Marriage and Depression: How Should You Handle a Depressed Spouse? 

Your spouse is miserable. Maybe now is the time to be a giver.

Maurice came in silently. There was no, “Hello! How are you? How was your day?” He brought a chill into the house without a word. He carefully stamped the snow off his boots, then he just as carefully arranged them by the door and hung up his coat. He seemed to be delaying the inevitable face-to-face encounter with his wife, the questions that would follow.

Maurice could be in the dumps because work didn’t go well or because he’s searching for work and can’t find it. He could be depressed most of the time and Ella doesn’t know how to get through to him. He could be down on himself or even down on her for reasons with which he himself isn’t quite in touch.

And Maurice could be pushing Ella away with this chill. It is quite possible that seeing someone else happy and full of hope for the future is particularly grating for someone who has lost hope and has forgotten what happiness feels like.

Ella had been working hard on the computer. She was excited because her online possibilities kept growing. She could see the economic potential in her writing; there was a huge demand for capable fiction writers. She could barely tear herself away, but with a bright smile she turned toward the door as Maurice came in. The smile slipped off her face as quickly as it had appeared. She felt the chill Maurice brought inside and she suddenly didn’t know what to say.

“He’s in a bad mood again,” she thought. “Now what?” She immediately felt annoyed. Once again, he was spoiling her good day. Should she tell him about it? Should she demand he attend to her needs for a change? The problem with this is that it comes out as selfish. He is depressed and he certainly doesn’t want to be. If he can’t meet his own needs for happiness, how can he meet hers?

On the other hand, should Ella honor the signals that Maurice is giving off and just avoid him? There’s a problem with this, too. Maurice’s depressed mood is an imposition on Ella. It is Maurice’s responsibility to make some attempts to pull himself out of his mood. Often, talking to one’s spouse helps. By sending signals of “Leave me alone,” Maurice is both cutting off help that she might offer and raining on her parade. He is setting the tone for the house and that is not quite fair.

There is a third choice.

Ella can approach Maurice gently and with patience, asking him how she could be of help to him getting over his bad mood. If all Maurice wants is to be left alone, then it is appropriate for him to say so politely and with understanding that this is not the answer she would want to hear. He can say, “I’m really not up to talking right now. I’m sorry.”

At the same time, it is legitimate for Ella to ask him when they could sit down and talk. Later, at that talk, it is appropriate for her to be gentle, patient, and a good listener. It would not be the right time for her to demand that he meet her needs. The fact that Maurice is making Ella miserable with his bad mood may be a cue that instead of thinking of herself, this might be the right time to be a giver.

“DrDeb” Hirschhorn, Ph.D. How would you like to start over—with the SAME spouse! Get video tips of the week–subscribe at

One Response to “Marriage and Depression: How Should You Handle a Depressed Spouse?”

  1. It will take a lot of courage for the spouse to face with the depression problem experienced by her partner. She will need a good dose of positivity as well as patience. By being strong and courageous, she will be able to help the partner. To be fair, I agree that the depressed husband needs to make an attempt to pull himself out of his mood.

Leave a Reply