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DH has checked out of family life due to his mental health(479 Posts)
Name changed for this. I don’t know what to do anymore. I basically feel like I’m a single parent.
DH suffers with depression, panic disorder and generalised anxiety disorder, he’s been diagnosed within the last year but I think I have known for a while that there were some mental health issues. He’s never been massively hands on as a dad, and in the past has blamed it on his demanding job, which saw him out of the house for most of the day. But he would do things with the kids when he could, like take them to their hobbies, to the cinema, do some school and nursery runs, and during lockdown he did his fair share of home-schooling etc.
But in the past couple of months it’s got to the point where he cannot even be in the same room as them. (They are aged 1, 3, 6 and 8). He says the kids’ noise exacerbates his mental health conditions. I try to keep them as quiet as possible as I understand the noise is a particular trigger for him and as you can imagine at those ages the kids have their moments, though I would also say the older three do keep relatively quiet for long periods if told to. We also have a large enough house that he can escape to other parts of the house when it all gets too much for him. But what I’ve found is he will do that in the morning and then we won’t see him for the rest of the day. He usually comes back to spend time with me after they’re all asleep.
In the past week he’s also said he won’t be able to do the things he used to do anymore (examples above). He’s said that given his deteriorating mental health I’m expecting too much from him. For what it’s worth I rarely ask him to do anything anymore, everything he does is because he feels like it. And I do everything else including all the housework and trying to work a full time job (from home due to Covid). He won’t do any of the housework but will cook the occasional meal. I still can’t get my head around why he won’t do any housework as that has nothing to do with listening to the kids’ noise....let’s just say that when I bring things up I’m accused of being insensitive or uncaring and on a really bad day I’m blamed for giving him a panic attack.
I feel utterly miserable. Part of me feels like this isn’t the life I signed up for, and then I feel like a complete bitch for feeling that way, because it’s his mental health and although he’s getting regular treatment for it, it’s not working yet and he doesn’t seem to be able to cope with any aspect of family life. We never go anywhere as a family, we never play games with the kids together, he doesn’t even help with bedtimes and hasn’t read any of them a bedtime story in ages. He’s either sitting upstairs in the bedroom feeling depressed or anxious, or he’s just too tired from work. Are these just excuses? How will I ever know if he’s perfectly capable but very ill, or whether he’s just plain lazy?
On top of looking after four children I have to be constantly mindful of his conditions and do everything I can not to trigger a panic attack. Having a conversation with him about something I’m feeling upset about is impossible, there is almost no emotional support back, it’s all one way. It is exhausting and I’m forever walking on eggshells. Lord only knows how the kids feel - probably the same way.
Here’s the AIBU part.... I know this is a ridiculous question but at what point would you cut your losses and go your separate ways? AIBU for considering leaving someone who is clearly very ill? I am already basically a single mum and if I’m honest I feel so much relief when he’s not around. Obviously I love him and miss him at times but it’s one less person to look after and the kids are happier too. But I’m conscious I feel this way because of his deteriorating mental health. So I would feel like I’ve left him just because of a disability ...does that make me pure evil? I sometimes wonder how I’d feel if I had post-natal depression and he left me. But then I realise I’d still be expected to parent and look after my baby if I had PND....and he literally is saying he can’t do ANYTHING now, it’s like he’s got a get out of parenting free card which he now uses daily.
YABU - he’s ill and you need to be there for him even if he can’t contribute to family life anymore.
YANBU - you can’t be expected to do everything / he’s using his mental health as an excuse.
Any thoughts or comments would really help me right now...even if it’s to tell me I’m being an insensitive and uncaring bitch!! Thank you
I think the big question is what steps is he taking to help himself cope a bit better? If none, then what is the good of staying with him under these conditions? My mum had horrendous depression all her life and she still managed to be a single parent and care for me as best she could, so I am quite unimpressed with what sounds like deep selfishness on his part.
My ex had depression. He worked part time but really didn't pull his weight around the house.
I would be out 13 hours a day with work and then come home to washing up tidying etc. I got so resentful.
He also didnt manage mental health well - would forget about prescription renewal until last minute and then get cross because the doctors didn't turn it round quick enough. Didn't eat properly no fresh air or exercise.
It was not the main reason I ended it but honestly the cloud that lifted off me was immense.
I agree. He seems so selfish to me when he checks out like this. He’s having weekly therapy, takes medication (only sometimes though - that’s another issue because the medication he was on had terrible side effects so he now needs to find another) and his only other way of “coping” is to leave the five of us together and go somewhere else, whether that’s another part of the house to sit alone or out for a walk/drive etc. It’s totally unsustainable but he would probably say I’m the one being selfish and do I think he wants to be feeling this low all the time and having panic attacks? I can see his point.
