Is Marriage Supposed to Be This Hard?

Updated on March 06, 2012
K.L. asks from Houston, TX
23 answers

My relationship with my husband has been a rollercoaster the entire time we have been together. I have always been able to hold on and stick it out because I knew I loved him. Now I am wondering if love is enough to stay through the hardship because I am getting wore out. He has been emotionally unstable and seems to cyle through a pattern of ups and downs. He finally sought out help and was put on anti-depressants 6 weeks ago and has been diagnosed with severe PTSD from 10 years ago before I met him. I was packed and ready to leave 6 weeks ago when he finally decided to get help. Before he got help he demanded a divorce during any argument. In the last 6 weeks its done down to three times total. Because I have been in this messed up situation I feel like I don't know what's normal. Is marriage supposed to be this hard? I feel like I do everything for him to make him happy but when he is mad he tears me apart but expects a fantasy marriage in return where I run to the door when he comes home. It leaves me wondering what is normal. Where I have dealt with such an emotionally unstable man for so long I don't know what to think anymore. is it stupid of me to think that marriage shouldn't be so hard or should I be fighting tooth and nail to make this woqrk? We have been together for 8 years. All have been hard with really high ups and very down lows. My parents have been together for 38 years. He comes from a family of divorce with 3 from his mother and 2 from his father. I often feel like he never saw an example of a good marriage. Would my life be easier with someone else?

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answers from Washington DC on

It might be easier with someone else. then again ... it might not.

PTSD is nothing to sneeze at, it's hard and it can be devastating for the person suffering it and for the people in their lives.

GET COUNSELING!!!! like yesterday. You both need help learning a better way to communicate AND you both need to learn what that PTSD diagnosis really means and where you can go from here.

Good luck with everything.

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answers from St. Louis on

Normal is not unstable. I am starting to wonder if guys take longer to get help. I mean I have all the appropriate diagnosis that mean I should be unstable but I can't be unstable I have kids, ya know?

My ex on the other hand is a nightmare. He expected June and Ward, yeah not happening. We were all loving to each other, or at least the kids and I were loving, he was a nightmare.

My point is you can be stable regardless of maladies but he has to want it.

Oh and to answer your question it is a billion times easier with someone else, my new husband proves that! He is a nice normal guy. :)

I have to wonder how many of the people answering have been in relationships with men with mental illnesses. Sorry but my younger son has autism and it was still easier on my own. The other thing is your kids start emulating his behavior. That was the biggest reason I divorced him, for my kids. God Andy has a hard enough time with social skills I don't want him thinking it is appropriate to kick in a door because your terrified child locked themselves in out of fear.

My ex got help every time I had enough and then decided he was fine when his feet were no longer to the fire. Then there would be some other loss of control and I would say I am done and he would get help again, lather rinse repeat. He never did it because he believed anything was wrong with him or his behavior, he did it to get me to stay. That is not enough.

Marriage is hard, even my current marriages has its disagreements but those that say marriage is hard, stick it out for the kids, are not married to these types of men.

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answers from Washington DC on

marriage ain't always easy, but no, it's not supposed to be an endless exhausting struggle either. you've got an extra full plate because of all the issues your poor dh is dealing with. i feel very sorry for him and hope he finds the help he needs. i hope you both can work it out together, and he starts to accept and appreciate your help and support and also learns to give you some too. clearly you both need help and counseling. but if you try everything and keeping it together is still all on you, it may be time to throw in the towel.
your last question gives me pause. no, your life probably wouldn't be easier with someone else, because your happiness can never be fulfilled or dictated by someone else. your life will be easier when you learn to take care of yourself.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

Marriage is hard, anyone who says it's not is very lucky indeed.

I have heard even my stable married for all time and eternity friends talking about divorce sometimes. Marriage is hard.

The thing you are dealing with is this. Mental health issues.

He is mentally ill, in a way, depression is a mental illness. Not like schizophrenia or borderline personality disorder but still a mental illness. The brain chemistry effects his behaviors and mood.

Since he just started this path of medications and possible healing process he needs some time to make the changes.

You must go to counseling with him so you can become educated and gain an understanding of how this imbalance is effecting him.

If it is situational, from the stress of living with the PTSD, then it may someday go completely away and he'll be able to live medication free. Many times a person needs meds for a short time to help them feel better, then they are more comfortable delving in to the past and working through issues. Then when they have dealt with them they wean off the meds and are able to live normally again.

