Living with a marriage partner who is depressed can be taxing on the non-depressed person as well as on the symptom bearer. It can also be an opportunity for both partners to make themselves better persons and to deepen their love for each other as they become competent together at managing depression.

Depression is tough on the melancholy person and usually a burden for those around him or her. None want the ordeal of this behavioral disorder; all want to function optimally.

Anger is common for the depressed person’s partner, mainly at the malady rather than at the partner. Spouses become tired of trying to lift up their “down” partner, frustrated by a lack of intimacy (sometimes it’s about inadequate physical intimacy, but more often it’s that depression takes priority over their own welfare) and they feel overwhelmed with more than their fair share of responsibilities for the household, and any children in the domicile.

Neither partner wants to feel this way. The depressed partner often feels guilty about difficulty handling responsibilities that are easily managed when not depressed and uncertainty where their relationship is headed. Both partners desire to solve the dilemmas and both hope to move ahead as individuals and as a couple.

Depression varies in its causes and the degree of difficulty for every depressed spouse and married couple. Here are some ways I recommend to bolster the depressed spouse that benefit both partners:

  • Physically stroke his/her arms and hands, head, neck and back; these comforting touches sooth and produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter chemical that relaxes us and promotes a feeling of well-being; animals have similar effects when they groom each other by combing through their fur, or when two horses nuzzle each other and when pets lick each other, or us
  • Plan uplifting events that disrupt routines and the monotony of feeling mostly down, such as trips to different environments, exposure to sunshine and bright places, and undertaking spontaneous first-time experiences; such events help both partners and the other family members who share in them
  • Pray, meditate, and journal together as ways of developing insights that can be exchanged and which generate a sense of shared journey
  • Mutually engage in stimulating activities that are creative, such as art projects, building things for the family or house; it’s the creative nature of the activities that produces healthy bodily chemicals
  • Recreate together in ways that involve physical exercise and expenditure of energy; if the depressed partner wants to renege, point out the benefits of exercise as a producer of serotonin, while recognizing the urge to defer, and, the need to discipline oneself to behave healthfully
  • Also know when to give the depressed partner space, and vice versa, while expressing commitment to work together even when either person is at his/her worst
  • Recognize that behavioral coping is more beneficial than relying on medications alone, as documented in a recent CDC report, because it focuses on building skills that can change the circumstances that trigger depression, but antidepressants can help, and
  • Obtain a competent behavior therapist to assist the depressed person and who includes the marital partner in periodic sessions so both partners learn behavior management; the profession of the therapist is less important than his/her skill level; don’t be afraid to try various counselors until a good match is obtained

Depression is heritably predisposed, as is now scientifically verified, although stress, physical illness, exposure to toxic substances and many other factors can increase its probability of afflicting almost anyone. Even for emotionally healthy persons, three or more concurrent and serious stressors, such as divorce, loss of employment, injuries and misfortunes of any kind, can push someone into depression.

Farmers especially are prone to major depression, for many successful farmers have inherited a genetic mutation (COMTp. Val 158) that inclines them to address adversity by working harder. However, the same gene also increases their likelihood of developing depression when they wear out trying to cope with adversity, whether in their agricultural operations or other parts of their lives.

Depression doesn’t last forever and better times are ahead for both partners and the family. Partners who are struggling with depression discover that adversity tunes them up to each other and enhances their love for one another.

Figuring out the causes of the depression and working together to dissolve its precipitating causes heals the strains it produces and builds lasting trust for partners in a marriage.

It also sets an example for their children. Children remember what they observed from their parents about coping with depression if they experience similar issues in their own lives.

Sometimes nothing works to dissolve depression, and separation occurs. Even then the individuals learn how to lead happier lives apart.

Suicide is another matter, for it usually hurts survivors much. That’s another reason why working together to manage depression is much needed, and appreciated as the disorder remits. Call 1-800-273-8255 (Suicide Prevention) if necessary.