When you said your wedding vows you assumed you’d have a happy husband and marriage, but life is full of surprises! Some not so happy. Loving a man who is struggling with unhappiness or even depression may not be easy, but it is possible. Here are seven ways to help your unhappy husband, plus several tips for improving your marriage.
“My husband isn’t depressed, he’s just unhappy with his life,” says Angel on How to Live With a Husband You Wish You Never Married. “He works as a manager in a huge chain and he hates his job, he’s overweight and never exercises, and he doesn’t have any friends. We have three children and spending time with them and me doesn’t seem to make my husband happy. I love him but it’s hard to live with such an unhappy man. Especially because he works shifts, which means he’s home for four days in a row. How can I help an unhappy husband?”
The bad news is your husband is the only person who can help himself out of the unhappy rut he’s in. You can’t make him – or anyone – happy. You can cook your husband a delicious meal, ensure he’s comfortable and appreciated at home, and even support him financially but those aren’t the sources of true lasting happiness or joy.
The good news is that there are ways you can walk alongside your unhappy husband. These tips don’t require him to change – because you can’t “make” your husband be happier or healthier. You can, however, support and love an unhappy husband as you walk through this season of your life together.
After you read through these tips, take a quick look at Dr Carole Robinson’s comment. She’s written three books on male depression, and shared 8 Natural Remedies for SAD and Unhappy Husbands. Her tips on coping with unhappiness and depression are excellent – they’ll help you stay emotionally and spiritually strong while you support your husband through shadowy times.
How to Help an Unhappy Husband and Improve Your Marriage
You’ll find the two most important tips at the end: set healthy relationship boundaries and keep yourself emotionally and spiritually healthy. You’ll help your unhappy husband as soon as you start learning what your boundaries in marriage are. It can be tempting for wives to try to nurture their unhappy husbands into a more blissful state of being, but it’s not a successful long-term strategy. Nor will it help improve your relationship.
Think about these tips for supporting and loving an unhappy man. Will they work for you?
1. Accept that you can’t make your husband happy
In How to Forgive Your Husband for Cheating While He Was Alive, I encourage wives to remember that they aren’t responsible for their husbands’ happiness. Happiness is an internal job that can’t be given by other people, experiences, or even achievements. A wife can’t make her husband happy in the long term. Sure, wives can cook husbands nice dinners or create romantic nights or take care of every financial and household responsibility, but that won’t create deep long-term lasting happiness for husbands.
Each of us needs to find our own source of happiness, and that source can’t be in another person, job, possession, appearance, education, or even a marriage. Those are good things in life but they aren’t permanent sources of deep happiness or joy! They can’t be, because they all change. People get sick or die, jobs change, possessions rust or get stolen, appearances change, and marriages go through dry spells. So, relying on those things for happiness is setting yourself up for disaster.
2. Avoid telling your husband why he’s unhappy
Even if you think you know why your husband is struggling with unhappiness, avoid telling him why he’s not happy. It won’t help, and it won’t improve your relationship. Plus, you may be wrong. You may think your husband is unhappy because all he does every weekend is work on his car… But that may be the only thing in life that actually makes him happy! So don’t assume that your husband’s hobbies or activities are making him unhappy.
Instead, remember that your husband has a whole world of thoughts, emotions, experiences, and struggles that you don’t know anything about. You may know a lot about your husband – and you may even be his best friend – but it’s not possible for you to know everything about him. We can’t even know our own hearts, much less the heart of somebody else.
If you’re wondering about your future with your husband, read Are You Confused About Your Marriage and Unsure About Divorce?
3. Give your husband space
One of the best ways to love an unhappy husband is to give him space in his unhappiness. What does this mean? It’s different for every married couple. For example, when my husband is unhappy, I’ve learned to stop asking him why he isn’t happy, or if there’s anything I can do to make him happy, or how he thinks he can deal with his unhappiness. I give him space to be unhappy.
Just giving your husband space may be all he needs right now. Of course, it depends on your husband’s personality, willingness to talk about whatever is making him unhappy, how long he’s been struggling with unhappiness, and various other life, family, or relationship issues. Consider who he is when you’re learning how to help your husband be happy.
4. Find the balance between distance and support
Giving your husband time and space to cope with his unhappiness doesn’t mean you need to abandon or neglect him – or your marriage. You can be supportive without pushing him to talk about why isn’t happy or how he can become happier husband. How you do this depends on your relationship with your husband, your personality, and what he needs.
