How Do You Help an Unhappy Husband?

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

How to Help an Unhappy Husband and Improve Your Marriage
Helping Husbands Cope With Unhappiness

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

How to Love an Unhappy Husband
7 Ways to Love Your Unhappy Husband

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.

Is Your Marriage Over? 6 Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore.

Help an Unhappy Husband by Setting Boundaries in Your Marriage

ways to love unhappy husband

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.

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12 thoughts on “How Do You Help an Unhappy Husband?”

  1. Dr Carole Robinson

    I’m Dr Carole Robinson, a clinical psychologist and the author of three small self-help books on male depression. My husband went through a four month bout of “unhappiness” a few years ago. It started in late November. It lifted in March or April. Then again the following November my husband was unhappy again.

    It turned out not to be just unhappiness my husband was dealing with, but seasonal affective disorder. So I turned my clinical practice towards helping men – particularly husbands – cope with seasonal depression or SAD.

    I don’t know if your husband is unhappy or depressed, but these natural remedies for depression might help.

    Natural Remedies for SAD and Unhappy Husbands

    You can’t force your husband to do these things, but you yourself can practice them. Your husband might absorb them, and start doing them himself. In fact the LESS you nag or cajole him into doing these activities, the more likely your husband will actually start doing them.

    1. Take proper care of yourself. Get rest, eat right, and get exercise. Try to walk outdoors every day. Exercise, fresh air and natural light are a powerful combination for elevating your spirits.

    2. Set reasonable expectations. Too many of us set irrationally high standards for ourselves, especially during the holidays: shopping, cooking, baking, decorating, sending cards, and attending every event we’re invited to. It can be hard enough to keep up even if you’re feeling great! Give yourself a break-and permission to say no. To overcome depression or unhappiness, prioritize who you want to be around and how to spend your time. This includes spending less time with unhappy husbands!

    3. Make connections with other people, build relationships that renew your spirits and lift your mood. Interact with kindred souls as well as people less fortunate than you, perhaps by volunteering at a shelter or hospital. Connect spiritually at your church or temple. Connect with nature by taking a walk through a park or along the coast. These activities are spiritual practices that will make you happy and can help your husband cope with his own unhappiness.

    4. Acknowledge your feelings of sadness. Recent findings show that when we are able to identify and label how we are feeling, we activate other parts of the brain-with very healthy and positive effects. Science shows us that if you label your feelings and, ideally, express them to someone else, both your mood and your immune system benefit. Can you and your husband talk about his unhappiness and your sadness that you can’t make him happy?

    5. Train your brain to be positive. If you focus too much on what’s wrong in your life, your brain can get stuck in a “negative” rut. Fortunately, with just a little effort, you can condition your brain to balance your moods and overcome seasonal depression disorder. One way is to create a daily gratitude list. Every day, take a minute or two to make a conscious effort to name things in life you are grateful for: your family, dog or cat, warm bed, a hot shower, ocean waves, music, coffee, and so on. This natural remedy for depression conditions your brain for appreciation and happiness. This is also extremely helpful for men dealing with unhappiness – it will help them appreciate their wives 🙂

    6. Be kind to others – and gentle with yourself. Also ranking high in the studies of what helps people to be optimistic and healthy is helping others. Recently, a customer in the drive-thru line at a Pittsburgh-area Starbucks paid for the coffee of the customer behind her. That customer was so pleased that she then paid for person behind her. The chain continued for two hours! You don’t have to make a grand gesture. To overcome seasonal depression disorder, smile at someone on the street, hold a door open, wave someone into you lane on the freeway.

    7. Laugh – one of the best natural remedies for SAD and a great marriage tip!. Laughter is invigorating. It recharges your battery. There are all kinds of studies showing how good laughter is for your brain, your health and your immune system.  It’s good for your mood, your immune system, and holiday depression. To overcome seasonal depression disorder, find a reason to laugh every day — all the better if you can find the humor in your relatives’ annoying habits or the little things that usually stress you out!

    8. Get help with depression you need it. Living with an unhappy husband is depressing; his unhappiness may rub off on you! If you’re still feeling sad in spite of making efforts to improve your mood, or if you are losing sleep, feeling irritable or hopeless, or having trouble getting through daily activities, call your psychologist or physician. You may need light therapy for depression, psychotherapy, medication or a combination of the two to start feeling better and overcoming holiday depression.

