Anyone who's married knows that relationships take work. But when one person is affected by depression, they often lose the ability to participate in the work of cultivating a loving relationship, and the consequences can be devastating. While a person with depression might be stranded in feelings of sadness and inadequacy, we often forget that their spouse bears an equal burden. Spouses, too, suffer from feelings of inadequacy when they fail to "fix" their loved one. Watching your partner slowly deteriorate into a void of darkness creates a sense of helplessness and self-blame that can run rampant. Resentment and anger often pushes its way to the forefront of the relationship.
Even if only one person in a marriage is diagnosed with depression, it leaves its mark on both partners. That’s the deceit of depression—the deception that, even if you put a name to it, only one of you is suffering the symptoms.
No one chooses to be depressed. It isn't like having a bad day or a case of the blues. It's a physical illness that can be life-threatening if ignored. Depression is marked by dramatic shifts in brain chemistry that alter mood, thoughts, sleep, appetite, and energy levels.
Even if only one person in a marriage is diagnosed with depression, it leaves its mark on both partners.
You may not have depression, but if you are around someone who is depressed, you feel the negative energy that emanates from it. If there’s depression in your marriage, it’s time to take action—for your partner and yourself. Waiting increases the chances of damage to your marriage. Marriages with depression are eight times more likely to divorce (1). Trying to ignore or make peace with this often-misunderstood illness will only make it harder. The longer a non-depressed spouse lives with a depressed partner, the higher his or her own risks are for developing depression. The deeper a depressed partner descends into the darkness, the tougher it may be to finally treat the depression. The stakes are high, but the odds are, with the right intervention, things can improve.
Little changes help along the way. Look for the signs and triggers. Often, it’s up to the non-depressed spouse to take the lead: The illness itself often prevents depressed people from seeking the help they need or recognizing that something is amiss. They may feel too lethargic or withdrawn—or they may simply be in denial. Many are simply too proud to ask for help and prefer to try and fix it on their own, without involving their spouse.
The stakes are high, but the odds are, with the right intervention, things can improve.
There is light at the end of the tunnel. Usually the road back is relatively simple: counseling, exercise and healthy eating. Supplements like Magnesium and Vitamin B12 can also help. That said, recovery isn't easy, and the process may be long—but have patience. There may be an initial trial-and-error period while trying various therapeutic techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal counseling. The results are worth the fight. The marriage is worth the effort.