So I guess my advice to you would be:

This is the roughest right now, he has started meds, he is mentally gearing up to start getting in to all that caused the depression and PTSD. He knows it is going to be hard and he is acting out his stress and anxiety.

At the very most perhaps a separation would be in order. On the other hand, staying for a trial period with lots of compassion on your part and some rules on his so that you can both be safe and respectful to each other would be a good step forward. You should see a change in him within a month or two, be it better or worse, there should be change.

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answers from Boston on

Sorry if this response gets long. I feel for you. That said, if you have kids, then no, your life would not be easier with someone else. When contemplating "what if...?" you have to contemplate that future alone - you can't just magically erase your husband and insert someone else. He's still your kids' dad and has the rights and responsibilities of a lifelong relationship with them, which will be your job to facilitate. If your situation is such that you and your kids would really be better off in the worst-case scenario of divorce - whatever that looks like to you - then it's worth considering. For me, the very real and quite likely worst case divorce scenario is that I would have to sell my house, move to an apartment in another town, uproot my kids and have them change school, sleep on the couch so that my kids have bedrooms (there are 4 of them) and would only have them 50% of the time. And would be really poor, so there goes hockey and karate and all of the things they live for. In the really, really worst case, I would actually end up paying alimony to my husband for a few years because I out earn him and he wouldn't be able to support himself. So given that scenario, I'm better off with him, as are our kids.

Your husband has an illness that has gone untreated until a few weeks ago. It will take a long time to find the best treatment and see it work. Give the PTSD therapy/treatment time to work, and the treatment for his mood disorder. Please know that if his depression has any elements of bi-polar, sometimes the regular anti-depressants (SSRIs) can make things worse and he'll need a different classification of drug. Make sure that you meet his prescribing physician, that your husband signs HIPAA releases so that you can talk to his doctor, and that you attend some appointments with him on a regular basis to provide third-party feedback on how the therapy and medication are working. Keep a diary of his moods so that you have clear evidence when you have these periodic check-ins. A person with a mood disorder is a very unreliable witness to the changes in his or her own mental health. Assuming that he's also doing therapy for the PTSD, go to some appointments for that as well every now and again. Find out what the therapist thinks, how long people like him typically take to see improvement, and what you can do to support him through this process. And, seek out counseling for yourself so that you have a safe place to vent all of your frustrations, anger, doubts and fears.

Treating a mood disorder is a long process. Do not allow him to go it alone, even if he fights you on it and claims privacy needs. Of course he needs private therapy, but you need to be aware of his progress and be a part of the feedback loop between him and his doctor(s).

My husband and I have been married for over 8 years and most of them have been tough ones. He was diagnosed with depression early on and his treatment was poor - lousy therapists, wrong drugs, inconsistent effort by him, etc. It took about 5 years for him to finally be correctly diagnosed as having cyclothymia, a mild form of bi-polar depression, and to be put on a mood stabilizer instead of an anti-depressant. He's been on this class of drugs for about 18 months and it's not sunshine and roses, but things are much better. We've also been consistently doing marriage counseling with his psychopharmacologist (it helps to have someone who understands his illness) and a separate family therapist for us and the kids. It's a ton of work, and I sometimes feel like we try harder in this marriage than anyone else I know, but it is what it is. I know that if we ever get to a point where we throw in the towel before the kids are grown, that we will have literally tried everything.

Remember that he's not the enemy, his illness is. You two share that enemy and need to work together to defeat it. No less than the future of your marriage and the stability of your family is at stake. Give it time to work - you chose him, you committed your life to him, and you both deserve to hang in there until this is treated. Once he's had the chance to treat this if he's still behaving terribly, or is abusive in any way regardless of the circumstances, then you may have to consider whether or not this can work and for how long. But for now, choose to see this a the temporarily down side of things...the "for worse" and "in sickness" parts of your vows. I hope that things work out for you, and remember to get support for yourself too.

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answers from Los Angeles on

It's not a Disney movie, that's for damn sure! Have you ever notice that Disney movies end with the wedding...and they lived happily ever after? That's because the wedding is romantic. Life is not. Sick kids, fights over finances, jobs, in-laws, etc is not an easy thing to stand.

That being said, I decided that I was done dating men from divorced families, not because they can't be great, but I found that examples come from your families. My husband's parents have been married for 50 years and mine have been married for 44 years. Things are overall are better than worse. We've been to counseling and we have 4 kids. We love each other. We respect each other. It's not easy. Marriage is a LOT of work.

