Depression and mental illness affect 5% of the world population. Many times it takes a toll on family and friends. Can a marriage survive depression? We offer 5 keys to keep your marriage on a healthy track.
This is a guest post by Sophia Young, a freelance writer for lifestyle blogs and websites. See her bio below for details. It is also a part of our series called, Can A Marriage Survive, where we address big issues that challenge families and marriages.
It’s no secret that marriage is hard work. Even the happiest of couples will experience their fair share of ups and downs over the years. But what happens when one spouse is struggling with depression? Can a marriage survive if one partner is dealing with this mental health disorder?
Defining Depression and How It Can Impact a Marriage
Depression is more than just feeling sad or down in the dumps. It’s a real medical condition that can cause a person to feel hopeless, lose interest in activities they used to enjoy, and withdraw from friends and family.
Depression can make it difficult to concentrate at work, get out of bed in the morning, or even take care of basic self-care tasks like showering or eating.
For married couples, depression can be especially difficult. It can put a strain on the relationship and make it hard to maintain emotional intimacy. One partner may feel like they’re walking on eggshells around the other, and arguments may become more frequent.
If you’re married to someone with depression, it’s important to remember that the disorder is not their fault. Depression is a real medical condition that can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, and stressful life events. It’s not something that can be simply “snapped out of.”
For example, let’s say your spouse is dealing with the loss of a job. It’s understandable that they would be feeling down and may even be experiencing some symptoms of depression. However, if you try to tell them to just “cheer up” or “look on the bright side,” it’s not going to be helpful. In fact, it may only make them feel worse.
Or, if one of you suddenly gets incarcerated, that can trigger a depressive episode. The stress and isolation of being in prison can be very difficult to cope with, even for people without a history of mental health problems.
What Causes Depression?
Depression isn’t something you can choose to have or not have, it’s an actual physical illness like physical issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis.
Moods are like our emotions. Everyone has them, and they can change often. Sometimes, we might have a low mood, but it’s okay! It’s normal to have low moods sometimes, but they shouldn’t last forever and they shouldn’t stop us from doing things we love.
Major depression is different.
According to research done at the University of Michigan, depression is not feeling down, or experiencing a low mood moment. It is deeper and more profound.
Depression is a mood disturbance marked by feelings of hopelessness, sadness and negative thoughts that are more severe or prolonged than the usual range of sadness that most people experience. Many people with untreated depression find facing life is very difficult. They can’t “snap out of it” any more than a diabetic can regulate their blood sugar using willpower.
Depression is a challenging disease to treat and manage. For many people, it is a lifelong struggle. There are things that can help us feel better and move forward.
Its easy to focus on the negative aspects of our lives. We lose sight of what we do have. This is especially true for those of us living in a long-term relationship.The good news is that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Next, we show how to identify depression and later offer 5 keys to deal with it effectively.
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How to Identify Depression in Yourself or Your Spouse
Depression isn’t like having the flu. There are no obvious symptoms. If you feel blue most days, you might think you’re just feeling tired. Or maybe you’ve always been a little melancholy. Maybe you find yourself thinking about death every now and again. But if those thoughts start to dominate your life, you could be suffering from clinical depression.
If you’re not sure whether you or your spouse is dealing with depression, here are some common symptoms and signs to look out for:
- Feeling sad, empty, or hopeless most of the time
- Loss of interest in hobbies or activities that were once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite or weight (either weight loss or gain)
- Sleep issues (not enough or too much sleep)
- Lack of energy or feeling exhausted on a regular basis
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
It’s important to recognize the difference between normal sadness and clinical depression. Sadness is a natural emotion. It’s part of living. Depression is different. Clinical depression is a medical illness. It affects your ability to function normally. It makes you feel hopeless, worthless, guilty, angry, anxious…unable to enjoy anything.
These signs will help you zero in on your emotional state.
NOTE: If you think you are suffering from serious or clinical depression, please see a professional to get the help you need.
Warning Signs That Depression Is Causing Problems in Your Marriage
Depression can have a significant impact on your marriage, even if you don’t think you’re affected by the disorder. Here are some warning signs of depression that coule be causing problems in your relationship:
- You’re fighting more often than usual, or you’re having the same arguments over and over again without resolving anything.
