, it forced me to realize that I am useful and necessary. I did need help, especially with finding a job, but once I was on my way I was much more pleasant to deal with.

Hope this helps.

With love,


P.S. as Luv says above, dont take no for an answer. Depression makes you lazy and argumentative. Tell him how it will be and then make him do it. It worked for me.

I can only give advice that has worked for me. It might be useless advice since I don’t know all of the details, but here’s what has worked for me when I have been in this situation:
-stopping all urges to nag, order, or criticize my dh in their tracks
-pampering my dh with good food
-focusing on the great things in our lives and doing fun things we can afford to do (even if it’s a simple thing like watching a funny tv show together as a family)
-continuing to talk to him about everything that’s going on with me and the kids-- even though he’s quiet sometimes, my dh still likes it when I’M talking for some reason (well, as long as it’s not to nag him)
-be positive, positve, positive-- it’s infectious!!! My dh has a chronic illness and it’s very easy for him to get depressed. I make myself stay positive, and it helps him. If I act depressed, he goes into a very dark place.
-treat your husband like your dating again-- grab him and kiss him randomly
-give a lot of attention to his physical needs (the way to a man’s heart is not always through his stomach) ROFL

Hi All,

Thank you all for your comments and suggestions. My issue is that even if I do all of these things, he backs away and refuses to discuss anything with me. I know marriage is supposed to be a partnership, and I take my vows very seriously. I just want to know how I can get under the gruff exterior and find the man I fell in love with. Now, I understand that A LOT has happened in the last 4 years to make him depressed, frustrated, and angry. I just want to show him that he’s not alone and that we can work on this together. Ironically enough we watched Fireproof and talked about it as something that we would recommend for other people who were struggling in their marriage. Maybe I should go get a copy of the Love Dare and see if it helps. Anybody have any experience with that?

The other issue I’m having is how disposable marriage seems to be in today’s society. :mad: I have a lot of non-Catholic friends who tell me that if I’m not happy, I should just “cut my losses” and ask for a divorce. When I got married, I got married for life. I don’t want to divorce. I want to be a good, caring, concerned wife and help him through this. I love him with all of my heart and want to do the best I can for him.

As for the physical, I’m afraid that’s going to get worse before it gets better. My health situation will cause us to have to abstain for a few weeks (up to a month) after my procedure. I’m hoping we can use that time to work on the rest of our marriage. Any thoughts?

In His Love,


I love the way Catholicism view marriage as a sacrament. If you view it as a sacrament, you hang in there even in the troubled times. Everyone has these low times when it seems like things will not be getting any better. They won’t stay low forever, as long as you keep asking for the Lord’s help (you are obviously doing that). Just hang in there and keep trying with a positive attitude! Also, do little things to make yourself happy everyday! Maybe this procedure you’re having will be just the thing to make your husband see how important he is to you. He’ll have his chance to become your knight-in-shining- armour again.

*So true, about marriage being a Sacrament. I think sometimes, that marriage mirrors the relationship Christ has to us. No matter what, He stays with us. No matter what we do, He loves us and looks out for us. Now, obviously, if a woman is being abused, etc…divorce can be necessary.

But, just typically, I think that is the intent with marriage…to mirror the relationship God has with us, by how we are to love one another in marriage. It’s not always a bowl of cherries. Sometimes, you have to step back, and love your spouse from afar. Love him/her on their terms. Not always easy to do.

Praying for you, Hope*

My husband went through really bad depression last year. I found, like you, that just being more loving and attentive made it worse. What helped in our case was combining that same love with the message “You are too important for me to let you behave this way.”

I don’t know if your husband has this reaction, but my husband perceived my loving attention and lack of criticism as being patronizing - saying he wasn’t important enough for me to ask more of him. He knew he was letting me down, and facing that was too hard, so he just kept withdrawing further. Although he was clearly stressed by high(er) expectations, letting him know that I really needed him and his behavior mattered to and affected the whole family really seemed to be what he needed to hear. I tried to keep the message positive, but couldn’t hide how hurt and stressed I was. It seemed to come through anyways.

I also found I needed to repeat myself about what our family needed from him - especially me. I really needed him to show me some emotional support, especially by letting me know that my job mattered. I asked him to please ask how my day went, over and over, until it finally sunk in for him how much this mattered and that he really could influence my health and mood. Once he started to believe that what he did mattered, things got better.

My husband also benefitted from me talking to him directly about the possibility of clinical depression. He was starting to really believe that he was lazy and uncaring by nature, and the possibility that he might actually have a fairly common treatable condition really helped him cope with those negative thoughts about himself. He was able to say, “I’m not a lazy person. I’m just depressed right now.” I suspect that this might vary from person to person, but it helped my husband.
This is the best website I’ve found for family and depressed persons. It has great information about different types of depression and ways you and your husband can help him deal with his depression / depressed behavior. It does deal more with clinical depression and depressive disorders, while your husband may just be “down in the dumps”, but maybe there will be some useful information there for your family.

HTH, I know how hard it is to have a depressed spouse when you really need them to be strong. If you find something that seems to work, please post it. I’m still looking for more and better answers. We’re coping, but we’ve learned that my DH has a milder depressive condition called dysthymia that remained after he recovered from his more severe depression, and that still affects our daily lives.

A husband losing a job is like a woman loing her breast.

He thinks, “WIll she still love me, does she still see me as a provider” etc, etc. That you need to move in with family is the unkindest cut in his mind.

He is suffering from a depression. Please, please, please give him all the support you can, and take him to a doctor!

God bless you!

I don’t have time to read everyone’s response right now, but wanted to post that Retrouvaille has worked miracles in my marriage by getting us to share our intimate thoughts and feelings. I would really recommend it to any married couple:

Over 4 years, people do change - the joys and sorrows leave growth and scars. He is as hurt and in need of healing as you will be after your surgery.

The VERY best thing is a job and to be able to support his family. I doubt you will get him to a doctor, he will see that as just more expense, more things he cannot pay for.

Network, tell everyone you know that your husband is looking for a job, for any job.

Read the 5 Love Languages too – maybe he needs to hear you love him another way.

Good ideas! I’ll try those things.



Hang in there. Those of us who have been married 25 years or longer realize that sometimes we go through bad times in our marriages that can last for YEARS.
Your husband very much needs you. You sound like a great wife to him. I would probably back off a little bit - men don’t like sharing their feelings of inadequacy; at least, my husband doesn’t.
Just love and respect him; never criticize him if you can help it; and realize it may be a while before he is back to his old self. I know it will be very hard for you to get through this surgery without his full attention, though. I’ll pray for you.

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