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Living with a Depressed Spouse is Ruining My Marriage: Help!!

Living with a depressed spouse can be challenging, but how can you stop it from ruining your marriage? Get the answer on HealthyPlace.

Living with a depressed spouse or being married to someone with depression can bring about many challenges.  Not only is it hard to understand what depression is like if you haven't experienced it, but communication can also be difficult for someone who is depressed. Your partner may be unwilling to ask for help, which can be doubly frustrating when you want them to get better. Here's what to do if you feel like living with a depressed spouse is ruining your marriage.

What’s It Like to Live with a Depressed Spouse?

Living with a depressed spouse can cause all sorts of problems. Firstly, many couples lose their ability to problem-solve when they cannot communicate, and depression makes talking and reasoning difficult for some people. Partners of people with depression may also need to take on the burden of extra household chores or childcare responsibilities, or else they may be the sole earner, which puts a financial strain on the relationship. Depression can also have a negative effect on sex and intimacy.

It's important to remember that all of this is temporary and that in most cases, depression is a treatable illness.

An individual’s experience of living with a depressed spouse is also dependent on the severity of their partner’s illness. Just like any serious illness, depression can cause a rift in a marriage, or it can unite couples, so they become even closer. Whether or not your spouse's depression has a negative impact on your relationship is dependent on how severe their depression symptoms are, as well as how you respond to and meet their needs.  

Tips for Managing When Your Spouse Is Depressed

Being married to someone with depression doesn't need to harm your relationship. As long as you stay on the same team, the experience could deepen your understanding of one another and improve your communication skills.

Here are some tips to help make living with a depressed spouse a little easier:

Let go of resentment

When you love someone with depression, remember that depression is the enemy, not your spouse. To maintain a strong and happy partnership, you should direct any feelings of anger or resentment you have toward the illness rather than to one another. For example, instead of saying, "I hate it when you refuse to communicate with me," you could say, "I hate it when depression makes it hard for us to communicate." This way, your partner doesn't feel attacked or blamed, but you can still make your feelings heard.

Encourage honesty and open communication

According to UK depression charity, Blurt, honesty is incredibly important when you're living with a depressed spouse, and it should come from both sides:

"It is better to be completely honest from the word ‘go.' It's a lot for the ‘well' person to take in too, so it's only fair that they are aware of our (the depressed person's) additional needs."

Encourage your partner to be honest with you, and don't be afraid to be honest back. If you're feeling worried or confused, share this with your spouse in a way that doesn't point the finger or make your partner feel ashamed.

You may need to be honest with other people in your lives, such as friends and family members, about your partner's illness. If you have children, you can tell them in an age-appropriate way that your partner is unwell and how depression affects them. You should always check with your partner before disclosing their illness to other people.

Encourage your spouse to get treatment

If you’re married to someone with depression, encouraging treatment for depression is one of the most helpful things you can do. In most cases, depression is highly treatable, and people who begin a course of antidepressant medication or therapy can start to feel better in as little as six weeks.

However, you can't force treatment on somebody who is not ready to seek help. Without being pushy, gently make your partner aware of their options, and let them know that you're there to help in any way you can – be it driving them to appointments, assisting them with daily tasks or providing emotional support.

Build your own support system

Living with depression may be incredibly difficult for your spouse, but it's also hard for you, too. While empathy, communication and support through treatment are important, you cannot pour from an empty cup. You must acknowledge and attend to your own needs, whether this means planning a day of self-care, taking time alone to process your emotions, or building your own support system of family and friends.

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2019, April 25). Living with a Depressed Spouse is Ruining My Marriage: Help!!, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 26 from https://www.healthyplace.com/depression/relationships/living-with-a-depressed-spouse-is-ruining-my-marriage-help

Last Updated: May 17, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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