When you are in a close relationship with someone, you often have a front-row seat to what they are going through. This can be good because you get to see him or her grow and find joy. But there can also be difficult aspects of watching someone close to you, particularly if he or she is your spouse.
A spouse suffering from a mental health issue like depression can be challenging to watch, particularly because you are so close. When your spouse is depressed, it affects him or her in painful ways, which is hard to watch, but it also affects you and your family. Learning how to handle this is complex. However, you can learn ways to help your depressed spouse during his or her struggle.
What is depression?
Before you can think about how to help your depressed spouse, it is important that you understand what depression is as well as what it’s not.
Depression (also referred to as major depressive disorder) is a medical illness. It goes beyond a general feeling to something deeper. Depression hurts the way you think, feel, and act. Since these are things everyone can experience, it is essential that you understand that depression is a persistent display of these negative impacts.
For someone to be diagnosed with depression, these negative things are present for a minimum of two weeks and they often interfere with daily life in some way. It does not mean someone is stuck in bed and despondent, although that can be the case. To help you understand the range of possibilities, here are a few examples:
- New difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Sleep issues, either too much or not enough
- New onset of general sadness, irritation, or depressed mood
- Appetite changes or weight fluctuation not related to diet
- Loss of pleasure in things previously enjoyed
While this list is not exhaustive, it gives a glimpse into the broad spectrum of ways depression presents itself in people’s lives. The key to remember with depression is that these are not passing feelings or symptoms. These are things that persist for multiple weeks (or more) and disrupt the person’s life in some way.
The most important thing to remember about depression is that it is not something that a person can fully control. There isn’t a switch that the person can flip to make these feelings go away. Your spouse can’t simply snap out of it. It is a medical condition, sometimes the result of life circumstances, that the person needs medical treatment to work through. Understanding this will make a big difference in how you can support and help your spouse.
Loving someone who has depression.When someone you love suffers from depression, it can be challenging for several reasons.
There are immediate needs that present themselves. The way a person is living his or her life has a direct impact on you because you are so intricately involved in one another’s lives. If your spouse isn’t sleeping, it can affect your sleep. If your spouse is moody or sullen, it is common to wonder what you’ve done and try to fix it.
The truth is, while the depression of your spouse does affect you, it often isn’t about you. This is something your spouse is struggling with that requires your love, patience, and support.
8 things you can do to help a depressed spouse.
You may not be able to fix your spouse’s depression, but you can certainly help him or her (and you) cope with it. Here are eight things you can do to help your depressed spouse.
1. Listen more than you speak.
This is more difficult for some people, especially those who want to make things better. Give your partner space to talk without offering your input. Allow him or her to express feelings and thoughts, even if he or she doesn’t make sense to you.
Giving your spouse this space shows respect and love. If you do have something helpful to offer, consider asking first. “Would it be okay if I made a suggestion or would you just like me to listen right now?” Giving your spouse this option helps him or her feel more in control of something that often feels out of control.
God is faithful to give you what you need in every situation, even this. Ask Him how you can show love to your spouse in the middle of this. Ask God for real help with things like what to say and when, how to pray for your spouse, and even what things you can do to show him or her love in this season.
3. Learn about depression.
Take some time to learn more about what depression is as well as what it is not. Understanding what your spouse is dealing with can help you navigate how to handle things that come up as well as how to love him or her well. It also enables you to speak accurately when you do talk, which is helpful to both of you in the long run.
4. Take care of yourself.
Loving someone who is struggling can feel overwhelming. In addition to wanting to help your depressed spouse, there may be extra responsibilities that you are carrying while your spouse is struggling. Instead of letting those things pile up, be intentional about doing things that provide respite and replenishment for you.
This can be little things like taking a bath or going for a daily walk, or they can be more involved like setting a weekly coffee date with a friend or seeing a Christian counselor who can focus on helping you process and handle things.
5. Be open and honest.
One of the best things you can do to remove the stigma of mental health issues is to talk about them. This doesn’t mean sharing personal things with everyone. It does, however, mean that you can normalize talking about how you feel and getting appropriate help from doctors and counselors when you need it. The more open and honest you are, the more permission your partner has to do the same. He or she will also feel less pressure to pretend everything is okay.
6. Be active.
Make time for physical activity with your partner and on your own. It has been shown that physical activity, especially if it is outdoors, is helpful. The Mayo Clinic reports, “the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can also help improve mood and reduce anxiety.”
Additionally, “working out and other forms of physical activity can definitely ease symptoms of depression or anxiety and make you feel better. Exercise may also help keep depression and anxiety from coming back once you’re feeling better.”
7. Work together.
Be intentional about staying connected to your spouse through this. Some of the symptoms of depression can lead to isolation or distance between a couple. Finding ways to show your spouse you are present and committed to your marriage, as well as his or her well-being, is good for both of you.
8. Connect with professionals.
Medical help from a doctor and a counselor is an essential part of your spouse’s treatment. While much of this is private between them and your spouse, ask your spouse how you can help. Offer to drive them to the doctor or counseling.
Ask if he or she would like you to attend. If your spouse says no, give him or her the necessary space without being offended. This is your chance to support your spouse as he or she gets needed help.
Final thoughts about supporting a depressed spouse.
Your spouse’s depression is not yours to fix, but it does impact your life. Rather than focusing on the negative impacts, you can be intentional about how you show your spouse love and be a supportive, integral part of his or her treatment.
We are here to help you navigate loving your spouse well during this season as well as making sure your needs are addressed. Reach out to our team today and we will help you on this journey.
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DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE
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