Subject: My wife isn’t coping and is shutting me away
My wife of 29 years now lost her dearly beloved brother to suicide on 24 November 2015. He had been depressed for 8 years, his life was up and down, but he simply couldn’t cope with all that had happened in his life. He was a truly great person, loved by so many, but his illness wouldn’t allow him to recognise that. He left behind a son of 14 at the time, although he never married the mother, and they split a number of years previous. He married twice since, although neither marriage was positive or indeed for the right reasons. He was unable to make important decision regarding relationships, finance, and obviously emotions as well. But he was highly respected in his field as a senior teacher: he was brilliant with students, especially those who were suffering with depression, bullying, anxiety. How ironic.
In the winter of 2014 he was in a real crisis, and my wife was instrumental in bringing the 2 hours home to be near his family. His wife wasn’t supportive in his depression, she prevented him from seeing his own son in their family home and instead tried to force him to become father to her child from a previous messy relationship. The poor guy never stood a chance. He returned home and soon showed positive signs of improvement in his own health, well being, and general outlook on life. He returned to teaching at a more local school and soon took on added responsibility as he was so highly regarded in his profession. Maybe he took too much on too soon? He found love with a new partner, a fellow teacher, but she soon realized he was withholding his true feelings and history from her and she finished the relationship as she felt he wasn’t being honest with her. He went downhill from this point, although he did tell her much more, at which point she opted to stand behind him and offer support as much as she could.
In the background, his wife who he had left the winter before was filing for divorce and becoming aggressive via solicitors. All this caused him more stress and anxiety, and his downward spiral continued through the summer of 2015. He made attempts to self harm and ultimately a poor attempt at suicide which failed, but his mother with whom he was missing simply couldn’t cope and the family decided to have him admitted to a mental health unit at a hospital here in the UK. He did not want to go, but eventually was persuaded by the consultant there to stay as a voluntary patient to avoid being sectioned. He agreed.
There followed much analysis and attempted diagnosis, along with changes in treatment and drugs: none of which seemed to make any improvement. The first consultant diagnosed him with severe depression, and felt he was only ever going to end his life through suicide, such were his thoughts and outlook. He felt inadequate, a failure, and completely anxious with no hope for the future much of the time, although there were moments when he would open up to my wife, his beloved sister, and try to make plans for the future in terms of sorting his financial mess out and returning to work.
My wife and her family would make the trip to visit him during his 3 months in hospital so that he hardly ever had a day without family visiting. This was extremely demanding and harrowing for them all, and my wife in particular would work a full day and then drive the 3 hours there and back to sit with him, offer comfort and support, and try her best to keep his spirits up whilst talking to the nurses about how he was doing. There was no improvement in his status and if anything he went further downhill.
Unfortunately the consultant at the hospital moved on, and a new consultant reassessed him and changed the diagnosis to personality disorder and ultimately changed his treatment. The new consultant after assessment felt the regular visits from his parents were causing him more grief and he asked them to stop visiting for a period of time. At the same time, he received news from his estranged wife solicitor that the divorce absolute was ready to be signed, and I believe this may have been the final straw for him. Sadly, a few days later he somehow (despite being on 15 minute suicide observations) managed to convince a member of staff at the hospital that he was not a high risk patients, and they allowed him out for an hours unsupervised leave. He disappeared, never to return. There is an impending coroners inquest hanging over the family which keeps being put back as it seems there may have been failings in the care he received, especially to allow him to have walked out that morning. It was many hours later before the family were contacted to say he had gone missing, and for 4 days he was reported as missing, before the following weekend his body was discovered hanging from a tree on some wasteland less than a mile from the hospital. It seems certain he had decided this plan some time previous and simply took the opportunity presented to him that morning. I understand that once someone has decided to take their own life, they will find an opportunity whenever it presents itself, and this happened to be it. He had spoken before of dark thoughts and openly told his family of plans to kill himself, all extremely distressing, but I am not sure they ever believed this would come to pass. He was just 41 years old, and had lost any hope for the future, despite having a loving caring family and a son he adored. He seemed to have been able to detach himself from emotional attachment to any of his family, and his only way out of the pain he was in was to take his own life. He felt so desperate. I am sure this will strike a chord with many people who read these forums.
