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What do you do with an ultimatum?

I have been challenged with anxiety and panic attacks for about 18 months.

Over the last 6 months I have started to get back on my feet. I am now able to work on a part time basis and am hopeful of returning to work on a full time basis. Anxiety and panic attacks for me come and go. I will have a good week then a set back a good few days then a set back. Largely I think that I am managing better as time passes.

My wife seemingly out of the blue gave me today an ultimatum that if I did not improve then she would leave me. I felt very shocked and almost went into a full blown panic attack. Since this conversation I have felt somewhat numb. I love my wife very much but part of me wants to tell her that if she is not fully committed to our marriage then I think that she should go. I do not like idea of living with a threat hanging over my head. My first episode of serious anxiety and panic attacks started 18 months ago when my wife first threatened to leave me. When my wife discusses her life before she met me she seems to be put on rose coloured glasses. These same glasses seem to be used when she looks at what her life would be like on her own.

I am wondering whether any of you have lived under a similar threat to me.

16 Replies

Wow this is a tough situation for you to be in....now im no marriage counsellor and certainly cant give you the answer as to what you do about this, but i will try by best to help here :) ok so maybe a obvious question or not, but have you be able to sit down with you wife and find out why this ultimatum has been made now? what triggered it?


Yes Moley I have lived like that. I didn't even think I was living at the time, just existing. I remember dreading going home after work. I had to walk home as i couldn't face getting on the bus. All the way home I would be dreading getting there. Nothing I ever said or did was right. Sometimes he was in and other times he was at the pub. That was worse as I had to wait for the onslaught till he felt like dishing it out. To this day I know I could never ever put myself in that position again. I really feel for you, you know you are improving but it takes time....for goodness sake, why can't people see that. Whatever you decide to do, don't give up on yourself and what you have achieved. You have come a long, long way : ) lots of love and support xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


Hi ellabella,

Thanks for your very supportive message. Yes I do think that I am just existing. I am am making progress and still have lots of ups and downs. I think that the background threat of if you don't improve or be able to do this or that then I leaving you has hampered my recovery. I have been unable to say to myself no matter what my wife loves me and will stay with me. I have felt in constant danger that if I have a relapse or slip that this will be the final straw and she will be off.lol


Hi Caz,

Thanks for responding to my post. I guess that the build up to the ultimatum began last week when I took my wife to the doctors because she was suffering angina pains. The doctor told her that she should go immediately to hospital and prepare for an overnight stay. I took my wife to the hospital and she had various tests. The outcome was that they were fine and she was discharged with a prescription. During this period of time I coped extremely well and was very supportive.

Yesterday morning I saw my counsellor and had a very emotional session. I identified 3 areas in my life that caused me a lot of upset and also triggered my anxiety and panic attacks. One was the fact that I felt very bad about the fact that due to problems that I have had with anxiety that I have not been able to provide my wife with the lifestyle that I had hoped that I could. When we first to married 5 years ago I had a very good job and prospects. I am 48 and my wife is 58. When I got home from my counselling session I told my wife that I felt that I had failed in my mission to provide her with the lifestyle that I had hope for and that I was very upset about it. My wife then said " Yes to have failed and I am thinking of leaving you. She then proceeded to tell me a whole list of my shortcomings. She then went on to say that after feeling ill earlier that week that she felt that life was passing her by.

I felt almost physically sick and was close to having a full blown panic attack. I do accept that some things in our marriage could be better and particularly the intimate side of things. I have always loved my wife very much and have accepted that she has faults and shortcomings just like me. However, I have and continue to struggle with a situations of being with some one who is dangling a sword above my head that says " if you don't improve/get a full time job I'm leaving you". This constant background threat of I might leave you has I think contributed to my continued problems with anxiety and panic attacks.

I feel that I want to have the courage to say that if you are not 100% committed to this marriage then you should go. I really love my wife and do want her to go but feel that I cannot allow things to continue as they are. Do you have any thoughts.


Hmmmm, well anxiety while very traumatic and difficult for the suffer can also have quite a negative impact on partners, it may be that over time your wife has been trying to support you and stay strong but then recently has hit her coping limit and is simply blowing up due to the stress of the situation and doesnt actually mean that she wants to leave you. (This is not your fault by the way so dont feel guilty, its collateral damage of living with anxiety unfortunatley) Does your wife know much about anxiety? sometimes people who dont understand the condition cant appreciate why anxiety sufferers cant just get on with things and 'snap out of it' (by the way i hate that phrase like we wouldnt snap out of it, if that were possible grrrr lol) anyway if she were open to trying to understand what you have been fighting against maybe look into directing her to resources to read up about your condition or seek some kind of support for her to help her get all the stress of her chest too?

From what you have said you are doing so well and making great progress to getting on top of your anxiety and no matter what else is happening dont dimiss your progress, be proud of it and carry on with whats helping you. :)


Thanks. I do think that my wife has been under a lot of strain and that living with someone who has anxiety is difficult, especially when you do not enjoy the best of health. I do think that she does understand anxiety and knows that it can be very difficult to deal with.

I think that my challenge is the feeling of a constant threat either implied or directly stated that you are not good enough as you are and that if you do not improve I am going to leave you.


Yeh the threat is the last thing you need if your already trying to deal with anxiety problems. The decision on what you do has to be yours, you have intimate knowledge of your relationship before the anxiety to now, so you know whether its worth fighting for and therefore are the best person to decide whats right.