His parents rarely talk, never seen them kiss in 13 years and NO romance. His dad is passive-agressive....and if I didn't know any better, he's bipolar. My parents are fairly normal (LOL), work together and kiss all of the time. We were raised with different examples, but the one thing we have going for us, is that we've seen fights, etc. and everyone works it out.

So, now for what you should do...only you know. Maybe see how he does on anti-depressants and give him 3-12 months to balance out and see a counselor together. If things don't work out, then you never to have to look back and wonder if you gave it your all.

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answers from New York on

My ex-fiance was depressed. As a psychologist, living with someone who was depressed was a nightmare beyond belief b/c I KNEW what needed to happen and he refused to get help for the issues. In the end, between working on Wall Street 80 hours per week and the complete withdrawl from me emotionally... ending the relationship was the smartest (and hardest) thing I have ever done.

No, marriage isn't supposed to be that hard. My marriage has ups and downs, but those fluctuations aren't peaks and canyons. We have to work to maintain our connection, but it's not a fight for either one of us. There are no threats of divorce or splitting up (there were with the "near miss" husband). I can be angry with him and vice versa because the outcome is usually a conversation about what upset the other person and we move on- it's not a screaming match with threat of a divorce.

My husband's parents did not have a happy marriage. He's never used that as an excuse, but has often told me that he didn't get married until he found someone he could build a life with that would be different than the life he grew-up with.

Good luck with this- getting psychological help to keep you in the marriage (and only for that reason) is artificial and way of controlling your behavior... not changing his own.

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answers from Chicago on

Honey, next time, take him up on his offer for divorce.

No, marriage should not be this hard. And you should not be the emotional punching bag.
Time to go make YOURSELF happy.

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answers from Boca Raton on

It's a little bit like asking if it's hard to run a marathon with a broken leg.

You chose someone with alot of issues . . . that says something about you too (he's not the only one with a problem). I don't mean that to sound harsh either. It's just that sometimes we pick limited people for reasons that we don't always understand at the time (I did it).

I would get to counseling - immediately - to see if you can find a 'diamond" in this rough set of circumstances. ETA: Most of all I would work on myself.

Good luck.

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answers from Beaumont on

We've been in a bit of a valley for 10 years but are finally working out of it. If he's dealing with depression and PTSD that would explain 90% of your issues!! Are things better on these antidepressants?? Sounds like you guys are getting the help you need now. Marriage can be very hard/so can life. I think if you married someone else it would just be another set of "issues". Hang in there! These meds should help ALOT!

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answers from Minneapolis on

Marriage is HARD espcially with someone who has mental health issues. There are a lot of thing both of you can do to work on it and make it a little easier. I would go see a marriage therapest. and a personal therapest. you both need to agree to take the word divorce out of your vocabulary, It is very hard to trust someone and talk to them about issues if everytime you do someone says well lets get divorced. you asked if life would be easier with somone else, I dont think so because we all carry some baggage and you would just need to learn how to deal with his baggage to at least now you kind of know the baggage and what some of his needs are. I wish you the best and hope that you will fight for this marriage.

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answers from Atlanta on

No, marriage isn't supposed to be this hard.

Marriage is not a basket full of flowers, rainbows, and lollipops. Sometimes, it is very hard. It requires a lot of work to keep it fresh and strong. This reasoning is perhaps why some women (and men!) put up with more than they should, because they've heard a strong marriage takes work.

But it is my belief (and luckily, my experiences have backed this up) that marriage should be mostly good. You have to work to keep it good, this is true, and there will be bad patches in any marriage. There will be times when you and your husband just don't connect, or perhaps tragedy drives you apart. THIS is when marriage gets hard, when people talk about the effort to stay together. My husband and I have absolutely had ups and downs, but I couldn't do it if the good didn't outweigh the bad. Marriage shouldn't be like a roller coaster, I don't think. I think it should be like driving across the country. There are lots of twists and turns, and several patches full of mountains and valleys, but most of it is pretty flat and steady, with only little bumps in the road to contend with.

Since your husband is getting help, keep working at this marriage. You should also get some help to help you deal with what is going on, and it sounds like you two would benefit from marriage counseling, as well. Marriage is a two-person dance, and you can't do it if he isn't working at it, too. One person cannot prop up a marriage. If that point comes, and he is no longer willing to work at it, the question WILL NOT be "would my life be easier with someone else?" but "is my life better with or without him?" Don't leave for the promise of someone better, only leave for the prospect of something better for yourself.

Good luck.

