Marriage is hard work, and too many people fail to understand how difficult it can be to maintain. Marriage requires compromise, sacrifice, and understanding, which both parties are expected to contribute. The problem is that not every marriage is an equal partnership since some people are incapable of adjusting to someone else's benefit.
Understandably, this level of conflict and strife in a relationship can lead to emotional strain that makes loving your spouse more of a chore than it is meant to be. Emotional strain is often disregarded and viewed as a weakness, especially in men. Unfortunately, emotional strain can cause significant mental health issues and can induce the early stages of depression.
Depression can drastically impact the health of your relationship with your spouse and can be a serious issue depending on the severity.
Among the stressors that cause depression are unhealthy marriages that tax one or both spouses.
When depression is caused by marriage, we are less likely to address the problem since loyalty to our spouses compels us to try and fix the perceived flaws instead of ending an unhappy relationship. This is not to say it is impossible to salvage these relationships, but we need to know when it is appropriate to save or leave a marriage when depression is involved.
It is easy to claim an understanding of depression, but the reality of depression is usually lost on those not suffering from the issue. The most common misconception about depression is that it is a singular mental health issue that we can manage with blanket treatment. The truth is that depression takes many forms, and variations with different diagnostic criteria exist. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), multiple types of depression can afflict the average person.
Some of the most common types of depression include:
These depressive conditions can be very serious and significantly affect our health. While some might believe otherwise, poor mental health can quickly translate to poor physical health. The more depressed we are, the less likely we can care for our health and ensure we do not become ill. In extreme cases, depression can lead to suicidal ideation and cause deeply depressed individuals to take their own lives.
Depression requires care from mental health professionals to treat properly, especially since depression directly affects your judgment. Important decisions are harder to make when depressed since you are more likely to opt for the decision induced by your depressive state rather than the most logical one.
Even marriage can be affected by depression since it can prevent us from thinking clearly about arguments and conflicts with our spouses. It can also prevent us from realizing our marriage is unhealthy, so we remain trapped in the relationship, and our depression grows. Sometimes, we need objective criteria to determine whether a marriage is worth saving or something we should escape.
Depression can stem from multiple sources. Generally, trauma is the biggest culprit since it transcends genetics and is an experienced event. Trauma usually occurs in our youth and leaves a lasting impression into adulthood. This impression makes it difficult to approach or analyze things without subjecting them to the criteria of that trauma first.
For example, someone who experienced a traumatic incident involving spiders might be unable to sit through a movie focusing on arachnids despite those spiders being fictional. Some traumas are so severe that it damages our ability to create and foster healthy interpersonal relationships. This means trauma, including trauma-induced depression, can lead us to enter unhealthy relationships to avoid feeling alone.
While some spouses recognize the severity of depression, others view it as a tool to keep their spouse in line. A common concern for people with depression is encountering an emotionally abusive spouse who weaponizes their mental health issues. Emotional abuse can cause depression or capitalize on it, though the former is more common in children than adults. While most trauma occurs in youth, a spouse can employ emotional abuse and make you feel lesser. Recognizing the signs of emotional abuse is critical to determining whether the marriage is healthy.
One of the biggest signs of emotional abuse is when your spouse has unrealistic expectations of you. They will expect you to be perfect despite having serious shortcomings of their own that make them a poor example. When you fail to meet these expectations, your spouse will belittle or criticize you to make you feel like you failed their impossible tasks. Other signs include undermining you, conditional love, emotional blackmail, etc.
If your spouse is emotionally abusive, it could stoke your depression and induce otherwise avoidable depressive episodes. However, it is also a clear sign that you should end the marriage since emotionally abusive people seldom correct their behavior. Even if your spouse promises they have learned the error of their ways, you should leave until they have definitively proven a change in character. Otherwise, you should feel no remorse in walking away from a marriage to an emotionally abusive spouse.
Depression is a serious issue, but it is not a "get out jail free" card for certain behaviors that depression breeds. A common issue with mental health issues like depression and trauma is the use of maladaptive behaviors. Maladaptive behaviors are coping mechanisms and tactics that provide relief or satisfaction in the face of triggering stimuli but simultaneously worsen the underlying condition.