I do think that the ultimatum is a little harsh and unfair it feels to me its like saying to someone with cancer if you dont cure yourself soon i leaving, but at the same time i can try and see her side of the situation... As you know anxiety knows no time it gets better at different rates for everyone, improvement cant be asked for by another in a specific time frame.....from what you have said you ARE improving so maybe you could point that out to her....in a nice way of course :) for example you have returned to work part time which is a major step and you said yourself you feeling like your managing better and have a disire to eventually go back to work full time....thats improvment right there and you are doing the right thing by taking your time it may be slow progress but its progress regardless, maybe point this out again to her and explain how major this is for you.


Thanks very much for your reply to my post it is much appreciated.

I think that you are right that I should look at the relationship before I was poorly and decide what is the best course of action.


Hi Moley,

I am so sad to hear what you are going through especially when you felt you were starting to tackle anxiety head on. Forgive me for being so negative as I am sure your wife is a lovely woman, but it makes me sad that she would say this to you at such a time and especially when you were making progress. Although we never know how the other person thinks and I suppose these things do happen in life. To put such pressure on somebody with anxiety can only make the anxiety worse however, you do say you have been struggling with anxiety for the past 18 months which is quite some time. Perhaps your wife feels this will never heal?

Do you think your wife truly understands your anxiety? and has seen the recent positivity you have been going through? Has she supported you through your early months of anxiety?

For myself, when I was diagnosed with Anxiety, my partner didn't fully understand how it effected me, and I realised that I had to beat anxiety on my own without anyone elses help. I was incredibly agitated all of the time due to the horrible feelings my body was going through, I was very down, I would cry a lot, and I soon saw that his personality was being quashed by my own misfortune because he just didn't understand. I wouldn't leave the house, I didn't want to watch TV, I didn't cook, I wasn't at work. It was because of this I made a huge effort to change the way I was going about my anxiety and now I feel I have conquered it to a point where I can happily deal with the issues.

The point I am trying to make is your wife might be quite effected by this also. You may have become a very different person perhaps from the person she first met through no fault of your own at all. I think it is a very difficult situation.

Whilst I understand this is a horrible thing for you to have to deal with considering what your body and mind have been going through for the past 18 months, I can also understand how much anxiety effects those closest to us.

Has this knocked your feelings with anxiety significantly? Or do you think in some way this is going to help you? You actually sound like you have some confidence about your feelings in your last post to Caz.



Hi Mandy,

I have as you have noted, felt that anxiety has affected my personality in that I am often not the carefree outgoing person that I was when I first me my wife. When we were first seeing each other I felt confident in myself and that I was a good "catch". Having anxiety and periods of time when I have felt very frightened has I think lowered my self esteem. I have since I have been working again started to feel more like my old self. I have received very good feedback from my employers as to the quality of the work that I produce.

Whilst I am going through a tough time now I have mostly felt that I am moving forward with my life.

My wife lives with a condition called fibromyalga (sp) which is very debilitating for her. I feel that when I am poorly her attitude is sometimes, " well i'm the one with health problems there's no room for you being poorly. When I first met my wife I was pretty fit both mentally and physically.

This episode has really shaken me and I am not sure what to do for the best. When I met my wife I was fit and I knew that my wife did not have the best of health. I married her on the basis that I wanted to be with her regardless of how her health turned out. I guess that I am really upset that this does not seem to have been her view of me.


Hi Moley, My apologies. I wasn't aware your wife was not well.

That's great news about work and you do sound like you are taking great steps :)

I can now understand your frustration. In a sense it seems that as you developed anxiety, the shoe was on the other foot and your wife needed to support you rather than the other way around. I can imagine that was a big change but as you say, you married your wife 'in sickness and in health' and of course you would only expect the same back. It's very sad for you to feel your in such a position.

Do you think your wifes feelings are related to your illness? Or do you think it goes further than that?

I do hope this smoothes out for you as it sounds like a horrible thing to go through but you sound like you are handling it very well although it has given you a knock.



Hi Mandy once again thank you for responding to my blog it is most appreciated. I think that my wife's feelings may well run deeper than just issues directly connected with my illness. Before my wife met me she had a long standing relationship with a guy who is married. She said to me that the guy had said " you'll need to marry a millionaire or a saint". I do not at the moment fall into either category. I am in my heart of hearts thinking that I am in all respects not measuring up.

This afternoon while I was shopping I bought my wife a simple card in which I wrote that I loved her lots and lots. She seemed very luke warm to it and very withdrawn and would hardly speak. It felt like a very one sided conversation. I made an excuse that I needed to do something on the computer.

You are right that it is a horrible thing to go through. I think that it is a feeling of a loss of self respect in that I want if she is that unhappy with being with me to tell her to go. However I cannot seem to be able because of all the anxiety and panic that I think it would bring to do it.


Wow, what a difficult situation to find yourself in! It sounds to me as though your wife's attitude could be very bad for your anxiety. You seem to be making great progress and I think you really need to concentrate on that and hopefully everything else will work out. Please don't let your wife's ultimatum threaten your recovery, that would be such a shame.


Thanks for your reply it is most appreciated. I think that the hanging threat has had a bad effect on my anxiety. I think that people are used to hanging threats over other people and particularly children. The if you don't do this or that you will be in trouble syndrome. I will look to keep positive and focus in on the progress that I have made with my anxiety. What I find is strange is that prior to suffering from anxiety I would in the same situation have said to my wife that she should go if she is that unhappy.

It seems odd to act in a different way than is really me because I am anxious about the fallout that there would/could be if I really spoke my mind. Have has a situation where you have not said something because for anxiety. Very best wishes.



Just thought id check in and see how you getting on? hope things are ok and your still making progress :0)


Hi, I've only just seen your posts, you have already had some great answers so I just wanted to say I hope you are ok, and how are you getting on now?


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