Imagine that your spouse has had a sudden personality change. Maybe he is usually an upbeat person who loves to interact with people, and suddenly he is acting cynical and avoiding people (including you). Or perhaps your normally energetic wife is becoming increasingly lethargic and sad, spending more and more time in the bed or on the couch. One thing’s for sure: they’re acting completely out of character, and you can’t seem to get through to them.
At first, you feel angry. They’re saying things they normally wouldn’t say–things that disturb or upset you–and you can’t seem to help brighten their perspective. You’re suddenly shouldering their responsibilities as well as your own, and you’re quickly becoming overwhelmed. They should just snap out of it, right?
Depression is one of the most misunderstood illnesses, and it often goes undiagnosed. Marriages all over the world suffer as a result of undiagnosed or untreated depression. Normally loving, affectionate spouses can become mean or abusive, which devastates intimacy and can lead to divorce.
So when your spouse is depressed, how do you deal with it? Today we’re sharing some tips to help you protect yourself and your marriage as you weather a season of depression.
Keep in mind that, in an ideal situation, your depressed spouse is willing to seek support and treatment. However, this is often not the case. These tips will help you to deal with your spouse’s depression in almost any scenario.
Learn as much as you can about depression.
Educating yourself to understand depression will help you to be able to identify your spouse’s depressive behaviors and patterns (particularly the ones that aren’t always obvious). Resist the urge to dump all of your newfound knowledge on your spouse, however; a depressed person will not benefit from information overload about a condition they may or may not have accepted in themselves.
Create a support system for yourself.
It’s critical to safeguard yourself from depression, because you’re at a higher risk of developing it when your spouse is depressed. Your spouse’s illness can quickly destroy your joy and zap your energy, sending you on a downward spiral. Even though you can help support them during a season of depression, you can’t take it all on alone. That’s why it’s critical to seek and rely on support for yourself.
Depending on the situation, this looks different for different people. You might have a therapist or trusted church leader you can seek for counseling, or maybe you’ve got a few godly, trustworthy friends you can lean on. Also, be sure to guard your sleep and take care of your body; you’ll need to maintain your health in order to lower your chances of slipping into depression.
Don’t allow yourself to become isolated.
Depression creates a cycle of isolation and shame for the sufferer, and as their spouse, you’re also susceptible to becoming isolated (which can then trigger depression in you, as discussed above). Individuals with depression are prone to feeling ashamed of their condition, thus distancing themselves from friends and family.
Gently encourage your spouse to continue interacting with family and friends. Even if they’re unable or unwilling to stay connected in their relationships while depressed, make sure you remain connected to yours. This is critical to maintaining your support system.
Help your spouse seek outside support.
It takes a considerable amount of sensitivity to approach your spouse about getting help for their depression, and sometimes they’re unwilling to explore treatment options. If your spouse is open to seeking treatment and therapy, help them to research different possible solutions to choose which one is right for the two of you.
Love and support your spouse unconditionally.
Depression is a dark cloud that descends over your spouse and your marriage. It can be tempting to withdraw from your depressed spouse as a self-preservation tactic, but do your best to resist distancing yourself. Your spouse needs to know how much you love them; it’s so important to communicate that you’re on their side, and that you are there for them.
Remember, there is hope! Although depression is a harrowing and painful season to experience in your marriage, when it has passed, the two of you will be closer than ever before. Hold onto your faith and one another, take one day at a time, and you will come out on the other side.
Have you or your spouse experienced depression? How did you protect your marriage during that season? We would love to hear from you in the comments section!