I planned on bringing up the marriage advise when I talk to her face to face early April. Thought it might be more difficult for her to say no then
I would add this to what Jen has written. The letter approach is better, because waiting to ask her face to face is trapping her and potentially using her natural guilt to gain her agreement, when she may just want a significant sabbatical from your marriage, because your depression brings her down and saddles her with guilt (even though you don't want to have that effect on her). The best thing for you to do is to work on yourself, instead of plying her with flowers (because even those gifts might feel like attempts to make her feel obligated to make you feel happier, as you're trying to make her feel happier).
I advise you instead to seek long term therapy with a highly qualified therapist with emotionally focused and psychoanalytic as well as surface knowledge and training. If you can transform your depression into a life that inspires YOU, then either she'll want to feel some of your new sunshine, or somebody else will. My guess is that you're well into your second half of life (even over 50) so it's time for you to find new meaning to sustain yourself, and that may well include finding creative energies inside of yourself that you've never needed to access before. As much as midlife depression can relate to brain chemistry, it can also relate to loss of purpose and meaning and the sense of contributing to others, the death of youthful dreams, and the need to change your direction and seek spiritual connections that you may have denied when you were satisfied with more worldly striving and providing for a family. These issues are best pursued with Jungian analysis and existential therapy, and for men Emotionally Focused therapy is often needed to build a capability long neglected.
Jen's advice is especially sobering when she suggests that your wife may just want to take a long (without specific end-date) sabbatical from feeling committed to you, so she won't have to struggle with her inability to cheer you up in any lasting way. That's the MOST IMPORTANT contribution you can make by seriously seeking your own meaning and inspiration through therapy (Jungian if you're a modern individualist or Christian if you're a conventional believer). And that contribution is for YOURSELF.
I have been depressed for over 25 years I can't see that being fixed soon. I know she doesn't like dealing with the depression, but I don't want that to wreck our marriage.
People who have to deal with depression for as long as you (and my wife) have are MORE challenged than others to find ways to devote themselves to activities that are meaningful to them AND (typically but not always) also are recognized by (some ) others as valuable to the world beyond them in some way. A great many artists and work-obsessed creators have suffered from lifelong depression and found their day to day salvation through planning for and then working on their projects for the enlightenment or more conventional benefit of the rest of humanity. Where Freud thought that psychological structure could not be changed, but living could be better when one was more conscious of what one's challenges are, Jung saw a future direction involving ongoing personal connection with a higher power (he was the inspiration for Alcoholics Anonymous, where that word substitutes for conventional religious dogma) that would eventuate (in part through dreams & visions & unforseen illuminating events & emotionally fulfilling personal connections, like perhaps your marriage) in a system of meaningful symbols and values that makes our suffering and triumphs coherent and worthwhile. The atheists can have a hard time believing there's anything higher than themselves, except perhaps Science, Wealth, Power/Dominance, or Love/Sex, (Freud said Love & Work was all we have for healthy living, and Sexual power was the higher power in our organism). Plenty of supposedly religious people don't REALLY have a personal connection with higher power, but just a shield of blind faith against the vastness of the universe. But those who've deeply explored their unconscious side through dreams or meditation (with expert guidance), and following Intuition & Feeling instead of only sense information and reasoning (and balancing all 4 of these) do discover powers beyond their ego-consciousness, so life takes on a deeper meaning, and their lover/spouse is no longer their only hope of deep fulfillment--when that happens (as it has for my wife, who had 10 yrs of Jungian analysis, more than needed, from 24-37) then a partner will feel less obligated to keep the depressed person from tanking again (whether that's the other's real need or not).
I'm getting into complicated psychological issues, which may be of no interest to you. But I am suggesting that along with offering your wife the space she seeks, you could take up your own quest for meaning and creativity. Of course that side of your life might already be bursting with activity, so I'm not trying to preach, but only offering what I can off the top to compensate for allowing romantic love to play a smaller role as a compromise aimed at enticing her to not eliminate it altogether.
[My wife is 62 & in chronic pain, probably for the rest of her life, and she used to do full time Jungian oriented therapy, but now makes jewelry for sale on the Internet and writes parables and sermonettes about a life and the jewelry for sale.] Of course I don't know anything about what you deal with, so I apologize if I seem to be acting like I know something you need to know, or I have a way to suggest that could be the answer to your present crisis. But just as you've tried to get some insight and advice, I've tried to give you some--and that give my own life meaning (despite the low wages, because Meaningfulness doesn't require a minimum wage).
