Depression in the Runaway Husband

In this post I will be talking about depression and how it relates to the behavior we see in runaway husbands. This does not mean that all runaway husbands have this illness, but it does give insight into this pattern. I also do not believe that this excuses their behavior in any way, because it doesn’t- there are many other problems associated with people who would abandon. My question is- after all these years- why now?


I was considering possible depression when I started writing down the signs and looking them up. Some examples from my search history, prior to the abandonment, included:

  • “Why is my husband easily irritated?”
  • “Husband acts indifferent about everything”
  • “Husband forgets things all the time”

I talked to him about these symptoms, including his poor sleeping habits, and he agreed to see a psychiatrist and received medication for ADHD. Little did I know this stimulant has been known to make depression worse. In fact, that’s what most addictive substances will do. Many wives found out later on that their husband had been participating in addictive behaviors, such as large spending, drinking, drug use, sex addiction and porn to name a few. They were self-medicating their mental illness, while also accelerating the severity of it.

It wasn’t until after he left, that I started looking up a bigger topic: “Depression and divorce” and then more specifically: “Depression caused divorce” This brought up a large amount of information that felt like it applied to my situation- and after sharing it with other abandoned wives- seems like I found a plausible explanation:

Depressed partners are known for blaming their unhappiness on the relationship. The agitation, doubt, hopelessness, unmotivated, pessimistic, defensive, ashamed, painful and self victimized feelings were all redirected towards their wives.

Why do they blame their wives? Well, most of the time people associate their feelings with their surroundings and circumstances. In healthy individuals, feelings tell a good story about their surroundings. If they begin feeling unhappy, caused by chemical changes during mid-life for example, then they look around them for an explanation. Seeing a darker world through a veil of depression, it is harder to look within themselves, and more easily find fault around them.

After the day ends and it is time to be home, depressed husbands wind down and dip into their depression to the fullest extent. Wives quickly become associated with the depression- because home is the place they spend the most time together. Seeing their wives are a part of their normal, secure, routine. With depression having lowered their serotonin levels, normal routines will no longer bring pleasure. To find that same level of pleasure they had before they were depressed, they must look towards newer, more exciting people, places and things. This leaves them more prone to temptations and engaging in more self-destructive behaviors in order to chase a fleeting feeling they unknowingly lost in their lives.

The story they tell themselves isn’t that they no longer find pleasure in their everyday life, they story they tell is that they are in an unhappy, dried up, loveless marriage. They they just “lost feelings” and are “no longer in love.” They know that they care, because they should care, but they don’t feel it- at least not like before. I will later expand on a separate post relating to their chase of happiness- but I digress.

After leaving, my husband told me in marriage therapy, “I felt like there was nothing I could do to fix things. I didn’t think my feelings even mattered.” This took me by surprise, because at the time, I was trying so desperately to connect his abandonment with something that I had done. I didn’t realize that I was talking directly to his mental illness, and that hopeless and powerless feelings of depression had overthrown his reality. Combine that with a strong dose of codependent patterns, leaving was the only escape he was able to see. See more on codependency HERE.


My need to understand this event drove me to look at the recent factors that changed in the lives of both my own husband and many other wive’s stories. Many of the husbands had experienced an illness/loss of a loved one, had a new addition to the family, changed jobs, or they were entering mid-life. Vikki Stark also reveals an interesting discovery about seasonal depression in her study:

“A very high percentage of women in the study were left during the three months of November to January. Forty-four percent of marriages ended at this time, peaking around the holidays […] Maybe these men get the itch in the winter as part of a seasonal depression?”

Vikki Stark, Runaway Husbands

This investigation led me to the conclusion that there are many different ways a husband can lose his way, but it seems that there was almost always some external event that added just enough extra stress to trigger a slip into depression.

For information on more runaway husband traits, see HERE.


More from Husbands who Abandon:


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