Finding peace while spouse is still unhappy

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    I am finding it difficult to know the path I should take. While I have found peace through Zen philosophy my husband is still very unhappy, angry and depressed. While I feel such compassion for him and recognize his suffering, I know there is nothing I can do to help him other than to be kind.

    About four years ago my husband had an affair and I found out. When all things were said and done it ended up being two affairs and lots of money/property mismanaged. It has been difficult. We have been together for 23 years and have four sons together. At the time this all occurred I was no where near the path to enlightenment or able to find happiness or peace. After much counseling, various anti-depressants, countless arguments, and self help books, what ended up working for me was studying Zen philosophy and meditation. I have peace like I have never know before. I love myself and do not feel the need to “change” anything to make myself better. I choose peace and positive moments and kindness.

    Here is my difficulty. I understand the dynamics of our relationship have changed drastically. It is something that I can not even recognize as what it ever was. I approach him daily as I would myself. I love him. I recognize he is suffering. I demonstrate kindness when I can. I know he is only searching for happiness the only way he knows. I understand he would intrinsically like peace. This is where my ability to understand ends. I do not know what part I can play in our relationship? I have been unable to find guidance by reading where it concerns a different sort of relationship such as a long term marriage. I can find commonality between us and do try to build on this. I am daily met with negative emotions, hurtful words and attitudes. Is there a point when there is no way to get past these differences?

    An outside perspective will be gratefully accepted. Questions or comments welcomed.

    Chris Ellis

    Hi Renee,
    I do not know your husband and your situation intimately however people can become angry and hurtful when they have committed harmful acts against someone. Since people are basically good, these acts cause them grave discomfort and you might be a constant reminder of these acts which can be making him uncomfortable as well. I think that the bottom line is that if someone wants to change the direction of his life and take responsibility for the harmful acts he has done, he can change and be happy again. If he is unwilling to look at doing anything to change his conditions, there is not much you can do. A person is the only one who can change his or her own conditions and if they are unwilling to do so, then there you are.
    I don’t know if he is a religious man but perhaps talking with a clergy person or someone safe where he can reveal his guilt and somehow make things right is an option. If he is willing to seek some kind of help, he can be ok because that is taking responsibility. If he thinks that he is totally fine and yet he keeps hurting you, well, it then becomes toxic for everyone involved and you have to look at what is the greatest good for you, your children and those around you. It can be a simple problem to fix for someone who wants to fix it but unless they are willing to change, I would suggest you look at your situation and make some decisions. That is my 2 cents. As I said, only you know the whole scene and it is your decision. I hope I have been somewhat helpful.


    You’ve found your peace. He has to find his now. There is only so much influence you can instill through your own behavior. However, I do not see any mention of you sharing what’s worked for you with him. Have you attempted it yet? If not, I suggest you do. Perhaps a little more detail on how your relationship fares at the moment may help us help you further.


    Thank you for your two cents. I believe part of the problem between us was that the relationship we have lived was based primarily on both our conditioned and learned behaviors. It’s just that when faced with something that seemed insurmountable I happened on a way that brought me some peace and clarity.

    We are both atheists although we were both raised in God fearing families. While I do have respect for others beliefs and right to believe what they choose he views it as an ignorant weakness.

    I have spoke to him about attempting to be kind and he says he is not being unkind. I have stated my perception of the difference in this statement and given examples of what I consider to be kind (ie., I’m going into the kitchen. Would you like me to bring you something to drink?, I saw this at the store and thought it looked like something you would like.) and that doesn’t even mean that he has to do something but to maybe consider to not say something negative even though he is thinking it. His response was, “Well, I don’t know what you want me to do or not do, say or not say.” I honestly don’t believe I can be clearer.

    I do feel he has no desire to change. I guess it is difficult for me to accept that this is a real possibility.


    Thank you for your response. I do mostly just try to demonstrate by actions because conversation is cyclic and draining for me. As I was telling Chris above, I have tried to explain that I would appreciate attempts at kindness and given examples.

