Couples and Depression

In our society, we expect to overcome sadness with any number of instant antidotes: smoking, drinking, driving a sports car, polishing the floors to a sparkle, wearing designer clothing, and so on. We watch characters on television and in the movies resolve their problems within a couple of hours. Big smiles and pearly-white teeth proclaim an all-American, carefree attitude. Clearly there’s plenty of pressure in our culture to express and maintain continuous contentment. If we’re blue, the message is: “Get over it,” or “Just do it.” It’s no wonder millions of people worldwide are downing anti-depressant medications and other non-medicinal ‘medications’ hoping to be effortlessly uplifted.

But sometimes it’s necessary to go slowly and take time to adjust to life’s natural changes. Seeking out help for depression may offer a chance to explore and resolve long-standing issues; it is better this than covering them up or running away. Showing depression can represent:

  • The effects of a past or present injustice/abuse. (see our section about Trauma and Abuse)
  • A period of necessary self-examination and need for change.
  • A natural response to a life crisis. (see also the section on Grief and Loss)

That said, living with a depressed partner can be like swinging precariously from an emotional pendulum. It has been described by spouses as “tumultuous,” “frustrating” and “hopeless.” You may try to help your partner “snap out of it” by bending over backwards, only to feel resentful and angry when your Herculean efforts fail.

If your partner rages against you (often anger sits in front of sadness), you can be further frustrated and may, in turn, choose to retreat into a separate and “safer” space of your own.

Sex is rarely desired by a person struggling with depression (either because of apathy or as a result of medications), and frequently this makes the partner feel rejected, abandoned, or unattractive.

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