- One or both of you has expressed interest in divorce or separation.
- You’re not being physically or emotionally intimate with each other anymore.
- One or both of you has developed an addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling, or sex.
- You’re feeling more disconnected from your spouse than ever before.
5 Steps to Ease the Burden of Depression on Your Marriage
If you’re struggling to keep your marriage afloat while dealing with depression, there are steps you can take to ease the burden on both yourself and your spouse:
#1 Talk about it.
Depression can be a very isolating illness, but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Talking to your spouse about what you’re going through can help them understand what you’re going through and provide the support you need. Just make sure to be honest about how you’re feeling and what you need from them.
Keep Your Family In The Loop
If you have children, try talking to them about depression as well. They may feel confused or scared by their parent’s moods, but they’ll also benefit from knowing there is someone who cares for them when they are sad.
If you find yourself in an especially dark place, don’t hesitate to reach out to friends and family members for help. It might seem like a lot of work at first, but it will ultimately pay off in the long run.
Take care of yourself.
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day struggles of life and forget to take care of yourself. Make sure you eat healthy meals, exercise regularly, and get plenty of rest. These things will help you cope better with depression and improve your overall quality of life.
It’s hard to stay connected with people when you’re depressed. But connecting with others helps you feel less isolated and gives you something else to focus on besides your own troubles. Find ways to connect with friends and family members outside of your home.
#2 Seek help together.
If your spouse is open to it, seek help together. This could mean therapy, medication, or both. It’s important to remember that depression is an illness, and like any other illness, it requires treatment. In seeking help together, you can show your spouse that you’re in this together and that you want to get better together.
Know The Facts About Depression
Depression affects nearly 21 million Americans every day. But many people don’t know what it is, how to recognize it, or where to turn for help.
If you’re concerned about someone you love, educate yourself about depression and bipolar disorder. Then ask your loved one’s doctor for resources that provide the facts about mental illness, such as the above-mentioned sites. They’ll give you the information you need to make good decisions about your loved one’s health care.
Get professional help.
Getting professional help is always the best way to deal with any kind of mental health issue. There are many different types of treatment options available, including medication, therapy, and counseling. Talk to your doctor about which option is right for you.
#3 Don’t blame yourself (or your spouse).
Depression can cause a lot of negative self-talk, but it’s important to remember that this isn’t your fault. And it’s also important not to blame your spouse for your depression or for anything that goes wrong in the marriage because of it.
Depression is an illness, plain and simple, and neither you nor your spouse is responsible for it. Instead, focus on working together to overcome it.
#4 Lean on each other.
One of the best things about being married is having someone who is always there for you—someone who loves you unconditionally and wants nothing more than to see you happy and healthy. Learn to depend on each other, especially during difficult times.
Allow yourselves to be vulnerable with each other and express what you’re feeling. You’ll be surprised at how much better you’ll feel just by knowing that your spouse is there for you no matter what.
Maybe the big term to go with this idea is ‘present.’ Be present.
It’s easy for partners to feel overwhelmed and check out. This is the opposite response to what is needed. Staying connected by leaning on each other is key to recovery.
#5 Take things one day at a time.
Depression can be overwhelming, so don’t try to take on too much at once. Just focus on taking things one day at a time—one hour at a time, even—and know that things will eventually get better.
Lean on your spouse for support and love during this tough time, and remember that you’re not alone in this fight.
Final Thoughts on Marriage and Depression
Depression can be a tough battle to fight—even tougher when you’re married—but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone in this fight. If you or your spouse are dealing with depression, talk about it openly, seek help together, and lean on each other for support while taking things one day at a time until things get better again.
- Defining Depression and How It Can Impact a Marriage
- What Causes Depression?
- How to Identify Depression in Yourself or Your Spouse
- Warning Signs That Depression Is Causing Problems in Your Marriage
- 5 Steps to Ease the Burden of Depression on Your Marriage
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Healthy Marriage Academy
Our courses will help you build a strong marriage. Each course is designed to meet a specific relationship need.
If you are having serious marriage struggles, we recommend starting with ‘Save the Marriage System‘ by Lee Baucom.