How can I help my friend help herself and her kids?
July 23, 2012 7:27 PM Subscribe
My friend, Ann, is a married woman with two young children. Her husband has severe, chronic depression but refuses to get help. She has had an affair. She is not sure how to leave him, as she has no career or money of her own. More than that, I just don't think she's able to comprehend ever leaving him. How do I help her?
posted by anonymous to human relations (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Ann has been married to her husband for many, many years and he's always suffered from depression. She has begged for a decade to get him into therapy (couples or single) and he has refused. His parents accuse her of causing the depression. He says in front of their children that he never should have been a father. He calls her a bad mother. He has cut himself off emotionally from his family - refusing to play or help with the kids, zero interest in sex, goes for days on end without speaking to anyone, and he spends hours on the computer. However, he's not (physically) abusive or vindictive. He's just clearly suffering from untreated depression.
Meanwhile, Ann engaged in an affair with another man. The man's wife found out and could easily tell on her, but she hasn't so far. The affair ended a few months ago, but the man and Ann still email each other and run into each other on the street. Ann's husband has not found out about the affair. Currently Ann is in therapy.
She says she wants to leave her husband but she has no money that is her own and no career to pursue. As she's taking care of her two young children until they go to bed at night, any job would be on top of a 60-hour work week. She lives in NYC, where childcare is enormously expensive, so putting them in daycare may be more money than it's worth.
It seems to me that her only option is to head back to her family 500 miles away and simply start over, but I think this is too drastic a move that she won't consider because she'd be disrupting her children's lives, because her husband isn't physically abusive or extreme enough in his behavior to warrant her defection, because she feels guilty over having the affair and now thinks she can make it better by staying with her mentally ill partner. It is painfully obvious that she truly believes she has no choice but to be married to a zombie for the rest of her life, or at least until the kids are in college.
I realize that the decision is ultimately Ann's, and if she chooses to stay in a loveless marriage "for the kids," then, well, that's her call. But I want her to know that she has options. So what can I do, other than offer to babysit when I can? Any good books or memoirs by people in her situation? I'd also appreciate any insight and to hear from people (particularly stay-at-home moms who've initiated a divorce, or people with SOs who refused treatment for depression) who were close to similar situations. Right now, I think the most important step is to help Ann realize that she's not the only person who's been in this situation, and that plenty of stay-at-home mothers have left unhappy marriages before.
Thanks in advance for any help.