Coping With A Depressed Spouse
Depression can put a heavy strain on your marriage. The severity of symptoms can vary from person to person. It can feel difficult to live with a spouse whos unhappy, critical, or negative. Adding to your frustration may be your spouses reluctance or refusal to get help.
As much as you want to help your spouse, youll also need to be able to cope with their depression yourself. This lets you combat the illness as a team. Here are some simple ways you can learn to cope.
What If Your Loved One Refuses Therapy
Staying upbeat and getting out and doing things is easier said than done because often a depressed person feels the opposite: negative, lacking the energy and desire to do much of anything, including seeking therapy or being open to taking medication. What do you do then?
Dont feel hopeless, Barber said. Try to stay positive yourself. Depression often is treatable, so if you can convince them to stick with therapy and medication for a few months, up to 90% of people with depression do improve with treatment.
Even if they reject professional help, give them affection. Be encouraging. Invite them to do activities together that are fun, such as take a walk or go to the beach if theres one nearby. Or, go to an outdoor concert or listen to music that you both enjoy.
One behavior that I sometimes prescribe for couples is to read to each other, said Ben-David. This has a nurturing quality, and can help with bonding.
Meanwhile, take care of yourself. Its imperative while you help your depressed spouse. You might even choose to start therapy yourself, expressing how you feel about your marriage, and find ways to cope.
Create New Enjoyment Spaces
Beurkens suggests looking for enjoyment outside of your relationship.
Enjoyment with other people or in other places may make you feel guilty at first if youre not used to it. However, being able to connect with joy can help you improve your mood, which in turn can help your spouse.
Creating new spaces to share with your spouse may help, too. Living with depression doesnt mean they cant experience joy and happiness, even though it may be challenging at times.
If theyre up for it, consider inviting them to do something out of the ordinary, or reconnect with some of the activities they used to enjoy.
Not having expectations regarding the outcome of these moments may be helpful. Its natural if they have a difficult time and cant seem to have a good time. If this is the case, try to continue finding alternative spaces for you to enjoy solo or with other people.
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They May Become More Sullen And Withdrawn Than Usual
Maybe they used to be the life of the party and always upbeat and cheerful. Now they are very withdrawn, always in their shell and melancholic and looking sullen. For the man, he could maybe walk around with a slouch and a scowl on his face. They do not want to be disturbed and nearly bite off anyones head who wants to draw them into a conversation.
Check For Underlying Conditions
Dozens of health conditionsincluding heart disease, diabetes, lupus, viral infections, and chronic paincan trigger the same symptoms as depression, Walfish notes. So can scores of prescription medications, including some birth-control pills and drugs that treat acne, herpes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cancer. Your family doctor can rule out underlying causes and decide whether or not its really depression.
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How To Help A Partner With Depression
If you suspect your partner is dealing with depression,Dr. Borland recommends these five action items:
1. Encourage your partner to seek professional help
Depression is treatable. So rather than ignoring theproblem or trying to fix it yourselves, enlist the help of a primary caredoctor or psychiatrist.
Depression can be hard to talk about. It helps to work onassertive communication. Share your feelings and concerns without playing theblame game. Start sentences with I statements that focus on your feelings,such as, I noticed, or, Im worried. Talk openly about symptoms youve seenand how you want to help.
2. Work as a team
If talk therapy is part of your partners treatment, join their first few sessions or more. Your partner may also want you to participate in meetings about medications.
Being depressed can be scary, Dr. Borland relates. Your spouse will benefit from all the support you can offer.
3. Practice self-care
Maintain your own health and well-being. You may alsobenefit from your own outpatient therapy. This is not you being selfish itsmaking sure that you have enough in your tank to help your partner and family,Dr. Borland reassures. You need to carve out time for yourself without feelingguilty.
4. Dont take it personally
Depression isnt anyones fault. Give your partner a senseof security and support even when theyre acting out. This takes patience andcommitment but its worth the effort.
5. Educate yourself
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Acknowledge The Problem But Dont Try To Fix It
When you see your spouse feeling depressed, its important that you dont run away from them. Dealing with depression and sadness is daunting. The instinct is often to run away, because you dont know what to do.
The most important thing for you to do when your spouse is feeling depressed is to acknowledge to them that you see that they are depressed. Just knowing that your partner is aware of how you are feeling can help people manage their depression.
Once you have acknowledged their depression, is it important that you dont try to talk your partner out of it. Dont say, “But your life is great, why are you depressed?” or, “Its such a pretty day out be happy,” or, “Snap out of it.”
All of those things will only serve to let your spouse know that you dont, in fact, understand the place they are in. This will only make them feel worse, because they know all those things to be true, but cant seem snap out of it.
So, when your spouse is feeling depressed, acknowledge what you see, but dont try to “fix” it.
What Is Male Depression
As men, we like to think of ourselves as strong and in control of our emotions. When we feel hopeless or overwhelmed by despair we often deny it or try to cover it up. But depression is a common problem that affects many of us at some point in our lives, not a sign of emotional weakness or a failing of masculinity.
Depression impacts millions of men of all ages and backgrounds, as well as those who care about themspouses, partners, friends, and family. Of course, its normal for anyone to feel down from time to time. Dips in mood are an ordinary reaction to losses, setbacks, and disappointments in life. However, male depression changes how you think, feel, and function in your daily life. It can interfere with your productivity at work or school and impact your relationships, sleep, diet, and overall enjoyment of life. Severe depression can be intense and unrelenting.
Unfortunately, depression in men often gets overlooked as many of us find it difficult to talk about our feelings. Instead, we tend to focus on the physical symptoms that often accompany male depression, such as back pain, headaches, difficulty sleeping, or sexual problems. This can result in the underlying depression going untreated, which can have serious consequences.
