Saying the words “my husband is depressed” is difficult, especially if he isn’t willing to face his depression. These six ways to help your depressed husband cope will help you navigate the rocky terrain of depression and marriage.
If you haven’t read up on marriage and depression, consider What to Do When Someone You Love Is Depressed: A Practical, Compassionate, and Helpful Guide by Mitch Golant and Susan K. Golant. They offer guidance to friends and family of a depressed person about how to keep one’s own spirits up and at the same time do what is best to help a loved one through depression. In this book, you’ll find warning signs of serious depression, how to maintain intimacy and communication, the most successful forms of treatment for depression, what to do when someone threatens suicide, how to choose the right psychiatrist or psychologist, the role and limits of medication for depression, the link between depression and chronic illness, and more.
This article was inspired by a reader, who said: “I believe my husband suffers from depression,” says a reader on How to Help Your Husband Cope With PTSD. “He has all the classic signs. He is withdrawing and becoming hurtful. I try to understand that this is just the depression talking, because I know the person that he otherwise is. My husband is depressed, and I don’t know how to help him. I welcome your ideas.”
“My Husband is Depressed” – Dealing With Depression and Marriage
In a recent issue of Psychology Today, a reader asked for help coping with her depressed husband. “I’ve been in a marriage to a man who has struggled with depression for five years. I don’t know how to help him. He wants to be alone, and won’t talk to me about his depressed feelings. Even just saying that my husband is depressed is painful. What can I do?”
Accept that you can’t fix your husband’s depressed feelings
There are two important things you can do to help your depressed husband – but first you have to accept that he is the only one who can cure his depression. You can’t change your husband, even if you take him to a doctor or psychologist to face his depression head-on. The only person in your marriage that you have any control over is you. It’s important for you to take good care of your emotional and mental health, so you are well enough to handle whatever the future holds.
If your husband is angry as well as depressed, read How to Live With Your Husband’s Anger Problems.
Practice empathy when your husband is depressed
“Most depressed individuals reside in a dark, gloomy world where happiness seems impossible to achieve,” says Barry Lubetkin, a psychologist who co-founded New York’s Institute for Behavior Therapy. Your depressed husband knows he is alienating you and others, and causing problems in his marriage. But, he can’t seem to do anything about his feelings of darkness and gloom. Your husband may even know that you are struggling with the severity of his depression in your marriage.
Enter your husband’s world of depression
A big part of practicing empathy when your husband is depressed is asking how he feels. “Can you share some of those hopeless thoughts with me? I realize you must feel so alone with them.” Your husband may not want to talk about his depression, but a gentle question or two might help him see how much you care. Men who are depressed are often critical of themselves, and tend to be hard on themselves for their feelings and behaviors. If you enter his depression alongside him, you will help him accept himself because you will be accepting him as a husband and valuable life partner.
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Focus on being noncritical and nonjudgmental
I have no idea what it’s like to be burdened with a deep, dark, heavy depression in marriage. I’ve never said, “my husband is depressed.” But, I have been criticized and judged in other relationships – and it puts a huge wedge between us. You may not feel like you’re being critical or judgemental about your husband’s depression, but your marriage may feel the weight of your sadness and confusion. That’s why it’s so important to learn as much as you can about depression and men, so you can save your marriage.
Identify unrealistic expectations that your husband may have
“Since most individuals are terrible problem solvers when depressed, partners can be helpful in finding solutions,” says Lubetkin. You might help your depressed husband by saying things such as, “Your supervisor seems to really like you, and I am certain that taking a brief leave of absence won’t endanger your job.” This encourages him to find practical ways to deal with depression without losing his livelihood, and shows that you will support him as he works towards healing. Another way to help your depressed husband is to say, “Your depression has caused you to feel more suspicious of others, but I am certain your friends were not talking about you at the party.”
Be aware of your depressed husband’s physical health
In How to Help a Depressed Boyfriend, I encourage readers to learn all they can about depression in men. Depression can be the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain or a hormonal imbalance – it’s not necessarily caused by a difficult life or recent tragedy. A depressed husband might be dealing with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) or the lack of certain nutrients in his diet. To help with your husband’s depression, don’t just think about emotional causes and consequences of depression. His lifestyle and way of handling problems might be a factor, and thus might be a way to help your depressed husband cope with his feelings.
I welcome your thoughts on these ways to cope with depression in your marriage. I can’t offer advice or counseling, but it might help to admit “my husband is depressed” and share how it affects you.
My prayer for all women dealing with depression in marriage is for strength, peace, and faith. May love conquer the depressed feelings felt by husbands, and may joy reign forevermore.