Being married to his sister, I wasn’t able to share the complete sense of loss that she does. I am not blood, he was not my brother, and I do not have a natural sibling to lose so I cannot feel that loss, but I can feel her pain. I felt my role was to love and support my wife, and other members of her family to whom I have grown close through 28 (at the time) years of marriage. I was involved in the funeral, and acted a spokesperson for the family who wanted to confirm matters via social media. The outpouring of love and support from a huge range of people was overwhelming, he clearly had no idea just how thought of he was, our how respected he was by fellow teachers and students alike. A complete tragedy.
Just 2 weeks after his funeral, December 2015, my wife took ill. She had been struggling to cope for some time, even before his death, but this hit her really hard. Christmas Day 2015 she suffered an allergy induced anaphylaxis and very nearly lost her now life. Only the quick action of paramedics and some amazing work by a team of highly skilled doctors kept her alive as twice she came back from near death after her heart stopped. She returned home to me 4 days later, and I did everything possible to make her comfortable, loved and cared for whilst at the same time trying my hardest to keep everything as “normal” as possible. I am capable of being a pragmatic person, and felt that life had to go on as best as possible, especially running a business of my own.
Cutting a long story short, since then my wife has “changed”. She admits she feels totally different about life: her career, other people, me in particular. She feels she has come to terms with what happened to her brother in terms of the facts, but she really isn’t coping at all well with how she feels and her own emotions. She has always been the tough one, the matriarch of the family being the eldest of 5 siblings. I see at close hand how she has gradually shut down her own emotions towards me in particular, but also towards other people and family at times. She gets irritated by things that never bothered her before, and other things that she always cared about no longer bother her. She openly admits she feels different, she doesn’t understand why she does and doesn’t feel the need to challenge any of her feelings, just accepting of them. Unfortunately, this has all served to push me further and further away, and any negatives in our married life from the past have been highlighted into huge problems all over again, things which we had dealt with or were managing to cope with. She only sees the negatives.
On what would have been her dead brothers birthday in June this year, we were away on holiday having a special meal to acknowledge the date, and she announced she didn’t know if she wanted to spend the rest of her life with me. She needed time to work things out. Since then she has distanced herself from me more and more, shut down much of her emotions towards me, and in fact become angry and irritable with me like I have never seen before. I had assumed this was a part of her grief process, but it become very personal and I struggled with the rejection and we argued a lot.
6 weeks later our son got married abroad, and this was a particularly difficult time, with my wife shutting me right out of most of the things we did on that holiday. I had a breakdown emotionally 2 days before the wedding, she offered no empathy, sympathy or support to me and in fact told me she found that to be the time she decided to leave me. 2 days after we returned from the wedding, she took off for 24 hours and then came home to tell me she was leaving to live with her mother. That was 10 weeks and 2 days ago from the time I am writing this.
She spent 6 weeks at her mothers shutting herself away from me, and I have to admit I made a complete mess of things. I struggled to cope with my emotions, the rejection, the fear of the unknown, and a real worry for the future as it seemed she was on a mission to destroy our marriage. i have always been the emotional one of the pairing, she is the sensible thoughtful one, but on the downside of that is that she struggles to show her feelings and emotions, and believes she can cope alone – this has always been the case. Yet at a time like this where she is clearly in crisis through grief, her feelings and thoughts have become irrational and she will not open up to anyone and talk: she feels it is her problem to deal with.