Be there for your husband, but don’t lose yourself. Explore different ways to help unhappy husbands without sacrificing your own emotional, spiritual, and physical health. Encourage your husband to talk why he’s unhappy, and don’t judge the reason he’s struggling with unhappiness. Let him be. Accept him for who he is. And, set and stick to your boundaries (which is the final tip on how to help an unhappy husband, below) so you don’t allow your relationship and life to spiral downward into his pit of despair.
5. Spend time on your own “happiness quotient”
Married men say, “Happy wife, happy life!” How happy are you? Are you more or less happy than your husband? Is it possible that you are as unhappy as he is, but you’re searching for ways to help an unhappy man to avoid dealing with your own unhappiness? I’m not saying your husband is unhappy because you aren’t happy…but how happy are you?
Even if you know you’re not as unhappy as your husband, pay attention to your own levels of happiness. How can you be happier, more grateful, more peaceful in your daily life? If you’re not emotionally or spiritually satisfied – or even joyful – in your life, you can’t expect to improve your relationship or help your unhappy husband.
Tell me in the comments section below: how is your happiness intertwined with your husband’s happiness? Maybe you’re unhappy because your husband is unhappy. This means your happiness is tied up with his happiness or unhappiness. This gives your husband a lot of power — and it may be power he doesn’t want in your marriage.
6. Be honest with your husband – and yourself
When I struggled with a particularly bad bout of unhappiness in my own life, I was grateful when my husband asked how he could help me. But he wasn’t prepared for my shocking response! Either was I, actually. We were having dinner in a seafood restaurant in Honolulu, Hawaii. Not the best place to tell your husband there is nothing he can do to make you happy! He was so sad that he couldn’t make me happy.
I knew I needed to find happiness in my relationship with God, and my husband couldn’t help with that.
But even though my husband couldn’t do anything to make me a happier wife or improve our relationship, just knowing that he loves, values, and appreciates me made me much happier! Knowing that he was there for me helped me cope with my unhappiness. In What to Do When Your Wife Isn’t Happy, I offer husbands advice for loving unhappy wives.
If you ask your husband how you can help him be happier, he may shrug and say there’s nothing you can do. That’s not only okay, it’s good! Why? Because it shows that your husband knows his unhappiness or happiness is not dependent on you. Or maybe he’ll give you a list of things to do that will make him a happy husband. If he does this, make sure you read the next and final way to help an unhappy man…
7. Set and stick to your boundaries
This is my favorite way to love and unhappy husband because it involves taking care of your own emotional and spiritual health! This is how you will improve your relationship with an unhappy husband. Your spiritual health is the most important because it is the fountain of joy, love, freedom, peace, compassion, and hope. Your faith in God and Jesus has the power to change your life and marriage.
In marriage, it can become tempting to allow your emotional and spiritual health to be determined by your husband’s emotional and spiritual health. This is why boundaries are so important – especially when you’re trying to find ways to help an unhappy husband. You have to accept, love and take care of yourself, or you won’t be able to accept, love or take care of anyone else.
Learning boundaries in a relationship can be challenging, especially if you’ve allowed them to become meshed with your husband. But if you can step back, reassess, and reset your boundaries, you’ll become a happier wife. You’ll learn how to respond to and love your unhappy husband. This may not make him happy husband in the short term, but it will change your marriage for the better in the long term.
Help an Unhappy Husband by Setting Boundaries in Your Marriage
In Boundaries in Marriage, Henry Cloud and John Townsend help husbands and wives understand the friction points or serious hurts and betrayals in their marriage — and move beyond them to the mutual care, respect, affirmation, and intimacy they both long for.
This book helps married couples:
- Set and maintain personal boundaries and respect those of their spouse
- Establish values that form a Godly structure and architecture for their marriage
- Protect their marriage from different kinds of “intruders” (including unhappiness!) and improve their relationship
- Work with a spouse who understands and values boundaries ― or who doesn’t
Healthy emotional and spiritual boundaries will improve all your relationships. They are the “property lines” that define and protect husbands and wives as individuals. Boundaries are especially important when you’re learning how to help an unhappy husband because they keep you grounded and connected to your true self, your Godly source of love, peace, and joy. When the proper boundaries are in place, a good marriage can become better…and a less-than-satisfying one can even be saved.
May you find peace, joy, healing and love in not only your marriage and not only with your husband, but with your Creator.