Being in a relationship with a partner who has depression is tough. Depression and relationships can work, but it takes a lot of work from both people. And depression in marriage can be slightly tougher if you hold the view of being there for your other half through sickness and health seriously. This is my own view on how depression can affect relationships and what it’s like actually being married to someone with depression.
Depression can be a huge thing to admit to with your partner. It’s your brain constantly having dark thoughts, and nothing from your usual life being able to lift you back up out of that darkness. The chemical imbalance of the brain just will not allow any good thoughts in at that time. It can change you from a loving caring partner, to the nastiest piece of work out there. And to a lot of men, that can be so humiliating that they have little control over that.
My husband Steve has chronic depression. He’s had it for over 20 years. And it seems to originate from an incident of being assaulted and being critically injured at that time. Since then he’s been on various medications to help with depression, anxiety and impulse control. He sees various medical professionals that help him in dealing with this condition- psychologist, psychiatrist, and his regular doctor. But quite often he can be forgetful and not attend booked appointments which can lead to a long wait for a new appointment date.
It is chronic depression as it is ongoing and unlikely to be cured by any means. It’s trying to manage the worst of the symptoms and let him live as normal a life as possible. Because some days just getting out of bed itself can be a challenge for someone with depression.
If your partner is on medication, it is so crucial to your relationship that they take it as prescribed by the doctor and take it regularly. This can be hindered by other behaviours at times too, such as not coming home regularly at night (or at all). But if it’s not taken as prescribed, it can’t do its job. This is a big issue with my husband- he’s started medication for impulse control, but it needed a higher dose as wasn’t working well enough. But then he doesn’t come home on time to be taking it and getting enough weeks of it into his system to stop the impulsive behaviours.
It’s important to work together on triggers that make the depression worse. Your partner might not notice the behaviours that lead up to bad episodes, but you certainly will after a few times. Note these down for them to talk about with you or a psychologist, so strategies can be formulated to work on those in the future. Some triggers that might be causing issues are special occasions (birthdays, Christmas, etc), toxic relationships with others, big life events.
You could witness a whole range of behaviours come out due to depression. Ones that are common here are avoidance of talking to me, panic attacks, obsession over things like football and hobbies, gambling, suicidal or bad thoughts and running away to a place to think (or overthink as they tend to do).
Know that times in any relationship can get tough. And with depression, this is probably an absolute guarantee. The statistics of couples staying together with unmanaged depression in the mix can be frightening. When your partner isn’t pulling their weight in your marriage or relationship for an extended period, and exhibiting all sorts of behaviours that are not socially acceptable, you may want to throw in the towel. And many, many people do. Hence why opening up to others about their depression can be so difficult to sufferers. They are afraid of getting close, hurting someone else, and then feeling worse in themselves. And then the cycle repeats itself.
If you do need to step away from the situation (for a few minutes or a permanent break), don’t be afraid of the excuses either. To help support your partner, you need to be looking after yourself too. Don’t let their problems eat away at you and become your problems too. Take time out to relax from managing issues with them. Take care of your own health and the rest of your family. And if it all becomes too much, let them know about it and go talk to someone who can help you decide if it’s in your best interests to stay or go.
But know that if you do stick around with your partner, they are grateful that you can look beyond the illness, the behaviours and love the person they can be. They love that you are a strong person they can depend upon to support them through the difficult times. And maybe you’ll be able to help out others thinking of whether living with depression in marriage is for them.
If you or your partner are showing signs of depression and need some help, here are a few resources available in Australia. Lifeline Australia is a national charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. And Beyond Blue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live.
Come and see more of my posts about marriage here.