When one spouse is depressed, a marriage is depressed. As depression often erodes emotional and sexual intimacy. It also floods the relationship with negativity that can cause resentment, anger and isolation.
Even the happiest, strongest spouse may get pulled into the depressions strong undertow. You may become overwhelmed with the extra responsibilities and tasks you need to take on, you may be resentful because your spouse won’t just “snap out of it” or you may feel like you are to blame and feel like you are failing your spouse or the marriage in some way. You may also feel lonely, and wonder if the relationship will ever get back the spark it once had.
All of these feelings are valid and natural. I’m well known for my work helping hundreds of couples to save their marriage and depression comes up frequently. Helping couples navigate the symptoms of depression is something I am personally passionate about. As I would not be doing what I do now if it was not for my mum’s depression. From as young as I can remember my mum has been in and out of depression. She was very aggressive with it, when I was young: always shouting and often hurting us. Over time she has turned more inward where she attacks herself or has paranoia and anxiety with it. Every few years or so she now seems to have a relapse and it’s heart-breaking to witness. Listening to her criticize herself, be negative about everything daily or struggle to get out of bed. It’s sometimes so hard to hear inside I sometimes want to shout at her to get on with life, but then I remind myself that like millions of other suffers of depression she can’t help it. Depression is not a choice it’s a physical illness and is as life-altering as arthritis and diabetes.
If there is depression in your marriage, it’s time to take action. For yourself and your partner. Waiting for things to get better on their own is not a good strategy for your relationship. Sadly depressed couples are nine times more likely to divorce. So as well as getting medical help there are some positive steps you can take to help minimize the negativity and any fall out, to strengthen your relationship as well as look after yourself, so you can move forward.
- Don’t Take the Symptoms of Depression Personally
One of the key symptoms of depression is a skewed sense of reality, seeing only the negative and feeling that everything is worse that it is. In relationships this can often lead to a lack of enthusiasm for joint activities, sex, even conversation. If your partner has lost interest in the essential aspects of the relationship it can hurt and it’s hard not to take it personally. Yet it’s also very likely that the reason they’re not interested in those things has absolutely nothing to do with you.
The problem is that the symptoms of depression are the exact opposite of what is needed for a happy healthy marriage. In my online programs I help couples to create space for more affection, intimacy, laughter, fun and engaging conversation. We look at breaking away from routines that don’t support them, you cannot have a great relationship if when you get in from work you absorb yourself in netflicks or social media for hours, then sleep for hours barely talking or interacting. I usually take this as a warning sign that couples need to work on their marriage. Yet if this is happening because your spouse is depressed their lack of interest in interacting is not necessarily about you. If they had back pain they may not want to go out on as many dates, be active or have as much sex and you can see why. With depression the problem is hidden and it’s hard not to take it personally or wonder if you are doing something to make them depressed.
- Create a Plan to Tackle the symptoms of depression together
There is no doubt that a husband or wife’s depression can tear a marriage apart but with the right strategy it can also bring a couple closer together. Creating a plan to tackle the symptoms of depression together is going to help you, them and the relationship. Helping them to get treatment if they are willing is a massive first step. Then you also need to take action on the relationship. . Ideally you will work together on this, however if they are unwilling – don’t feel that you cannot do anything. I have helped thousands of individuals single-handedly turn their marriage around now through my online programs and several of them were with partners who were showing the symptoms of depression.
A supportive, loving and connected relationship will really benefit your partner. When working on the relationship, the key is empathetic, open dialogue focused on solutions not the past. When a husband or wife come to me concerned as their partner is showing the symptoms of depression I invite them both to
- Think of things they can plan in the future, so they both have several things to look forward to.
- Suggest any changes to their routines and habits, they think could support the relationship better and reduce arguments or shutdown
- Follow steps I lay out to help reduce negativity and resentment, which increases closeness
- See depression as the problem not each other. When you jointly regard “the depression” as causing a problem with your spouse’s health, your marriage and home life, it allows you both to talk about it without blame or shame. You can literally say “that’s the depression talking” or “they don’t normally think this way.”
- Talk openly. If you don’t talk about the depression it becomes the elephant in the room and can often breakdown a couples communication.
It’s important never to force treatment or make ultimatums. If they are reluctant that doesn’t mean you cannot do anything to help yourself or the relationship. One person can greatly influence a marriage, I get to see this all the time.
- Recognise Bad Days Will Pass
My mother’s symptoms of depression seem to come and go in waves. There may be a few good days, where she seems motivated and positive and then this can be followed by a bad day. On these days I just need to remind myself that she didn’t decide to wake up feeling hopeless, de-motivated and down. That her bad days like my bad days when I’m tired or ill will pass. On these days I see it as a test to show how much love I can show her and remind her what she means to me.
My mother has said to me “Nicola, I know you say you love me but I don’t feel any love, I don’t feel anything.” It hurts to hear this, but I cannot imagine how painful it must be for her to feel this. The problem with depression is that it is difficult to feel any positive emotion. Happy things or exciting things, don’t make you happy or excited However when I accept her for all of her feelings she seems to get better quicker, as I’m not adding to her already confusing emotions by being angry or upset. This took me years of practice and I still have times when I find it hard especially when she says negative things about me and my life.
- Take Good Care of Yourself
This includes creating a good support network, nurturing yourself and having an outlet for stress. Your partners emotional well-being is not your responsibility to fix. Depression in a relationship can lead to a lack of interest in sex, conversation and activities. These are definitely issues that need to be addressed, however it is also crucial to understand that having depression and being unhappy with your relationship are two different problems. If your partner tells you that the reason they are unhappy is not to do with you, accept it and focus on working through the issues and finding a way forward. Self love is taking action to keep healthy, happy and grow personally.
The good news is, it’s not hopeless. A depressed partner can cause stress in a relationship. So can a death in the family, money troubles, or an affair. Just like any other problem, you can get marriage support and revitalize your relationship together. This can be the best gift you give your partner and yourself.
I just want to say a huge thank you, if you are reading this and helping someone you love manage his or her mental illness. Often this role can be thankless, where a loved one my curse blame or condemn you. Yet your love, care and support can go a long way, so don’t give up. Most of the time, your loved one can and will get well again. For those who lost the battle and lost a loved one to suicide there aren’t any words I can say to make the pain any less, however please remember: what s/he did was not out of lack of love for you. People die by cancer. They also die by mental illness. The more we can break the silence and shame around it, the better we can understand and master the disease.
If you are suffering right now in your marriage because one of you are showing the symptoms of depression and you want to explore what relationship support may look like, contact me for your free new beginning consultation email@example.com and I will send you a link to book a slot in my calendar.
From my heart to yours, Nicola
P.S If you haven’t already signed up for my marriage secret master-class – do so here where I give you 90 Minutes Training on how to create the relationship you dreamed of on your wedding day. Visit https://training.nicolabeer.com/webinar-signup
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