Marriage and Depression, pt. 3: Getting Your Needs Met 

In the first article in this series, I introduced you to Maurice and Ella. Maurice is depressed because he got let go from a big firm and has been out of work. At first, he thought he would find a new job, but time has elapsed and he is becoming more and more despondent. Ella, on the other hand, feels the future is looking good. She is a freelance writer and sells her material online. She thinks sales will increase going forward and this makes her feel particularly good. Maurice comes in with a hang-dog droop and it brings her down. I gave some ideas for Ella to try to reach out a helping hand to her husband.

In the second article, called The Paradox of Depression, we took a look at what Maurice could do to improve his mood given that being depressed means you don’t have much motivation to do anything.

In this article, I’d like to spotlight Ella and how she can remain upbeat. How can she get her needs met if she’s got this sad husband bringing her down?

Here are some steps Ella can take:

  • Just as her depressed husband has low energy right now, Ella can draw on her optimism to keep regenerating energy. What do I mean? The more Ella focuses on her prospects for the future and how realistic these prospects are, the more energy she will have. Should she allow her husband’s bleak thoughts to draw her in, she will also lose that energy and sparkle.
  • Ella can think of ways to nurture herself, a smart thing for everyone to do. She can give herself a bubble-bath and light candles in there if that is what would make her feel pampered; she can work out or take time to chat with friends in spite of her heavy workload.
  • It is important for Ella to be kind and nurturing to her husband but she also has to be careful to keep the relationship balanced. The more she allows her husband to lean on her, the weaker he will become and the more resentful she will become. Ella can ask her husband for favors and assistance even though he seems busy in his job search. Giving him things to do makes him feel worthwhile—and it reduces some of her load.
  • Ella can suggest date night and a rule should be made that they cannot talk about “the problem” on this date. They can go to a comedy club or do something else that is lighthearted. They can see a very serious movie that will put Maurice’s problem into proper perspective. The idea is to connect and to get some distance from “the problem.”
  • Cuddling without the burden of expecting more is warming and satisfying to both. If it does become more, so much the better!

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

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