    I have also talked about how we as beings can not base our happiness on our perceived actions of others because we can not control what other people do. He told me that happiness is something that only happens once in a great while and that no one can really be happy.

    One of his great leaves is that we have a cat and two dogs. Our extended family members have given myself and the boys numerous joyous occasions in our times together. I know we would not have laughed near as many times if they had not been here. My husband is not an animal lover and he says every time he sees them he thinks that the money he works for is being wasted on their food and he can believe that I would ever allow more than one animal into our house after I learned how much a waste of time he believes them to be. I asked if he could maybe just consider to replace that negative feeling with the thought that these animals bring laughter in to my home more often than not and to please try not to let it make him angry. He snorted, “why would I do that”.

    I keep believing that if I can forgive, find peace, and the way to be kind that he can too. I suppose that since I am to this point where I am reaching out I am probably looking for someone to tell me what to do although I know in my heart I have the answer.

    Is it compassionate to walk away from such a long marriage? I have spent half my life with him. We have already raised three sons who are on their own and are beautiful and intelligent souls. We have one son, our big surprise-you-are-parents-again, left at home.


    First, I commend you for the enormous amount of work you have done toward self-compassion and love. And of course, you know that you cannot force him to change or even be motivated to improve the situation. But has he shown any effort? Has HE gone to counseling with you? Or by himself?

    I understand that he is depressed and may feel tremendous guilt, but ending the affair isn’t enough to move forward. He needs to actually show effort at correcting the underlying issues and regaining your trust. I admire your ability to see that your happiness cannot rely on anyone but yourself. But when you are in a partnership with someone, you put in that effort to maintain the fundamentals like trust.

    I don’t know how clearly you have stated any of this to him (though it sounds like you have been pretty darn clear). If you decide that you are ready to leave, you may want to simply state that. Tell him that you need to see an honest effort at counseling together and solo. Be careful not to phrase it as an ultimatum, because that just puts people on the defensive. But be prepared that he may not be capable of that.

    I’m sorry for your difficult situation and I wish you the best.

    Sean Bloomfield

    Hi Renee
    I am truly sorry for your pain,
    I am truly touched at the courage and strength you compassionately show
    In the manner you talk about your husband. I’m not quite sure how he’s spiralled downward only to perhaps suggest if I’ve understood you, that his remorse has absolutely consumed him.
    I don’t have the knowledge or understanding of who he is, nor would it be right to to make an ill informed judgment on him as I don’t know how his mind is truLy working . However….
    Anyone reading your post would be hard pressed not to see or hear the depth of your love and the soul searching position you are now faced with , you have invested all of you in your life thus far and the pain for you is immense and the path you need to follow has to come from within your heart.
    When I was told my marriage was over the actual words were never said and I am now 4months still trying to come to terms with the facts that most aspects of my life including and especially the relationship with my daughter will be changed forever. Everyone in my family suddenly has become lawyers ,psychologists,psychiatrists,doctors,social workers,parenting experts,accountants and although well meaning all come from a place of
    ”not” having the courage or knowledge or heartfelt bravery to retake control of their own lives.
    Renee no one can tell you or should want to tell you what to do , but know that I genuinely feel your emotional honesty and although the pain and loneliness is unbearable at times you still found the compassion and bravery to publicly cry that you love him , and if he could find a way of feeling that in his soul
    At least he and you could begin to work together in rebuilding a different better future for all your family .
    I know in my heart the answer your looking for is inside you and only you,
    And while I know you will have heard this over and over , and over it doesn’t
    And won’t help your current position,
    I’m here as are many others and as part of this life warrior site which you are now a member , it is refreshing I hope that to know that you are being heard with loving honesty in a way that will not leave you feeling so alone .
    I want to share with you my son reminded me of when he was struggling with life while embarking on university life for a masters degree.
    I was sending YouTube motivational videos and what ever nuggets of wisdom I could , steal,think up ,read,or talk down the phone to him.
    When he felt my pain over the unwanted and unprepared for divorce ….he sent me one back…!
    It’s from the movie rocky 5
    I love you unconditionally, . Wherever I am in the country or world I’m always here for you and that will also never change. This is where all those motivational speeches and videos need to be remembered…need to be processed and need to be brought into the bigger picture. One that ALWAYS sticks with me (that you showed me) is…
    ”Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward.
    Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that!”
    I love you
    Renee your in my thoughts and I hope my words helped even a little


