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Turning Off Feelings Toward Spouse

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My hubby and I both struggle with depression. I have worked hard to keep control of it. always exercising, meditating, and in the day, while he’s away, I feel fine. But he’ll send a single negative text and It’ll come sweeping back. I am terrified to talk to him, because the slightest thing will set him off. he has so many triggers and he has a way of making me feel guilty, as though I’m to blame when he goes through a depressive episode. Well, a while ago, I realized he is my trigger; I kinda see it in my head as he is poisoning me–I know it’s heartless to admit. While he was having a panic attack, and me feeling one coming, I turned off all my emotions toward him. Everything. And doing so I felt so free. We have one son together, and I still feel emotions toward him. I feel emotions toward everything else, but when he says anything, good or bad, I feel nothing. My depression is no longer there, creeping. It’s gone. I know it’s not healthy. I know it’s not good for our relationship. The extent of what I feel toward him is irritation because I feel like he’s sabotaging his career and that effects me and my son.

My question is… I could turn it back on. but I’m finally able to breathe. So, should I? I’m a better mother when I don’t have that weighing on my chest. but… Not caring about him is bad for our relationship. and I do love him as I know he loves me. so… should I turn it back on and risk having panic attacks and depression again? I can’t be the only one going through this (I looked and didn’t see much about it).

Turning Off Feelings Toward Spouse

Answered by on -

A.

When we don’t feel pain, we don’t feel anything. Shutting off your emotions will indeed work, but the problem is that you will also have to shut down part of yourself in order to keep it going.

I’d like to lift some of the words you’ve used to identify why shutting down your feelings have become so important. You say: “I am terrified to talk to him”; “he is poisoning me”; “I felt so free”; “what I feel toward him is irritation”; “I’m a better mother when I don’t have that weighing on my chest.”

Whatever it is you love about him seems to be in direct conflict with what you need to do to survive him. On top of all of this, you see him as sabotaging his career.

The strategy you’ve developed to survive your feelings about your husband doesn’t seem like it allows you to fully thrive. It seems like it allows you to tolerate your marriage as you continue to feel resentment. This approach may work for a while, but in the long run, the resentment will prove too much to be healthy.

It is time for couple counseling. You shutting yourself down to be a happier person and a better mom isn’t a sustainable strategy. Turning your feelings back on to allow the resentment also doesn’t sound viable. What is needed is a third party to help you communicate the depth of your fear of talking to him. His triggering you sounds very real, but if you cannot communicate this to him he has no chance to learn.

The find help tab at the top of the page can help you find a therapist in your area. You may also want to try this group as they specialize in marriage and family therapy.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Turning Off Feelings Toward Spouse

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Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2020). Turning Off Feelings Toward Spouse. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2020/04/07/turning-off-feelings-toward-spouse/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Apr 2020 (Originally: 7 Apr 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 6 Apr 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.