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answers from Chicago on

If you are actually really married (any children?) then I would say that maybe life would be easier, but it would have other problems if you were divorced. I will say this, STOP trying to please him. You don't know how he wants to be pleased all the time. He may want you to run to the door one day and the next find that annoying. START PLEASING YOU. You are sounding rather co-dependent, and I do not mean to hurt your feelings here, but you are participating too much in letting him bully you. You need to go to the door with arms open because you want to. From the sounds of it it sounds less like love and more like an addiction and this roller coaster ride is truly not healthy. Marriages do have problems, and some even worse than yours-sickness, deaths, etc. fill people's lives. What is difficult is your wondering what is normal. There really is no such thing as 'normal'. It is kind of what can you take on a daily basis? And if you have children now or ever, them seeing that is not healthy. Start little by little to give yourself a life that takes the web away from him. A class perhaps, counseling. He has become the center of your universe. That is not normal.Think of who you were before you met him. Good luck!

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answers from Portland on

Contact NAMI for support groups as well as information about mental illness and how to live with it. National Association of Mental Illness.

I was married to a schizophrenic and we're now divorced. I knew he was a schizophrenic when I married him and thought I understood the compromises I'd have to make. Turned out that I had a good intellectual understanding but wasn't able to be as empathic as I needed to be.

For me, the deal breaker was that although we were in counseling for several years I saw no change in the way we were able to get along. I learned that in addition to schizophrenia, which I had accepted and was able to understand, that he also had difficulty being able to make changes and that this was not caused by schizophrenia. I'm talking about physical changes and not emotional. Schizophrenia is about emotions. I knew and was alright with his inability to not be emotionally close. I was not alright with not being able to make some household rules and be able to enforce them.

As others have said, what will make a difference is if you're able to accept his personality or who he is separate from this illness. Can you be empathetic to what is happening to him now and live with it? He's getting treatment, recently, and I suggest that if you can hold onto the idea that this will pass then you hold on until he's better and then you'll have a different set of circumstances to influence your decision.

From the tone of your post, I suggest that you are dealing with your own co-dependent issues and urge you to use this relationship to become a more whole and happy person. There are many good books on co-dependency. Pick one up at the library and see if any of it fits the way you act and feel.

One clue is your statement that you do everything for him to make him happy. Making him happy is not your responsibility. It is his. Also, trying to make another person happy can feel like a heavy blanket that one wants to escape.

As others have suggested, I urge you to find an interest in which you can totally immerse yourself. Especially now, when your husband is struggling, it's important for you to be more independent and not be needing his involvement for you to be happy.

While he's working on himself, I suggest you work on yourself. Perhaps the same counselor could see you both and also individually.

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answers from New York on

It is very hard to live with a loved one with mental illness. It is not a typical marriage. JB gave you great advice. His unstable behavior and mood swings may not be about you but you have to decide if you can continue to deal with it. Yes, treatment may take a few months to get going. It would not hurt to look for support from counseling or a support group. I know there is a national support for family members of people with mental illness but I can't recall the name.

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answers from Las Vegas on

I always look at marriage as two people who were raised completely different in possibly two different environments (household income) unite together to meet somewhere in the middle. No it is not easy at all, but it can work. With that, you get his problems too.

It seems when you stood up to him, you discovered he was all talk. Not that you want to use that against him, but call him on it! Tell him to stop saying divorce when he doesn't mean it. Tell him it's BS.

It took us quite some time to learn WHEN to shut up and leave each other a lone. Fifteen years later, we just make fun of each other and our quirky problems.

If he is not hitting you or cheating on you, you can both at least try.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Marriage is hard sometimes...and it's a lot of work if you're doing it right....but if you're with the right person it doesn't always feel like work.

And baggage is ok, as long as you and he have a matching set. ;-)

There's obviously something there between you for you to have been together this long. Now that he's getting help, perhaps you can work together on better communication marriage therapy/counseling.

If you're being abused, though, then obviously do not pay attention to the above comments and get out.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Marriage can be incredibly hard. It can also be incredibly easy. Usually it's both. And, yes, I think most marriages ARE worth fighting tooth and nail for. Are you and your kids in danger, are you being abused or neglected? Is he faithful?

Was he like this when you were dating? I'm assuming yes, from what you wrote. People don't change after they get married.

So---get some help for yourself right now. Find a counselor, a therapist or clergyman that you can trust and talk to. Even attend an AA meeting which focuses on ending co-dependency and enabling. What you're describing here sounds very similar to dealing with someone with a drug or alcohol problem. It's also really common for people with mental health issues to use alcohol or drugs to "self regulate" their moods and feelings.
It will also give you perspective for dealing with his behavior.
Hopefully, he will get the mental health help he needs as well.
Good luck!

