Did you know that untreated depression is one of the main reasons for marital problems and divorce? In fact, in relationships where one of the partners suffers from depression, the divorce rate is nine times higher.
If you suspect that your spouse or significant other may be suffering from depression, you’ve no doubt already seen the problems escalate in your marriage and life. What can you do to help your partner recover, protect your marriage, and keep from becoming miserable or depressed yourself?
Here’s What To Do
Educate yourself about all aspects of depression. Your challenge is to keep your love and your relationship intact until professional treatment can alleviate your spouse’s depressive illness. Begin by learning all you can about depression, its symptoms and treatment. The more you know about depression, the better you can help your spouse, your marriage and yourself. Very important:
— Understand that depression is an illness. Your spouse did not “choose” to become depressed.
— Realize and accept that no one is to “blame” for the situation. People do not deserve to be depressed. And, despite what your spouse may say, you are not to blame either.
— Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. You will help your spouse recover faster and help lower your own frustration by learning as much as you can about what depression feels like from your spouse’s point of view.
- Realize that depression is the foe, not your spouse. View depression as an “it” that has entered your life and intruded upon your long-established relationship with the person you love. The more clearly you can perceive your spouse’s illness as the newly arrived “it,” the better you will grapple with “it’s” impact on everyone concerned.
- Seek professional help. Encourage your spouse to seek professional treatment as soon as possible. The first step is for them to see a doctor and ask to be examined for depression. Once a treatment program is prescribed, helping may involve monitoring whether your spouse is taking their prescribed medication, or encouraging them to stay with treatment until symptoms begin to abate (several weeks). Helpful: Develop a “we” approach instead of an “I” approach with your spouse toward depression treatment.
Note: If depression has been present for a long time, both the depression and the relationship will require attention.
- Offer your spouse support and encouragement. Be there for them. Give them a shoulder to cry on or just listen while they vent their feelings. Be patient with them. Let them know you care. Share the things you’ve learned while researching depression. Remind them that their depression is not their fault and that they are not weak or worthless. Keep reassuring your spouse that with time and help, he or she will feel better.
- Take care of yourself. Living with a depressed person can leave you feeling confused, demoralized, angry and resentful. These feelings are a valid response to a very trying situation. Talk to a trusted friend, join a support group or seek individual counseling to vent your frustrations rather than allowing them to build up inside. Don’t allow your spouses depression to completely overtake your life. Make time for yourself and continue to participate in things you enjoy doing. Periodically take some time to step back from the situation and recharge your batteries.