Facing illness together is one of life’s biggest challenges. When one spouse suffers from depression, this can put a serious strain on the relationship which isn’t easy to navigate through for either side. Being the one going through depression certainly is a difficult, desperate place to be in, but finding oneself on the opposite end in your partnership can be just as hard.
The symptoms of depression vary from person to person. Your partner may be irritable; lose interest in hobbies, work, or sex; they may begin engaging in reckless behaviour. They may have trouble sleeping, undergo appetite or weight changes, or begin experiencing unexplained aches and pains. They may exhibit deep unhappiness and believe themselves to be helpless. This can be very challenging to witness your partner experience, and it can affect your home life satisfaction and you have no power to change the symptoms.
At Vaughan Relationship Centre, we have guided many couples through the challenging times of depression and empower couples to heal the relationship. These tips can help you weather the storm successfully together:
Don’t be led by a stigma and personal anger.
It is a natural reaction to experience anger and resentment towards your partner when you find yourself in the position of often having to make excuses for your loved one’s social absence or if child care and household responsibilities need to shift as a result of your partner’s behavioural changes. It is, however, important that you don’t let those feelings lead your actions. As the non-depressed spouse, it might be helpful for yourself to turn to a counsellor, trusted friend, or support group when feeling overwhelmed or isolated in your relationship.
Try to remain allies for one another.
The “enemy,” so to speak, is not your spouse who is suffering from depression. It’s the illness. Even if truly relating to what your partner is going through is difficult, don’t let this situation drive you on different sides. Rather tackle it together as one team with the same goal. Actively join forces to fight this as a team, whether it’s just a daily walk together, lending a shoulder to lean on when silent support is needed or being an engaged listener when the situation calls for it.
As much as you might want to push your spouse to take certain actions to move their treatment forward, you really don’t have an influence on it and putting pressure on someone in a depressive state might just drive you apart as allies. It is healthy to encourage your loved one to speak freely and openly to you about the way they may be feeling, what they are thinking or what they need without applying judgement.
There’s often a feeling of shame connected to mental illness which might keep your partner from reaching for your support themselves. Many patients, for example, might question their own or their partner’s love for the other and their commitment to the relationship. These are thoughts that naturally might lead to panic on either side in such a fragile situation and are best handled by being heard but not acted upon until after the depressive episode. A person with depression will experience good periods and bad ones and might express thoughts and feelings according to their current state of mind.
At Vaughan Relationship Centre, we can be helpful with situations around managing depression and other challenging life circumstances. Contact us to learn more about our individual counselling services or couples counselling to learn constructive approaches to emotional challenges in a relationship.