If your husband or wife, girlfriend boyfriend suffers from depression, I know there will be days where you, as the supporting partner, may feel helpless or lost. I also know how quickly feeling helpless can turn into feeling like a failure if your husband or wife lashes out at you or blames you for everything.

I am here to tell you, you are not alone in this journey – in this podcast I will be sharing tips on how to deal with a spouse who suffers from depression and is constantly being negative, as well as ways in which you as a supporting partner can reduce the impact your husband or wife’s depression has on your relationship and family life.

Before I get into my most successful tips when supporting a husband or wife with depression, I want to explain how difficult life can be when living with someone who has a mental health condition like depression. There is a general understanding that having depression means you are sad, quiet, withdrawn and always feeling low. While this can be the case for some, there are others who also experience outbursts of frustration and anger, as well as blaming those around them.

It is difficult to handle different emotions at the best of times, so when someone is not entirely in control of their emotions it gets more complicated, especially if you find yourself at the receiving end of the negative and aggressive behaviours.

Symptoms of depression varies person to person, but generally includes:

 – Feeling a range of low feelings – tears, sadness, emotional and worthless
– Changes in appetite
– Changes in sleeping patterns
– Lack of interest or motivation in doing things
– Feeling extremely tired
– Experiencing anxiety or frustration and outbursts of anger
– Trouble thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
Frequent thoughts of death, including suicidal thoughts

These symptoms may also come and go and vary in intensity depending on the person – so I can totally understand how difficult it can be to be the main support for someone who is suffering from depression. I want to start by briefly explaining the ways a spouse suffering from depression can impact a relationship and family life.

Difficulty communicating

When it comes to mental health, it can be extremely hard for the person suffering to articulate their feelings or symptoms to someone else, especially if the other person isn’t a professional or does not understand how to support them. Not being able to communicate can cause frustration and arguments between a couple, which in turn can push them further apart.

The person suffering from depression may feel like a burden, which can cause them to isolate themselves. Lack of communication can be a huge issue in any relationship, but when you bring depression into the equation, it requires a much deeper level of sensitive communication to maintain a healthy relationship.

Lack of intimacy

Majority of people who suffer from depression report a lack of sex drive or desire to be intimate with their husband or wife. Understandably, this can have a huge negative impact on a relationship as it can leave the partner feeling rejected, unattractive and unwanted, even if they know their spouse is dealing with depression.

Intimacy for some can be the make or break of a relationship as it directly impacts both partners in different ways. It is important to note that all relationships have ups and downs when it comes to sexual relations but long periods of time without any intimacy or affection, can really affect a person’s self-esteem.

Acting out

Sometimes when a person is going through depression and does not know how to handle their emotions, they may begin to act out – they might start drinking excessively, get aggressive towards their husband or wife, start gambling life savings away, start behaving in a way that is totally out of character like shutting their partner down and more.

As a husband or wife witnessing your partner go through this can be extremely difficult, especially if the person suffering depression is not willing to admit they are suffering or seek professional help. This can make the husband or wife feel totally helpless and it can make it harder to stay in the relationship. Or where sometimes the therapist is not helping them because they go and repeat everything they are down about with no actions or support for change, or if the answer given is a new medication and the person does not get on well with medication.

Feeling unmotivated to do anything

One major aspect of depression is feeling unmotivated. People suffering from depression struggle with low energy and no drive for life, this can bring the energy in the house down which in turn impacts the family living in the same home.

It is a lot of pressure for one person to keep a relationship or family life going, so when the husband or wife struggle to be an active partner in the relationship, cracks will begin to show, and it will start to take its toll on the whole family.

This can be especially difficult if a person develops depression after years of marriage – where they were previously upbeat, ambitious and had great life plans for their family’s future. For a husband and wife to have to adapt to their spouse’s condition can be difficult and some may struggle to adjust to a new way of life.

Feelings of low self-esteem and self-doubt

When a person suffers from a mental health condition like depression, it is very easy for them to fall into a pit of self-doubt. They may start to think they don’t deserve a supportive partner, may start to feel like a burden to the rest of the family and start questioning their partner’s loyalty towards them.

If the person suffering from depression is unmotivated, unloving and argumentative, they often feel unable to control their emotions and feelings, especially their thoughts, so they may begin to push their husband or wife away because it’s easier to do this than to accept that people do care and love them, regardless of the symptoms of their depression.