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answers from Chicago on

Ok, he JUST began his medication, it could take some time for his dr and him to come up with the "right" formula and to work out his issues. I would be there and stick this one out personally. Now, he and you need examples of healthy and happy relationships so you can both work towards what you want as a couple. I would sit down and write down what you want (both, seperately) out of this marriage, ex: I want to learn how to fight effectively AND make up happily. I want to learn how to communicate the big things just as easily as the little things. I want to go out on dates again. I want support from my husband emotionally.

Whatever it is you need/want from him and have him do the same, then you need to prioritize them, what are your 'dealbreakers' (you can not live with out) and what are things you are willing to let go of, and what can take a while to accomplish TOGETHER, this is compromise and working thru a problem as a couple (healthy right?). I also sugges couple's therepy.

For something immediate, you need to recharge your battery - I suggest a SOLO vacation, not one with the girls or your mom but YOU ALONE go somewhere for a week where you do not know anyone, a spa - resort - vegas - New Orleans, where ever and remember what you love about yourself - chances are that is what he loves about you too!

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answers from Washington DC on

You’ve gotten a lot of great advise-The best thing I heard once was to write down your husbands faults……………..Now write down the faults you want in your next relationship-No body is perfect but you have to set ground rules when he is angry before he is upset. Start to live for yourself as well. I am learning that the more I do for me the better I feel. Good Luck

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answers from New York on

Yes, marriage can be very hard at times, but not all the time.

Your marraige vows included "in sickness and in health". Your husband is sick and is seeking treatment. An illness doesn't cure itself overnight. Hang in there, your already seeing some improvement and as time goes on you should continue to see more as long as he continues his treatment.



answers from San Antonio on

K., I could have written your post word for word. I had a perfect marriage - married my soul mate, we had so much fun together, we were supposed to grow old together and be happy. That's what marriage is about, right? Then on his 2nd deployment to Iraq, he came back a different person. Someone who I wouldn't have even given the time of day had I met him on the street. I don't like who he is. Neither does he, but he has no incentive to change whatsoever. Me and the kids are like furniture around here....the only times he notices we're around is if his dinner isn't ready or he runs out of clean clothes. So I had 7 years of perfection and the past 6 years of hell. When DO you give up? I think that's an answer that only you can answer.

It took 6 years for his PTSD diagnosis. Late last year, he did CBT therapy through the VA. This was a HUGE step for us (he was avoiding it because of the stigma of having PTSD). It did good - he was finally able to talk about his experiences. But the improvement stopped there. He still didn't care about anyone or anything. We started seeing a marriage therapist and that has helped somewhat - she encouraged DH to start back on antidepressants (agree with the PP who said watch out for SSRIs, there's another class which is better), and he is now participating a bit more. She wants to do individual counseling with him tho - there's nothing more I can do to save our marriage, when I'm doing all the work and he's not contributing.

Anyways, it's easy for people to say "just get a divorce!" when you haven't lived it. I KNOW who my husband is. I KNOW the man I married and I still love that man. I am hopeful that with the right therapy, I can get him back. Because it isn't easy - it's not easy to give give give and get nothing in return. To wonder if this isn't meant to be and why give your all when Mr. Right might still be out there. It really boils down to 2 things - is your man worth waiting for - if he got treatment/counseling for the PTSD and the antidepressants worked, would you stay? Is he still the same person deep inside that you fell in love with? Can you still see those traits in him? And secondly - do you NEED him to make you happy? Can you make yourself happy? I know giving is depleting. I am living it. But I am also pursuing my own life and my own dreams at the same time. He isn't holding me back, and I've found when I'm full of life, then it helps to give him strength as well.

So make a list of the pros and cons of your marriage right now. I did that a while back, and even with the daily drain, the pros won out. It might give you some direction. It sounds like he's on a new path now. It might work, it might not. But at least it's a good first step, so stay positive. You are SO not alone.



answers from Austin on

Very good advice so far. The fact that he is getting help is huge. I just wanted to focus on the idea that someone else might be better. Everybody comes with a set of problems. You need to decide if the set you have is one you can live with. Don't imagine swapping him out for someone better. You need to ask yourself if you will be happier with or without him, period. And I certainly don't mean you should stay just to avoid being alone. Just don't think there is some Prince Charming out there. We're all human and have baggage. I hope I'm making sense. I feel for you. My situation is similar and it is very difficult to know what to do.

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