Rather than adopting coping mechanisms or behaviors that improve our mental health, people who use maladaptive behaviors tend to skirt the issue entirely to avoid confronting the real problem. Most maladaptive behaviors involve avoidance rather than finding healthy ways to overcome depression or trauma.
While these maladaptive behaviors might have helped you survive your depression, they are a stopgap that cannot be relied on in the long term. While the main issue is that it will harm your recovery from depression, it also affects your spouse. Your spouse might genuinely care about you and want to help you through your depression however they can.
They might be understanding of your maladaptive behaviors or avoidance tactics initially, but only because they want to let you get the help you need to overcome them properly. The longer you go without getting the proper care, the less patient your spouse will be.
It is important to note that this is not because they are trying to make their love conditional but because your maladaptive behaviors affect their emotional stability too. Your maladaptive behaviors could extend to shutting your spouse out and making them feel like they are not important to you or worthy of your trust. This could eventually drive your spouse away and destroy your marriage.
We realize that it can be difficult to seek professional assistance when depression makes you want to withdraw from the world. Nevertheless, it is important for your mental health to seek the care you need to learn healthy coping mechanisms.
Situations where a spouse who genuinely cares about you and wants to help you are precious and require preservation. With so many misconceptions about depression and other mental health issues, finding someone patient enough to understand the severity of the conditions is critical. If you are experiencing marital issues due to depression or any other problem that might jeopardize your relationship with a loving and understanding spouse, you should take steps to save the relationship.
Understand that the strife you are experiencing with your spouse might not be from depression but a more mundane marital issue. Either way, it is possible to save your marriage if you are willing to face the core issue and seek help.
If you are in a situation where it is best to save your relationship, the biggest question is what tools you need to accomplish that goal. Marriages fail with or without mental health issues, and depression is one of several factors that might apply to any relationship. If depression is an issue for you or your spouse, there needs to be an environment that promotes healthy discourse. One of the most common methods for preserving your marriage is seeking counseling with a professional.
While marriage counseling and mediation services help address the common issues in marriage, handling depression is a separate matter. If you suffer from depression and it affects your ability to have reasonable conversations with your spouse, marriage counseling will not be sufficient. In all likelihood, the counselor will advise you to seek treatment independently to identify the root cause of your depression and receive the proper treatment.
If your depression is peripheral to the conflict between you and your spouse, it will only exacerbate the feelings of sadness and despair. If your depression is a major part of why you are at odds with your spouse, it becomes a direct hazard to your marriage. Either way, seeking professional help for depression can alleviate significant stress from your marriage. Conversely, if you are married to someone with depression and notice it taking a toll on your relationship, the solution is radically different.
The counselor will almost certainly advise you to be patient with your spouse and be as constructive and caring as possible. The best solution is clear and open communication, where you express that your spouse's feelings and emotions are valid even if they are misplaced. Depression distorts emotional responses and can cause people to feel like they are unloved when the truth is the opposite.
While you are not responsible for your spouse's mental health issues, you need to promote an environment that enables them to express their issues and concerns without fear of reprisal.
Ultimately, the best course of action to save your marriage will depend on your specific needs and those of your spouse. Depression can severely impact your marriage and must be treated as a serious issue. As difficult as depression can be to handle, allowing it to color your perception of your loved one can make or break your relationship.
Depression can impact your ability to make logical decisions about keeping your relationship healthy or determining if your relationship is unhealthy. Depression can cause you to drive away loving spouses or keep you imprisoned in marriages with manipulative ones. Without proper care, depression can destroy your life and leave you undesirable.
While seeking help for depression is daunting, it is important to your happiness and future to ensure you get the help you need. It is also critical to know that having depression is not something to be ashamed of since it affects a large portion of the human population. All that matters is that you get the help you deserve before it impacts your life too severely.
If, on the other hand, your depression has kept you trapped in an unhealthy marriage and you finally realize the truth, you might find yourself looking for a divorce. While divorce is a highly unpleasant scenario, it is better than remaining married to an emotionally abusive or toxic spouse. Unfortunately, the process is taxing on those without depression and more so on those with the condition.
Protecting yourself from the more sinister side of divorce proceedings can be challenging, but knowledge remains the greatest weapon at your disposal. Learning more about divorce scenarios can ensure you are prepared while keeping depression out of the situation. We realize this is a difficult time, especially for those suffering from depression, but we hope this article has been helpful.