Love/Relationship Columnist
Couples Dealing with Depression
May 2, 2011 - 6:04:15 AM

( - Depression is a very common emotion. We all become depressed from time to time. Luckily, it does not last long for most of us, however, couples who deal with chronic depression are not so fortunate. Chronic depression returns consistently and, while it is rarely a cause for divorce, it is the cause of other symptoms couples complain about. Depression is often the cause for withdrawal, seeking an affair, physical abuse, emotional abuse and verbal abuse. Couples react to the symptoms of depression rather than confronting the real problem: depression.

Communication within the relationship is often harmed the most by depression. When one of the partners is depressed, they go deep inside themselves and don’t think about how their partner feels. They don’t do it on purpose; depression is all consuming. You cannot think of anyone and usually aren’t thinking about yourself either. It is insidious because often you don’t know you are depressed until the depression begins lifting and you can see colors again and feel hope. The partner of the depressed person has a huge role in helping; however, if you have ever lived with a depressed person, you understand how difficult that can be. Many times, your depressed partner wants to be left alone. They don’t talk or interact with the family. They may drink, smoke, or eat, and you begin feeling like you are in a relationship with yourself. Many times you are in a relationship with yourself because your depressed partner cannot join you emotionally, verbally, or physically. It becomes difficult to feel desire for someone you have to take care of emotionally or physically for extended periods of time.

There are coping mechanisms that may help you while when your partner is depressed. Reacting to your partner’s chronic depression by seeking someone outside the relationship will not only make your depressed partner more depressed, but it will add to the stress you already feel living with a depressed partner.

1. The first place to begin is with a medical check-up. You may have to help your depressed spouse make the appointment and follow through. There are many reasons for depression including hormones, diabetes, hypertension, cancer and psychology. It is important to know the source of the depression prior to medication or other helpful therapies. Don’t be afraid to be part of the discussion with your partner and their doctor. Educating yourself will help you understand how best to help your partner.
2. A support group is so helpful to someone struggling with depression. Not only does it make the person realize they are not alone, but it also adds an element of social interaction which is usually lost when someone becomes depressed. Online support groups work well for people who are homebound as well as their partner. This is a wonderful way to get counseling in an affordable, comfortable setting. This is a good web site to start the search.

3. One reason couples fall apart when depression afflicts one of the partners is due to lack of support for the care giving partner. This is not a time to be aloof or a warrior. When you are married to someone with depression, you need more family and friends to help support you. If your partner is not willing to go to dinner, church, a sporting event, the theatre, or your children’s school event, make it a plan to go with friends or family. Reaching out to others will not only help you care for your depressed partner, but it could help save your sanity. Most chronic depression is manageable with medication so when your partner begins to see the light, they will be grateful you cared for yourself and your family in their absence.
4. Make sure you talk to your children about what mom or dad is suffering from. When kids understand a situation they usually try to help make it better. Telling them will not make it worse; most kids are much more intuitive then adults credit them with.
5. Remind yourself and your kids that your partner is ill. Depression many times is seen as something you can talk yourself out of. Mild depression is a matter of making yourself follow though and changing your attitude, but severe depression is not. The only solution to severe depression is medication and counseling. These two methods work the best for alleviating depression and restoring one’s emotional health.

More than 30,000 Americans kill themselves each year due to suicide ( Depression is the cause of the majority of suicides. It is an illness, and one that is curable. Depression also causes the suicide of a marriage. It doesn’t have to. In order for it not to, the partner has to be aware that their partner is suffering from depression. The single most significant way a partner can help a depressed partner is to reassure them that they are a team. That they have tackled most things together and will tackle depression together too! –Mary Jo Rapini

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