The heat hasn’t helped. And if he wasn’t at least getting therapy and reading a million self help books about his condition and how to manage it then I would have left a long time ago. Trouble is none of it seems to be working.
This sounds incredibly hard and I think it must be harder because it's not situational, that is, there's no clear trigger and it's not likely to be temporary.
The key things are that he can do some things to lighten the load for you, ie cook, but chooses not. You can't make even the slightest request of him.
I don't know what to advise you but I will say that I would find this very hard indeed to live with.
Agree with the above - what is he doing to improve his mental health and get better? He needs to take responsibility for his health, mental or physical. What if your mental health deteriorates as a result of all the additional burden?
If he is not able to contribute anything to family life and won’t seek proper help, then perhaps it is kinder to everyone to leave him to it. He’s made it clear that he isn’t interested in the children or your well-being and you need to protect them as a priority.
Having a mental health condition doesn't alleviate you from responsibility.
You are not unreasonable to consider leaving. Perhaps, if he is trying to always put space between himself and the family, a separation might actually allow him the space and time to address his issues and start to improve.
It is so so hard living with someone who is depressed. You have my sympathy and basically sound like you've been superwoman to keep it together thus far.
I think as PP says its what steps is he taking to deal with it? If the noise of the children is too much is there somewhere he can go and stay to try and recover? That would remove that pressure from you and then you can see where things stand when he has recovered?
Sorry just read your update. He needs to go back to the doctor and sort out his medication and his therapy. The status quo isnt sustainable for anyone. He cant live the rest of his life disappearing off every time theres a bit if noise and you cant live like that either.
Thank you so so much for all your replies. You have no idea how much it means to me to be able to finally talk about this and hear that I’m not a horrible person.
@Babamamananarama thank you, your message has made me burst into tears!! It has been so so hard to hold it together all this time
Nothing useful to add but just to say I'm going through something similar OP You're not alone.
Lockdown has really fucked it for us - my husband has no routine or drive or motivation now he is WFH. He works odd hours and the rest of the time he's sleeping because he's tired or exhausted. No regard for me running the house and looking after two small children. I love being a SAHM but my DH is very hands-off and I feel like I'm never allowed to be tired or exhausted.
Not being able to run or play or be noisy sometimes is incredibly damaging to your children's mental health.
Telling a 3 year old they have to be quiet because their noise makes daddy sick/upsets daddy, is not fair on them.
If he can't cope with normal child noise he needs to leave, before it damages them more than it already has (and it will be damaging them already).
Having him gone may make you less stressed, you're already doing everything but without him you may be able to relax a bit and not worry about your children behaving like children and having to keep them quiet.
In my case it just cast this negative feeling over the whole house - I didn't realise because it had brought me down too.
And I know this sounds horrible but my ex was so disengaged with family life that really it didn't make much difference when he moved out. Everything just carried on as usual (well other than a bit more juggling work wise for me!)
This sounds incredibly difficult to live with OP. And you come across from your posts like an understanding person.
If you genuinely can’t see it getting better, only worse, and the only thing you can see improving is the kids growing up and becoming less noisy... then I really can’t see that you can reasonably be expected to live the rest of your life like this.
Have you considered a trial separation?
I've been in a similar place to you, my DH had bad mental health for years but had a breakdown and was almost sectioned, while he was recovering he wasn't stable enough to look after the kids 1 and 4 at the time solo and for a while would sleep up to 20 hours a day.
EMDR therapy helped as he was diagnosed with PTSD ( car crash related) and gradually adjusting his meds too.
My mental health has suffered and I'm now on anti depressants.
If you were a friend I would say it's a fine line. If he's seeking help (properly and taking meds or arranging appts to review) support him. But he needs to do what he can, and chucking his toys out his pram when you ask for help with housework is not on.
Is there anyone else you can confide in? I actually rang the Samaritans once. They were really nice.
I'd cut my losses OP.
You only have this life.
Why not make it the very best life that you can?
You don't owe anybody anything except those gorgeous children. And what are you giving them by staying in a relationship that will impact them negatively for the rest of their precious lives?
Put yourself first.