  2. I am a guy so I hope you don’t mind me posting on here but I think it is up to both people to work on their relationship and treat each other with compassion, understanding and kindness. Guys do as much as you can to help out around the house (that means doing at least half the housework and child care) and none of the I’m so tired I have been working all day b*****t, looking after children is a full time job that is even more stressful than what you do at work. I also think that guys should look after their child(ren) for at least a couple of hours a week so that their wife/gf can go out with her friends or have a bit of time to herself.
    If you are looking after the children at home take a look around is there laundry that need to be done? Put it in the washing machine so it can wash while you are playing/painting/baking/doing homework with your kid(s), dishes in the sink that need washing then wash them and try and take it in turns cooking dinner, or cook it together, although if the kid(s) need dinner before you get home then you cook at the weekend.
    I also don’t understand how guys can be attracted to someone else when they are in a relationship/marriage I means seriously commitment, love, history, knowing that you will get to share the rest of your life with one person is so hot! Does a random stranger come anywhere close to the intimacy, history, emotions and memories that you share with your partener? H**l no, not a chance and if your still tempted (how could you be when the person you are with will always be so much better) make sure you are never alone and never let them have a way of contacting you outside of work, if you are at a bar and someone is flirting with you tell them you are in a relationship and if they don’t listen leave. Seriously its not rocket science and I can’t belive I wrote this as it seems SO obvious -Aaron

  3. It is so hard to live with someone who is never happy. Nothing I do seems to be good enough. He hates his job, the boys arent perfect enough, and he says we have a bad marriage.

  4. I’ve tried and tried to talk to my husband but he won’t listen. He’s the type that will never apologize for something wrong but still will blame me for the the in happiness in the family . It’s not fair . It’s not fair ! I try to go to him when the time is right . By go to him I mean I look for my husband . I want to squash things . He won’t let me . He stills says really hurtful things to me .. I changed a lot because I care . If someone is unhappy why do they hold grudges ? Why won’t they try ? Why do they get so angry and say hurtful things

    1. What boundaries will help you be a happier, healthier, more peaceful woman? It depends on you, your marriage, and even the nature of your husband’s unhappiness. This is work only you can do.

      It’s easier, better, more fruitful and meaningful if you have a relationship with God. The Spirit is always present, always calling us closer, always trying to be heard through the noise and clatter of the world. It’s up to us to listen to our hearts, tune into our spirits, and know ourselves. When we do this, we find answers and truths that speak directly to us. Nobody can give us those answers or truths…and they may not be easy to hear to implement. But they lead to a deeper, richer, more meaningful and happy life than we can imagine.

  5. My husband is controlling. He wants to control what I think and to adapt to his way of habits such as where I put my keys, He has. “many little foxes” I try to remain calm. I know how to create space and actually enjoy being outdoors and having time alone to meditate and be grateful for all aspects of my life. My spouse is jealous, accusatory and mean spirited. He says that I dont support him. This is where boundaries are drawn by me. His idea of support is not my idea of support. Sometimes he is wreckless in his thoughts and actions and I choose not to support in those instances. He is professionally trained in Theology and I am disengaged with him because his deceptions have left me to distrust him and his intentions. He is very kind to others and very supportive outwardly but when it comes to me, He is often rageful, short, and acusarory. He is annoyed by my independence. He has been discovered cheating on me many years ago. I bave forgiven and moved on. In all honesty, I am weary but I am committed. I ignore his behavior and feel like I am dealing with a spoiled child. We have no good communications, he cannot hear or accept what I say to him.

    1. I am looking for an answer to that too.. I’m sooo sad and now just hurt and broken by all this. Because just like you I try. I’m calm I sit in our room listen to music and give my husband space . I am beyond weary but committed. I too found out about the cheating on my husband . Do people change ?

  6. Do you have any suggestions for having a conversation about your husbands unhappiness? I tend to struggle getting the words out and my man can be sensitive if you say something the wrong way. He has been unhappy for about 4 years now and I don’t even think he really knows it. He will just bring up something currently bothering him (family problem, work stress, etc) but I don’t think he realizes that as these things come and go, he remains unhappy, always finding something else to pin it on. SOS!! Love him so and desperately want to see him truly smile again.

  7. I have an unhappy husband; and some of the unhappiness has been explained (family problems, feeling unsupportive, etc) but I don’t feel is justified or fair. I feel some of my happiness is dependent on his happiness so I need to know more specifically how to help him without wanting to give up completely? I have an unhappy, stubborn, non talkative husband 🙁

  8. This has helped me so much!! Thank you!!! But I do have a question that you may or may not be able to answer.
    Re: my unhappy husband who is in midlife crisis I think in addition to having an Eore personality; what do boundaries look like? Can you be more specific?
    I’m desperate…

    1. I have the same question. Author, What do you mean about boundaries when your husbands unhappiness gets I the way of everything such as outings, planning things, holidays? A relationship with god doesn’t explain anything practical.