Watching your husband or wife battling with depression can be hard.
If it’s a new diagnosis and you feel like you don’t know anything about depression, take some time to familiarize yourself with it. If it isn’t something new but has been ongoing, you probably have a better understanding of depression.
Remember that many people experience depression. There should be no stigma surrounding those who have it, or those who love them.
Here are some practical steps you can take as you journey down this path with your spouse that will help both of you.
1. Encourage, But Don’t Push
Depression can leave your spouse feeling unmotivated, tired, and sad. As a result, they may not be able to do everything that they once did. They might not feel up to going out with friends, favorite activities that you did together may hold no appeal, and household chores they once handled may fall by the wayside.
As a result, it can be tempting to try too hard to get them up and active again. And while it’s important to encourage them and urge them to be involved in life, too much pressure can breed resentment and a feeling that they are being judged.
The Bible often urges us to be kind to one another and to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. (Colossians 3:12) Sometimes kindness and gentleness mean easing up on someone who is depressed.
2. Don’t Take It Personally
It can be very easy to take things personally when your spouse is depressed. Depression can leave people feeling very irritable and even angry. They may be short-tempered, or they may frequently decline your invitations to do something together.
While you shouldn’t let yourself be a doormat, it’s also important to remember that, most of the time, it’s not about you. It is their depression talking.
Remind yourself to “Be strong and courageous . . . do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) God is with both of you during this time, as hard as it is.
3. Ask How They’re Really Doing
Unfortunately, when people are diagnosed with a mental illness, sometimes others see and treat them differently. It’s important to remember to truly notice them and connect with them.
So, take the time to ask how your spouse is really doing. Look them in the eye and let them know that you love and accept them no matter how they feel that day. Chances are that they will be deeply touched by the grace you’re giving them.
4. Pray for Them
Many lists of ways to support your depressed partner leave this suggestion off. But praying for your depressed spouse shouldn’t just be an afterthought.
We never know how God will answer our prayers. It isn’t always in the ways we expect—it may take weeks, months, or years, but prayer can bring about many great things. Prayer can bring peace to the heart. (Philippians 4:6-7) And it can bring grace, even if we don’t always know what that grace will look like. (Hebrews 4:16)
When you pray for your spouse, you will be impacted as well.
5. Nurture Physical Health
When someone is depressed, it’s very easy to lose interest in healthy nutrition and exercise. People can lose their appetite or crave only sweets. Nourishing food, however, offers important vitamins and minerals to sustain the body and mind.
Likewise, exercise has shown to be an important treatment for depression. It increases feel-good chemicals and burns off stress. So, encourage your partner to get out a little, even if it’s only for a short walk with you or the dog.
6. Consider Counseling
Therapy is proven to be effective in depression treatment. If your partner won’t go, you can still consider coming for yourself.
A therapist will be able to help you navigate life with a depressed spouse. And you can take that knowledge and encouragement home and put it into practice, benefiting both you and your loved one.
If you or your spouse is dealing with depression and are overwhelmed, please reach out to my office to learn more about how I can help.
For more information about anxiety or depression counseling, click here
About the Author
Julia Nelson, LCMHCA, LMFTA is a psychotherapist and owns a private practice in Henderson County, (Flat Rock) NC and Rutherford County, (Forest City) NC. In general, she specializes in couples counseling, anxiety and depression counseling, premarital counseling, and parenting classes. She is also a Certified Clinical Military Counselor. To find out more about Julia click here: Nelson Christian Counseling.
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