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Dont Take Responsibility For Their Feelings Either
We are all responsible for our actions, as well as the way we feel. Of course if you did something to hurt your spouse, you need to take responsibility for this, but partners are rarely responsible for their partners depression. Many partners feel as if they should somehow have the power to heal or help fix the depression, causing them a great deal of stress. In reality, depression is a serious, complicated disorder that almost always requires the help of a professional. For a partner to take responsibility for their partners feelings is not only ineffective, it is often harmful, causing undue stress on the relationship, and prolonging the healing process. Having healthy boundaries is not only necessary for a good relationship, it also is very important to retain your own sanity while trying to be helpful to your partner.
I had a client describe her husband as follows: He just mopes around all the time! He drives me crazy. When we dug deeper, we discovered that the thing that was driving her most crazy was the fact that she was feeling angry at herself for not being able to fix him. This often causes the depressed partner to feel like a burden, worsening the depression. It is okay for you to feel good even though your partner is depressed.
Maintain Your Duties When Depressed
Before reaching a crisis point, Wade recommends reaching an agreement about goalsâdown to the specifics of when to get out of bed or how much television to watch. Then put that written daily routine someplace readily visible so you can both remain accountable. Sure, keeping the house clean is nice, but the main goal of this is for the note to serve as a âwritten reminder to keep living.â
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Put Your Thoughts On The Witness Stand
Once you identify the destructive thoughts patterns that contribute to your depression, you can start to challenge them with questions such as:
- Whats the evidence that this thought is true? Not true?
- What would I tell a friend who had this thought?
- Is there another way of looking at the situation or an alternate explanation?
- How might I look at this situation if I didnt have depression?
As you cross-examine your negative thoughts, you may be surprised at how quickly they crumble. In the process, youll develop a more balanced perspective and help to relieve your depression.
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Don’t Get Bogged Down In Stigma Or Angry Feelings
Dealing with a partner’s depression can provoke anger and resentment, especially if one spouse is often making excuses for a loved one’s social absences, or if some household responsibilities might need to temporarily shift.
When a spouse acts withdrawn and unaffectionate, a couple’s sex life and level of intimacy will suffer. There is also a sense of shame attached to having a mental health disorder, which can prevent a depressed spouse from seeking help for a treatable illness.
Dont Forget To Put Yourself First
It is hard to watch someone we love struggle, but you are not responsible for their mental well being.
You are only responsible for supporting your spouse. But let me clarify what I mean by supporting.
Supporting can mean paying attention to, like actively listening if your spouse sharing how they feel. This can also include, attending to, or letting your spouse know that you notice they are struggling, then asking if they need anything, like for you to make dinner tonight, or a night out with friends, or an ear for listening and validating.
What I dont mean is for you to take over everything and self sacrifice yourself. And yet this is a tricky balance.
On the one hand it hurts to see your partner struggling and you dont want to hurt anymore. Because it is emotionally painful watching the people we love struggle.
And on the other hand, it is more powerful for your partner to feel emotionally validated by you, so they can choose what works best for them in order to get better. It is also important to realize, that what may work best for them, is working with a professional.
It can be hard to hold this internal boundary, but boundaries are actually what create connection in relationships.
Living with a spouse who has depression can be challenging for both of you. You are not alone. There are many couples that struggle with depression. You may have times of experiencing depression yourself as well.
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Tip : Seek Social Support
Work commitments can often make it difficult for men to find time to maintain friendships, but the first step to tackling male depression is to find people you can really connect with, face-to-face. That doesnt mean simply trading jokes with a coworker or chatting about sports with the guy sitting next to you in a bar. It means finding someone you feel comfortable sharing your feelings with, someone wholl listen to you without judging you, or telling you how you should think or feel.
You may think that discussing your feelings isnt very macho, but whether youre aware of it or not, youre already communicating your feelings to those around you youre just not using words. If youre short-tempered, drinking more than usual, or punching holes in the wall, those closest to you will know somethings wrong. Choosing to talk about what youre going through, instead, can actually help you feel better.
How To Reach Out For Depression Support
Look for support from people who make you feel safe and cared for. The person you talk to doesnt have to be able to fix you they just need to be a good listener-someone wholl listen attentively and compassionately without being distracted or judging you.
Make face-time a priority. Phone calls, social media, and texting are great ways to stay in touch, but they dont replace good old-fashioned in-person quality time. The simple act of talking to someone face to face about how you feel can play a big role in relieving depression and keeping it away.
Try to keep up with social activities even if you dont feel like it. Often when youre depressed, it feels more comfortable to retreat into your shell, but being around other people will make you feel less depressed.
Find ways to support others. Its nice to receive support, but research shows you get an even bigger mood boost from providing support yourself. So find ways-both big and small-to help others: volunteer, be a listening ear for a friend, do something nice for somebody.
Care for a pet. While nothing can replace the human connection, pets can bring joy and companionship into your life and help you feel less isolated. Caring for a pet can also get you outside of yourself and give you a sense of being needed-both powerful antidotes to depression.
Even if youve retreated from relationships that were once important to you, make the effort to reconnect.
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What To Do If Your Spouse Is Depressed
When ones spouse is depressed, it automatically strains your marriage. Its not easy to live with a depressed, unhappy, critical, and a negative partner. At the same time, it is not impossible to take your partner to get help from a psychiatrist.
Dr Jay Baer, a psychist and director of ambulatory services, said to Live Science Depression varies tremendously in severity, but it has many behavioural impacts that can profoundly affect all significant relationships.
One may not know how to identify that their partners are in depression and lend their support and help towards them. According to tiny step, one cannot identify the signs of depression easily and need to observe them carefully. If your partner is a very social person and always mingles around with people, but suddenly, starts to distance themselves from everyone to be alone most of the time, then that is something to worry about.