    All of your comments have been absolutely helpful. It is a tremendous comfort to read the support and kindness you have all extended towards me and knowing that you are all coming from a place of compassion.

    At the moment I was replying last night I was feeling hopeless about our relationship. It was very late and a simple request for some display of kindness after being treated indifferently all evening ended with him mockingly saying what would really make him happy is if I would actually clean out the laundry room. At that moment I was just doing everything I could do to concentrate on my breath and where I was sitting.

    This morning I sat down to continue reading “The Art of Happiness”. I was at the part where the interviewer had just lost it in Delhi at the cab driver and the ah-ha that resulted when I had my own ah-ha! Just because I don’t believe me cleaning the laundry room will give him true happiness does not mean that it won’t. It does me no harm to do it and it is something that needs to be done. I got up, collected my cleaning supplies, got out the boxes for sorting out all the old clothes and shoes that needed to be donated and got to work, cheerfully. I felt like a weight had been lifted. He expressed a little interest in what I was doing but for the most part acted like he didn’t even know I was doing anything. I had even pulled the dryer out and disconnected to vent hose to make sure it didn’t have a build up of dust when he came to the doorway and stood there for a moment. I asked if he needed something. He said he had looked up movie times and thought we could all go see Frozen but I would need to get ready now if we were going to make it on time. I said ok.

    Although the afternoon was pleasant but not affectionate, it happened, which is unusual now days. I am not fooling myself into believing that this is the turn around but at this moment it is a start. I was also able to work into a conversation about the death of his friend and my cousin, both which happened not to long ago and at our ages now, on the way home that I am able to find happiness at nearly any moment because I am grateful for each moment as it happens because we are not guaranteed the next and how from that gratefulness I find happiness. I told him that it was only an idea that occurred every so often a year ago but now I find myself thinking that way most times. He didn’t say anything, but he also didn’t ridicule me or belittle me, which I was prepared to receive.

    One moment at a time, I will continue to breath and be grateful. I will find the right path and I believe it will be revealed with clarity. As for today it is still foggy but I am ok with that.



    Thank you for sharing, your story is certainly rich! The path toward joy is always subjective, and so there really is nothing we can do but sparkle! Said differently, perhaps your partner will open just from experiencing your rooted joy, rather than being “beaten up with the dharma” by being told/shown/convinced how to grow. No need, just follow the spark and the world blooms alongside us. You may already see it the same way, but your story just captures it well. 🙂 Namaste.

    With warmth,


    Renee , I do not doubt you are a kind , compassionate woman , but are You Happy ? I too had a depressed husband who was abusive towards me (depression is No Excuse btw) . He also cheated on me . I walked away and 5 years later I did not once regret my decision .
    We all stay in relationships for different reasons (you mentioned you have 4 sons) but I realized that I had absolutely NO LIFE with him . Perhaps my case was more severe.
    You cannot change anyone only yourself . I too use to read up on how I could help my situation and I also went to therapy but when it came to the point when everyday I day dreamed about ending my life I KNEW I had to get out for my Sanity and Self-Preservation .
    My life has had its up and downs since then but I will say that 3 years ago I started a successful small business that never in a million years could I have done being in a controlling , abusive relationship.
    More importantly , I have hope now . In that marriage I was dead .
    What are your priorities in life ? Some couples that have money don’t even live in the same residence and I’ve seen that (sort of) work .
    Best of Luck in any case 🙂

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