We had been married for six years, had an eight-month-old baby and were three months into a global pandemic the first time I considered separating from my husband. He was also a couple of months into his master’s degree program, and I had just been diagnosed with postpartum depression (PPD).
As such, I had been in a state of anxiety and depression for months, So, when I reached the peak of my fight or flight mode, I was ready to choose the latter if it meant saving my sanity.
Feeling disconnected from my husband during quarantine
Shortly after quarantine began, I found myself in a place I’d never been before—I felt unsupported and unseen by my husband. Those feelings stemmed from our daily routines being uprooted by the pandemic.
We decided that doll would stop working so we could take Poppy out of daycare and keep her at home. I went from working a couple of days from home alone to working each day from home with my family present.
It was no longer easy to tidy or do things around the home that I may have previously done while my family wasn’t there. I no longer had quiet time to myself. The house seemed to always be messy. We were around Poppy constantly, the only true break being when she was sleeping. Even though I was working and doll was watching Poppy, I could hear everything—every cry, every fun time. My work schedule really picked up. I felt anxious and dreadful each morning when I woke. It was hard times.
Throughout it all, I seemed to be struggling more with quarantine than my husband, and I just didn’t understand why. I also felt that he didn’t understand how, why or what I was feeling, so I began to feel very disconnected from him.
That disconnect was something I’d never experienced. It was soul-crushing to feel disconnected from and misunderstood by the person who is supposed to understand you the most
Feeling unsupported by my husband in my mental health recovery
Leading up to my doctor’s visit, I knew my mental state was in a fragile place. I knew I felt unhappy and lonely and disconnected from and misunderstood by my husband. So, having someone tell me I had depression and anxiety helped me make sense of some of those thoughts and feelings.
I suppose I expected the PPD diagnosis to get my husband’s attention. I had been struggling and questioning why things were so hard, and now that we had the answer, I thought he would also realize we had a problem we needed to solve. However, that was not the case as he seemed to only be focused on Poppy.
In fact, the lack of interest or concern my husband showed me after my diagnosis made me want to do anything but solve our problems. It made me want to run.
I was exhausted and distressed, my mental capacity was maxed out, and I felt like my husband was doing more harm than good for my situation. I felt like I was in survival mode, which meant all my energy was reserved for me, Poppy and my full-time job. I did not have the mental energy for anything more.
Coming up with a marraige separation plan
Two days after I was diagnosed with PPD, doll and I got into an argument that led to all-day silence. He had a paper to work on, and Poppy and I were hanging out for the day. So, there wasn’t a lot of time to talk with each other, but there was plenty of time to think.
Sitting outside on my back patio, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t have the mental capacity to feel unsupported and misunderstood by husband. I knew it would be a long road to get back to feeling like myself, and it would be harder if I didn’t feel like he was helping. I had to save myself, which meant I would separate myself from him if that’s what was necessary.
I then came up with a plan/weekly schedule that would suffice for marriage separation while still getting equal time with Poppy.
Even while I created a very logical plan to separate from my husband, I knew I used to consider my marriage my best accomplishment. I knew it was worth saving, but I knew I was too.
Finding the solution to our marriage problem
After doll finished writing his paper that day, he came into the living room, sat down and asked if I wanted to talk. I responded, “Sure, what do you have to say?” He responded, “I’ve been a good dad to Poppy, but I’ve been a horrible husband.”
I immediately tossed my marriage separation plan out the window.
Sitting there on the couch, we had a good conversation about how he had been focusing so much on being a good (new) dad that he stopped focusing on being a good husband. I said I could understand how that could have happened. He was transitioning from being a working dad to being a stay-at-home dad who’s also going back to school. I understood how it was possible to accidentally shift more focus into those two new things. We talked about the lack of support he had been giving me and what he could do differently.
After that chat, we loaded Poppy in the car and went for drive. We didn’t know where we were going, but we were going together.
Addressing the resentments I had toward my husband
As part of my healing, I emailed my husband a two-page document of resentments a few weeks after our breakthrough. I immediately let go of all my resentments after we discussed my email. However, as the weeks went on, some of my resentful feelings returned because I felt like he hadn’t made certain changes we talked about.
Eventually, I would erupt, we would have a solid conversation and things would be better for a little bit before the cycle started again. Each time, there were new resentments or previous resentments that hadn’t been fully addressed from the time before. I felt like I wasn’t getting what I needed from my husband to support me in my mental health recovery.
Considering separation again
I would consider separating from my husband twice more in the process of getting our marriage back on track. Each time, I remembered that my marriage was once my greatest accomplishment, so it was worth the fight. I also knew doll was my greatest blessing, so he was worth the fight.
Understanding why separation wasn’t best for us
Everything changed after that third (and last) time I thought about separation. Here’s why:
- I decided I would stop considering separation as an option because I wanted my marriage to work. (The first time I mentioned separation, doll said we wouldn’t separate unless our marriage was over and dead. I finally got it why he felt this way.)
- I remembered that my husband is my secret weapon and one of my greatest blessings from God. If he isn’t equipped to help me in the way I needed to be helped, I needed to give him the tools necessary to help me.
- I knew I loved my husband and wanted to be married to him, so a separation would not help us. I wanted to have our marriage in 50 years, and I didn’t want a marriage with anyone else. I loved myself, and I wanted these things for me. Therefore, I knew separating from my husband was not the means to the end I wanted.
- I realized that I would choose myself over my husband if I continued to feel unsupported, unseen and misunderstood by him.
Sharing my truth with my husband
I had taken an impromptu personal day at work to recover from the anxiety from the day before. That night, I shared these thoughts/realizations with my husband while I was sitting on his lap on our back patio.
I told him, “I love you, but I love me more. I will always choose me over you, and you need to know that.”
I heard him swallow hard as he pushed out the words, “Baby, I love you. I need you.”
Since that night on the patio, our marriage has not been the same. We are aligned, my husband gets it, and I’m no longer fighting off resentments. I’m speaking my truths as I become aware of them, and I’m taking care of myself.