Depression is a relationship killer. It destroys emotional and physical intimacy and often drives partners in separate directions -- creating isolation and loneliness. It can turn previously intimate companions into distant, unkind strangers.
The numbers bear out the destruction that depression can cause. Recent studies indicate that
40% of couples who seek counseling for marital distress have a partner battling depression. Divorce is 9 times more likely when one partner suffers from depression.
While the specific effects of depression differ from relationship to relationship, there are distinctive patterns that tend to emerge in couples where one partner is depressed and yet, when previously attentive, warm, loving partners turn irritable, angry, and distant …their partners
aren’t likely to recognize it as a sign of depression.
The depressed partner often devalues themselves and their relationships. They frequently
become critical, sullen, and pessimistic, and they are commonly confused about their own feelings – one day they need their partner desperately, the next day they don’t think they ever loved their significant other, and more often than not -- they don’t know how they feel. This confusion often leads to withdrawal from the relationship.
Being the spouse or partner of someone with depression is also challenging. “One of the
loneliest places to be is with a depressed partner.” There are certain stages non-depressed partners tend to go through in response to the changes in their mate. The first stage is confusion about what has altered the relationship and why their partner is so different.
That stage is followed by self-blame;
“Why can I no longer make my spouse happy?”
“What did I do that made them pull away?”
-and then demoralization at the inability to improve things over time;
“I am a failure as a partner if my spouse is always so lonely and sad.”
“I try and try but I can’t make things any better.”
This can eventually lead to resentment and a desire to escape, which in turn feeds the vulnerability and fear of the depressed partner.
“I’m not worthy of love, not a good spouse, and your frustration with me confirms that.”
So they become more isolated and alone.
The dynamic depression creates becomes difficult to break. Both partners keep triggering
vulnerabilities in the other – and driving each other further and further away.
Depression creates isolation, and few things destroy a relationship quicker than living
without a connection to your partner. Thinking that you don’t matter to your spouse; feeling
unloved and unwanted by your mate; knowing that you are no longer appreciated and cherished
by your lover – these are some of the feelings that can be created by living in a cycle of
The good news is that depression is treatable! Relationships damaged by withdrawal
and neglect can be repaired and restored. If you suspect depression is impacting your
marriage – get help. Find a qualified counselor to assist you in exploring the challenges to your
If you recognize yourself in the pattern above, find a therapist to help you identify options and
solutions for treating depression as well as re-engaging with one another.
Your future and your relationship are worth it!