After the initial 6 weeks, she decided to move back home – not as a reconciliation but to be in her own environment as she could not stand living with her mother any more. She craved time and space, and a desire to be alone, and she told me that means not being with me any more. She said she wanted the marriage to end, that she no longer loved me, and that I was irritating her and making her angry with my emotional state. The first 2 days were a disaster, she was really angry and I had to take off and get away, and felt that the only way she might ever be happy or able to cope was to end the marriage: not something I wanted to do as I absolutely adore her, but I felt helpless and believed I was making her more angry and irrational by trying to fix things between us. She accused me of being selfish, something I admit I can be and have been over the years. But she meant in terms of my feelings being aimed at us, whereas “us” had become unimportant to her. We agreed to live together from that point amicably, and for a period it worked, but inevitably we fell out several times. Her anger and lack of connecting with me at all was too much to live with, and when I tried to talk to her she wouldn’t want to. I wanted to listen, help, comfort, but she would only ever become emotional and talk openly about her feelings after a huge row with me when we both became upset. She is still at home, but the relationship as husband and wife is virtually non existent. We sleep in separate bedrooms, something I have found especially hard to deal with, and we lead our separate working lives, so much so that we find ourselves only seeing each other over dinner some nights, or in the mornings when we get up for work. I am unable to connect with her without irritating her, yet there are times she can be lovely with me, but only for a day or two and usually after a row when we have come close to completely splitting up.
She is on a waiting list for bereavement counseling, and I know she has spoken to her doctor about how she is feeling (not about me, but about her brothers death and her own health following that) and she has been told she has anxiety. I am clinging to the hope that her current state of mind is temporary and will change in time, but I realize I have to be patient and this will be a long term scenario. I can’t stop thinking about how much she is suffering, and how I should be the one there for her, but she doesn’t seem to want that for the vast majority of the time and it kills me to be shut out. We have had some good talks about how she feels about her brother – anger, sadness, an element of guilt, let down, and how it may affect his son (our nephew).
My feeling is that she has had her heart broken by her brothers death. They were very close. He always came to her for advice. She loved him when they were young – she was 6 years older than him and almost mothered him herself for many years. She always defended him no matter what he did. Their love was unconditional. I think she feels what he did was unthinkable and that whilst she knows what he did and that it was the mental illness that made him do it, she also believes she should have been able to do more to prevent it, and nothing I say can make her feel differently.
I am currently 5000 miles from home, having decided to take 10 days break from the intensity of it all, staying with my son and his new wife. I discussed this with my wife who felt it would be a good idea for me to get away as she does know I have really struggled to cope, for my son to have his Dad spend some time with him, and also for her to have 10 days at home on her own: the time and space she has been craving. But 5 days into my break, Ive really started to feel down and miss her incredibly – even though if i was at home it would be tense, fraught, walking on egg shells in fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. I return home in 5 days, unsure of how she will feel about things, me. And then in just over a week it will be the anniversary of her brothers death, something I know is really causing her anxiety and emotional trauma. I just want to be there for her, but I really don’t know if she wants me to.
Whilst I am desperate for something to show she doesn’t want our marriage to be over, now clearly isn’t the right time, and I have to just continue to be there for her and offer anything she wants, as the time may come where hopefully she will be glad I am still there for her. I fear my life will now never be the same again, and selfishly I just want things to be good again between my wife and me, but she doesn’t seem to share any of these thoughts or feelings, and at times it feels more and more like she doesn’t give a damn about me or how I am feeling, and she continues to make plans to do things without including me which I find difficult. She does spend time with one of her sisters in particular, but I have no idea whether they discuss me or our relationship, and to be honest I hope not as the sister has 2 failed relationships which produced 4 children and she is fiercely independent: I can think of better people for my wife to get relationship advice from!
So, I am not sure where things go from here. Personally I am full of fear, despair, loss and grief for my own marriage. Is that selfish to feel that way? But worst of all I feel rejected, just at the time where I feel my wife needs someone to offer her the love, support, comfort and strength she needs. I should be that person. I want to be that person. But she won’t let me in.
I wonder if this is how it will be for the rest of my time on this planet, whether my wife will return to me emotionally at some point, or if she is beyond my help now and I have to stop myself from going into depression by leaving her, and that is something I am just not able to consider or want to do.