Blame you for their unhappiness

They may share that the relationship is making them unhappy, that your voice, behaviour and who you are is to blame.

They may even go as far as to say they no longer want a relationship and just want to be alone. This is difficult and hard to know if they really mean it is you or if they are down in general. Get support for this and work on changing any behaviour they are blaming so you can both know, is it really you and the relationship or are not in a good place right now and everything seems like it is going wrong.

Now that I’ve covered possible impacts of depression on a relationship, I would like to talk about how a husband or wife can best support their spouse who is suffering from depression.

Take time to learn

Depression is something that is hard to understand if you have not experienced it yourself personally as it is like any other mental health condition – difficult to see on the outside. Research is key! It is vital that a supporting spouse educates themselves on depression and how it affects people. There are also many case studies online from partners who are supporting their husband and wife through depression, which can help to learn what methods of treatment there is available, as well as giving a better insight into life with someone suffering from depression.

This will also help to understand that the outbursts of anger and negativity are no reflection on a supporting spouse, it is just one of the many symptoms a person with depression can exhibit.

Keeping your children informed

Family life can be heavily impacted by a parent suffering from depression, especially if they are witnessing outbursts, arguments or even at the receiving end of negative comments or behaviours. It is so important to keep your children informed about depression as best as you can. As a parent you will know how much information your children are able to process and it is so much better for you to be the person to explain the situation to them, rather than leaving them to try and make sense of an adult’s world.

This may involve spending quality time with the children making cards to cheer their mum or dad up or help cook favourite meals together. Whatever activities you choose, be sure to maintain some kind of fun family life for them so they are not negatively impacted by their parent suffering from depression.

Also remember to bring in reinforcements when needed – if you have family or good friends around you who can take the kids out for a few hours or give you and your partner a little break, take them up on it!

You don’t need to have all the answers

Remember no one expects you to be perfect and have all the answers. Sometimes all you need to do is let your husband or wife know that you are there for them – this can be by just sitting and listening to them talk through their feelings, holding them when they are feeling low and most importantly, ask them what support looks like to them. Maybe they have a preference of what you should do when they are feeling a certain way – this ensures that your response to their depression is unique to them and exactly what they need.

It is so important to keep the communication going – if you are unsure of something choose an appropriate time to discuss this with your husband and wife so you feel better equipped to support them.

Be supportive but not the ONLY form of support

Often when it is a loved one that is going through a difficult time or suffering from a mental health condition, we immediately take it upon ourselves to try and support them as they are our husband or wife, girlfriend or boyfriend. We also don
’t want to seem weak by asking others for help but it is SO important for you to remember that mental health affects everyone not just the person who is suffering, so whilst you are wanting to be supportive, you should encourage your husband or wife to seek external professional support too. From online counselling to support groups with others who suffer from depression too, there are so many options out there to support your husband or wife and can ease the pressure that is placed on you.

Additionally, when it comes to mental health, we have to remember that a professional is trained and experienced in dealing with and identifying different treatment options that you or your spouse may not even be aware of and could potentially ease or reduce some of the symptoms they are experiencing. Do your research find someone who offers free support calls and groups so you can get to know them before starting, find a person you both like and where you can also attend if they wish you to.

Take care of yourself too

It is easy to forget that you may need support too. This kind of support is totally up to you as some prefer to speak to family or friends, however it is beneficial to remember that there is a lot of professional support out there for you too.

Support can include online or in person counselling, forums where other partners can discuss things they are going through and so much more. Remember seeking support doesn’t mean you are weak or unable to support your husband or wife through this difficult time, it just means you will get the best support you need in order to be the most supportive spouse that your husband or wife needs.

If you are tired of talking another great way to boost your own mood is good nutrition, good sleep, time off and exercise so taking care of yourself. I have to exercise every morning, it’s no longer a choice for me, I don’t feel good without it.

There are so many challenges that a couple will face when one of the partner’s is suffering from depression, however, you can begin to work through these obstacles once you are both aware that there are things that need to be worked on. This is especially important when it comes to identifying and implementing realistic coping strategies and having a solid support network for you both.

I regularly help individuals and couples when one person is suffering from some form of depression. The solutions I create with people is supporting them with actions to build a way out. When I had depression back in my twenties I learnt one valuable lesson, which I am so grateful for. That the difference between a person with problems and a person with depression is that they cannot see a way out.

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