I’m overwhelmed right now and so grateful for all this support. I think I’ve let him convince me that to question any of this would make me a really shit wife. I think I will suggest that he stays away for a while to get some peace and quiet and try to recover (he can stay with family) because this is really putting a strain on all of us. No one is happy in this situation so something needs to change. Im not sure if I should also suggest that he should only return if he is able to pull his weight in areas he’s able to (such as doing more of the cooking and housework) and if he refuses that after a long break then I’ll know he is probably just being selfish and unfair. Trouble is he’s the sort of person who sees his main responsibility as his financial contribution and I can’t fault him for that; he provides very well for the family and that makes me feel guilty for criticising him in other areas. So he’ll probably use the “I’m too tired from my demanding and extremely well paid job to do the housework”....excuse
Having had depression myself I can understand why being challenged (even in a nice way) could make him feel worse - cue "I'm so worthless I can't even be a parent" thoughts etc
However I'm exhausted for you just reading this! It sounds completely unsustainable and may damage the kids self esteem that daddy never wants to be with them over time.
I don't know what to advise you re your marriage but are you in a position to get some hired help with the cleaning or childcare to take some pressure of you?
I left my exH largely because of the behaviours associated with his mental health problems - he was depressed, had anxiety, and I suspect he is also bipolar. I had a similar experience in terms of total lack of support or ability to contribute around the house, sleeping all the time, then some very strange and somewhat abusive behaviours. It was the latter that really became intolerable, there’s only so much you can excuse and accept. He was also messing around with his medication and drinking a lot which didn’t help matters.
I feel for you because I know that sense of helplessness and of living with someone you don’t even feel like you know. I spent a lot of time being angry and/or upset. For me there were two things that I justified my choice to leave on - firstly, that our son was witnessing this very dysfunctional relationship and I didn’t want him to think it was normal, and secondly I felt my own mental health was going to go down the pan too and we couldn’t afford for both of us to be ill. My ex actually turned a corner after we split and I wonder, looking back, whether my tolerance was actually enabling some behaviours. I’ll never know though.
I don’t regret leaving, my home is very calm now, it’s a world away from where I used to be. I hope things improve for you whatever you decide
As someone who's dad had depression when I was younger, it's like a cloud on the rest of the house and it's horrible. Your children will all be picking up on it, and their mental health will deteriorate. That has to be your priority, and if he needs so much space from them he should leave, temporarily or permanently.
Honestly, I will sound like a horrible person but if I were you I would start to think about leaving. That does sound unfair to him but you don't just have his needs to think about, you also have 4 children whose lives will be badly affected by living with someone like this.
Put them first and also think about your own mental health; what would happen if you started to struggle because of the huge amount of stress that you are under? He sure as hell won't be stepping up to help and support you and the dc.
I don't think you can expect young children to curb to that extent their normal behaviour, the sort of play and noise making activities that they need to be engaging in, without risking harm to them. He may need to go elsewhere for a time, yes. It's one thing to expect you to take on the entirety of domestic responsibility while he recovers from an illness he didn't choose, quite another to expect you to do it in these circumstances when he could convalesce somewhere else.
Has he tried noise cancelling headphones?
Is there some kind of plan in place with his therapist of steps he is taking to overcome this? Eg spending 10 minutes a day with the kids doing a quiet activity even watching tv and gradually building up? Does he find it easier to be outside with them?
Why can’t he be cleaning if he must go off by himself? Has he ever suggested this?
Does he acknowledge how difficult this is for you and damaging for the children??
Can you afford to pay for some help for you, a baby sitter so you get time to yourself would be the priority I think. In your shoes I’d shift the focus. He is looking after his own mental health with lots of assistance. You need to focus on yours and the children’s. You are helping with his. He needs to help with yours.
It sounds incredibly difficult but there’s no point in getting his mental health to a good place at the expense of everyone else’s. He is not operating in a vacuum.
My sympathies, OP . Living with someone with depression is incredibly hard. It’s an energy drain. Depression also sucks all volition and energy from sufferers - certainly I recall being slumped on the couch with the idea of even making a cup of tea being too much. All this said: he has energy for exercise and therapy, even though he doesn’t feel the latter is working. How long has he been in therapy? If it’s a shortish time - less than a few months, say - he may be struggling as it’s unearthing a lot of difficult feelings, and that’s not uncommon early on in therapy and doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not working. If he’s been working with the therapist for some time, then maybe it is time for a review. I’d be concerned if someone was getting worse in therapy over time. Does your partner have a clear sense of what has triggered his mental health problems?
Checking out of all responsibility is a huge problem. It’s going to drive you away and alienate him from his children. You are absolutely not unreasonable in feeling frustrated and lonely. It doesn’t sound like you have anywhere to talk about your fears and worries. You could get some counselling for yourself and it may help you to focus on your needs as they’re clearly getting lost here.
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