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Carolyn Hax: Should he have told his spouse he stopped his psych meds?

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)
3 min

Adapted from an online discussion.

Hi Carolyn: My husband told me this week, in passing, that he had stopped taking his psychiatric medications. I was shocked. When I asked him about it, he said he had stopped taking them “some time ago,” and he didn’t really respond when I said that I would have liked to know.

He stopped taking them at his instigation but under the guidance of his psychiatrist, he says. He doesn’t understand why I’m upset or think I needed to know about this — to me, massive — change. I feel completely blindsided. How could one partner doing something like this NOT affect the other partner?!

I know his private medical information is his business, but I feel as if this should have been a topic of conversation between us when he made the decision. I should have been able to ask questions about what the side effects of this decision might be and what the end result was hoped to be, and I should have been kept in the loop. I feel utterly betrayed, but he seems to feel as if I had no right to expect him to share this information. How much of his business is my business? Am I overreacting?

— Shocked

Shocked: No. Oh my. His decision could have a significant effect on your life, not just his. You are also the person in the best position to keep an eye on any day-to-day developments with his health as a result — good or bad.

Take the health element out of it, and you still have a cool and dismissive blow to the intimacy of your marriage. If you’re arguing over “private medical information” and “no right to expect,” you’re talking like business partners, not life partners. Mayday, mayday.

I wish I had useful suggestions beyond, “Take this seriously,” but unfortunately, that’s the nature of acting unilaterally and withholding information from a spouse: It’s a power move that leaves the spouse on the outs. Ask him whether he did this out of frustration, because he felt better (i.e., the meds were working), or … ?

If he won’t engage, then cut right to counseling — solo, if you must. The National Alliance on Mental Illness can help, too, starting with its HelpLine, at

Re: Meds: My significant other stopped taking their anti-depression medication without telling me. I found out because, after a rough few weeks, I gently suggested a dosage adjustment.

I got some guff about it being their choice, and I said: “But I also have choices, and I do not choose to live with untreated mental illness, so what’s next? Back on the meds? More exercise? A therapist?”

It wasn’t quite that cold, but we partners have choices, too. They picked exercise, which was fine. It was “doing nothing” that I couldn’t accept after having already logged a decade living alongside untreated depression.

— Partner

Partner: This is excellent, thank you. Though it means being ready for the “I do not choose to live with” part to have teeth.

More readers’ thoughts:

· The writer could call the psychiatrist: “Hubby just told me you took him off his meds. Obviously doctor-patient confidentiality prevents you from confirming, but I wanted to make you aware in case he had done it without your knowledge.”

· A friend went off his meds and didn’t tell his husband, who only fully realized the problem six months later, after my friend had blown through most of his money in a slow-motion mental health meltdown. My friend attempted suicide before finally getting medical help. It’s quite serious to go off meds, even when under a psychiatrist’s care, and a spouse definitely needs to know.