Depression can take a toll on a marriage. When one partner is depressed it certainly impacts the other spouse. There are things that you can do if your spouse is depressed to help maintain your own mental health and also help the marriage.
Understand the Illness
Try not to take your spouse’s depression personally. Sometimes people think they can cheer up a depressed person or that their love alone will cure the depression. However, depression usually requires treatment in order to be resolved. Tradition treatment may come in the form of therapy, medication or a combination of the two.
Depression can make people irritable and angry in addition to sad. It can cause people to be apathetic about socializing and often they withdraw from friends and family. It can make the non-depressed spouse confused and infuriated when a partner won’t go to a family function or even a child’s soccer game.
A severely depressed spouse may have trouble going to work or even getting out of bed. Depression to this level can be very serious.
Also, when people are depressed, they sometimes lack hope that things will get better. As a result, depressed people sometimes don’t want to seek treatment or get help.
It is important to be supportive when someone has depression. Express your concerns and point out the behavioral changes that you notice. For example, say, “I see that you haven’t wanted to play golf at all this summer and you stopped going to the gym. I’m concerned about you.”
Sometimes depressed people have excuses or try to deny their feelings. A spouse may say, “I just haven’t felt like it,” or “I’m just not that interested in golf anymore.” These too, are signs of depression. A lack of interest in usual activities can certainly signal someone is depressed.
Ask if there is anything you can do to be helpful. Your spouse may be able to say, “I’m embarrassed to talk to my doctor,” or “I don’t know what to do because I’ve never felt like this.” If this is the case, discuss how you can work together on solving the problem.
Gently encourage your spouse to take part in activities. The more people refrain from doing activities, often the worse they feel. And although depressed people often don’t feel like doing anything, many times they feel better once they do.
Be careful that you don’t cross the line from supportive into enabling your spouse. If you enable your spouse, you’ll actually be helping them to stay sick. So beware that you don’t cross the line.
Enabling behaviors include those that take more responsibility for your partner’s illness than your partner does. For example, if your spouse refuses to get out of bed because he’s depressed, you don’t have to wait on him. If you deliver him food and drinks so he can stay in bed all the time, you’ll be helping him stay in bed, which is likely to make his depression worse.
Also, don’t take more responsibility for getting help than your partner is willing to do. If your spouse isn’t interested in counseling, don’t keep scheduling appointments just so your spouse can not show up. Or if your spouse has been prescribed medication, don’t take sole responsibility for reminding him to take it every day. A gentle reminder is fine but don’t nag or beg your spouse to take his medication. It’s essential that your spouse be willing to take some responsibility in his treatment.
When you enable someone you run the risk of keeping them sick and treating them more like a child rather than an equal partner. Neither of which is healthy for your relationship. It will also take a toll on your own mental health more than likely.
Taking care of yourself is essential. This means that you take steps to manage your stress and mental health. Just because your spouse is depressed, it doesn’t mean you have to join him.
If your spouse isn’t interested in attending family functions or social gatherings, it doesn’t mean you have to stay home. In fact, it is especially important that you continue to engage in social activities. And there’s no need to feel guilty if you are able to get out and enjoy yourself.
Also, consider seeking professional help for yourself. This is especially true if you find your mood worsening or if your sleep or personal care habits are interrupted. A counselor can assist you in finding ways to care for yourself and support your spouse.
Marital counseling may also be beneficial. A marriage counselor can assist you in taking a team approach to dealing with the depression and can address problems that the depression may be causing the marriage. And if your partner refuses to attend, consider going by yourself. One person attending marriage counseling is better than none.