It breaks my heart to hear you say she is distancing from me because that is what she is doing. I love her so much I can't imagine my life without her. I cry & scream throughout the day and take adavan to calm me down but I am a real mess. I supposed to talk to her hopefully face to face within the next week or so when she arrives back in Canada. I have to have her back. I love her from the bottom of my heart and will do anything to get her back.
I think Kerri's suggestion to negotiate a schedule of contacts that SHE feels comfortable with is excellent, and it pairs very well with my suggestion that you seek and commit to long term psychotherapy to strengthen the sources of MEANINGFUL LIFE that do not depend exclusively on another person being very close with you for you to be happy. That's obviously a very tall challenge for you after 14 years, so I'm not minimizing that.
It appears that you don't have a working relationship with a higher power that's demonstrably connected to your ego-consciousness, and that's one of the main benefits many people find in having a positive and regular involvement with their conventional religion--since conventional religion also offers easy access to a community of others who show caring for each other. Self-isolation is a major factor in enduring depression, as is an automatic defeatist attitude that rejects every avenue for amelioration offered. It's none of my business to tell you stuff like this, because that's what an age-matched or older therapist in regular relationship with you can give you, with far better benefit than anybody writing from an unknown location on a website.
I imagine that you've been a hard worker for many decades, and that you're also already taking medication, so I'm hoping you can afford AND give yourself permission to pay for the reliable devotion of a skilled psychotherapist who focuses on Meaning in life: these are most prominently Existential Analysts and Jungian therapists and analysts, with many neoFreudians also achieving similar meaningfulness through the process of weekly or biweekly sessions.
Just one more thing to add to what Kerri's suggesting: I've found that when a person wants to have space away from you for a while, she is also likely to resist setting a precise date and time when she will end her separation, because as soon as she sets such a time, she's going to feel like her time of no responsibility toward you is already coming to an end. So her sense of FREEDOM is already compromised, because she's given away her right to decide for herself when she wants to interrupt her freedom from interpersonal responsibility. So I'll reemphasize Kerri's idea that SHE needs to be choosing when she wants to see you, and not setting up regularity right at first. Tell her you just need a day or two notice when she wants to see you, so you're not pressuring her (even tho you don't think you are, SHE may feel that way, and you can't control how she reacts to your outreach.)
I can't imagine leaving all the dates up to Patti. She is ignoring me now so I may not get any dates at all. What I think I need is a chance to sit down with Patti and talk about what happened and if possible what can we do to get our marriage to work. I have lots to say to her and I hope she does for me. We had a good marriage so I just can't wrap my mind around what is happeniing to us and why
Hopefully, the sound advice and guidance you have received so far will help get you through this difficult time. By now, you may have a better understanding of the importance of not becoming emotionally entrenched with your feelings of desperation. If you remain in this continual state of hopelessness and desperation, you are going to be less able to see things clearly and you will not be able to rationalise your own behaviour. Try to take a step back from this issue that appears to consume your every waking moment. By giving yourself the opportunity to recover from the shock and disbelief of the current situation, you will enable more scope for your wife to reach you/talk with you when the time comes. She might find getting through to you difficult if you are not a little more in control of your own feelings. There is also an element of respect that you might not have thought of in this time of stress, and that respect often comes in the form accepting another person's wishes. Whatever those wishes might be, one way or the other, your wants and needs are most likely secondary to those of your wife at this stage, because she needs to look after herself and her own feelings first so she can gather the strength to make decisions that are important to her. In the meantime, that means you need to take responsibility for yourself, your thoughts, your behaviour etc and in doing so, you will be taking care of yourself, rather than relying on someone else to pick up the pieces. Your wife is going to respect your efforts in self-preservation a lot more than watching you suffer. In taking care of herself, she needs to feel less burdened by the thought of having to nurture you through this. She has her own feelings to contend with and they will be her priority now. Therefore, you cannot deny yourself the same sort of benefit. If your wife can do it, then so must you in order to remain on top of things instead of sinking into an emotional bottom-less pit from which emerging is not going to be easy. So I suggest you make things easier for yourself rather than more difficult and come to terms with what's happening. Accept where things are at. Do not get your expectations up to an unrealistic level from which you may have to fall (if things don't go the way you want them to) and spend the time you have right now to focus on reducing the harmful effects of increasing your neediness and dependency on someone who is not prepared to come to your rescue at the moment. You must recognise the potential damage you may be doing to yourself in the process of wanting and needing someone so badly. Try a more independent approach to life today, tomorrow and perhaps futuristically. Your wife may respect such efforts far more than if she were see that you have remained dependent on her for such things. For your sake and wellbeing, you really must try.