“Ya. Maybe tomorrow?” asked a weary Anuj, covering his face with the covers.
“Come on, Anuj! This will be fun. It will help get your mind off of things,” urged Nupur. Anuj was not in the mood to talk about upcoming vacations or anything exciting so he turned away from her, turned off his bedside lamp and tried to sleep. “Tomorrow. I promise,” he mumbled.
When they got married, they realized their 5 year wedding anniversary and 10 year dating anniversary would fall in the same week so they had made a pact to take a big trip somewhere exotic and romantic to celebrate. She fell in love with him because of his zest for life, enthusiasm and excitement to try new things. This was not the Anuj she knew but she concluded that he must just be having a difficult time at work. Men don’t share their feelings, she consoled herself, so that’s all that’s going on. She decided to shrug off his sour mood and start doing some initial research anyway, hoping that would put them one step closer to finalizing the trip.
For the next few weeks, Anuj continued to show the same disinterest in the trip as he had shown that night. He always blamed it on being too tired or too stressed from work but Nupur knew something else was going on. At first, she was compassionate. She sat with him after they put Nikita down to bed and talked to him softly.
“What’s bothering you? You don’t seem the same,” she would ask. Her questions were met with silence or a barrage of “I don’t knows”. Her mother had warned her that men tend to have a hard time adjusting to a new baby and might show some signs of sadness as he gets used to someone else taking Nupur’s time. But Nikita was now 2 years old so that couldn’t be the source of his low mood.
Over the following weeks and months, Anuj became more and more distant. It began with him feeling too lethargic to do the dishes at night, a chore he had done since the beginning of their marriage. He then canceled their weekly date nights because it felt like too much work to get himself ready for an evening out after a long day at work. On the weekends, he preferred to stay at home while Nupur and Nikita went to the park or for a walk. When friends invited them over for dinner, Anuj asked if he could skip, citing various complaints such as being tired, feeling nauseated or having a headache.
Nupur tried to remain empathic toward Anuj’s situation. While she didn’t understand what could make him feel so down, she wanted to do anything she could to help. So she did the dishes at night after putting Nikita to bed. She accepted skipping date nights and instead sat at home paying the bills. She even took Nikita to the park alone, lying to Nikita that Daddy had work to do. Eventually, she also started staying home from friend’s houses because she became tired of constantly going alone.
Things had become so different from the norm that even 2-year-old Nikita one day brought Anuj her little bunny.
“Here, Daddy,” said Nikita sweetly as she handed over her prized possession.
“What is this?” asked Anuj sitting on the sofa in his pajamas at noon, unshaven for 3 days. Instead of answering, Nikita ran to Nupur and whispered in her ear, “Bunny make Daddy happy.” With a mischievous smile, she ran to play with her other toys.
Nupur’s heart broke watching her 2 year old daughter try to cheer up her father. She had had enough.
“Anuj, this is getting out of control. What is going on with you? You’re so uninterested in everything lately, including your own daughter! What is going on?” she demanded.
Anuj appeared to sink lower into the sofa and shook his head slowly. “I don’t know. I really don’t Nupur.”
“I’m getting so sick of this! I have to do everything by myself. You know, I don’t even feel comfortable leaving you alone with Nikita anymore because I don’t know if you’ll feed her. Or change her or even look after her!”
“Ok Nupur, stop being so dramatic,” Anuj said without much emotion.
“You know we can’t go on our annivesary trip anymore because it’s too late to book tickets? You act like you just don’t care about anything anymore!” she yelled.
“Well, maybe I don’t,” Anuj said looking up at Nupur. She was stunned. Did he actually mean that? She felt as if her legs were nailed into the ground and her voice box had been taken out. She couldn’t move or talk and even had some trouble breathing.
“Nupur, I didn’t mean it like that,” Anuj said, realizing what his answer had sounded like. He got up to try and console her but she put her hand up signaling him to stay away. She looked up at him with tear-filled eyes. “I don’t want you to talk to me right now.”
For several months, their marriage spiraled downward falling into very unhealthy patterns. They got into arguments more and more as Nupur’s anger and resentment grew. She had done nothing to deserve this. She felt like a single mother and was extremely upset at how she had to manage everything alone. Her frustration level had sky rocketed. All she wanted was for Anuj to talk to her, tell her what he was feeling or thinking. But he wouldn’t and that upset her more than words could describe. Almost every night she would cry out of frustration and anger. He had no reason to feel so down! His life was great and he just couldn’t see it. As her resentment grew Nupur felt less obligated to speak carefully around him. She would pick fights with him about everything and many times, he seemed to lack the energy to even fight back, which upset her more.
“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually want him to fight with me,” she confided in a friend. “At least then I’ll know that he still cares and thinks this marriage is worth fighting for.
There was no intimacy in their marriage anymore. She stopped sharing things from her day with him, they ate dinner in silence, and were no longer physically intimate. He had become an empty shell that she could no longer connect with.
One Saturday morning, she was reading the newspaper and came across an advice column that detailed a story similar to hers. She was drawn into to the anonymous couple’s relationship and read as fast as she could looking for an answer to her problem:
It seems as if your wife is depressed and needs help right away, for her sake, for your children’s sake, and for the sake of your marriage. People do not get divorced because one partner is depressed. People get divorced because the depression is not addressed.
Nupur was shaken up. The last line of the column really resonated with her. While divorce was not an option for her or Anuj, she realized they were living a life that was just as hurtful as being divorced. They led separate lives and were no longer interested in each other. She also became very concerned about the kind of lessons they were teaching Nikita as she was not immune to the stressors in the marriage.
She made a few phone calls and scheduled an appointment with a marriage counselor for the upcoming week. “I don’t care if you come in your pajamas. But if you want this marriage to last and you want your child to grow up with a healthy view of what marriage is supposed to be, you will come with me next Wednesday,” Nupur sternly told Anuj.
Anuj seemed to sense her urgency and had noticed that his marriage was hanging on by a thread so he agreed to go although he was very dubious about whether counseling would help.
“The fact that you’re here and are willing to address your concerns shows me that this relationship is important to you both,” said Dipika, their counselor. “And that is what is going to help you have the marriage that you both want.”
Three months into their counseling sessions, Anuj had accepted that he was depressed and Nupur had a chance to tell him how it has affected her. They were talking again, holding hands during the appointments and even started discussing the possibility of another baby.
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