Depression and Divorce: How Depression Affects Marriage and Relationships

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The 20-something couple, married just a few years, was eagerly looking forward to the birth of their first baby.

mood disorder. That can be difficult if you’re a very upbeat type, Ahrons says. She says she often hears an upbeat partner say of a depressed spouse: “Why can’t he just pull himself up?”

The partner who isn’t depressed may also feel cheated, says Dan Jones, PhD, director of the Counseling and Psychological Services Center at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. That’s understandable, he says, because the depressed partner is typically not much fun.

“Most people fall in love because they are enjoying each other’s company and having fun together,” he says.

“The depressed person will [often] give the impression he doesn’t care,” he says. “It’s hard to feel intimate with someone [who looks like he does not care],” he says. There is often a loss of interest in symptoms of depression. But couple therapy better reduced “relationship distress,” they report in the journal Psychiatric Quarterly.

Often, talking about the depression — whether alone or with a partner in therapy — brings up other issues in a marriage that, when addressed, help ease the depression, Sherman says.

Combining Talk Therapy With Antidepressants for Depression

If depression doesn’t improve with behavior or talk therapy, a physician may decide to prescribe an chronic depression. They concluded that the combination produces a faster, fuller remission of chronic depression.

Like many medications, antidepressants can interact with other medicine, and cause side effects. Patients should always tell their doctors about the medicines they take, and call the doctor if they notice side effects. Another class of antidepressant may be prescribed.

Depression and Relationships: Prognosis?

Sometimes, the partner of a person with depression will feel responsible, and stick with the marriage even if they’ve become more of a caretaker than a spouse.

But more often, if the depression continues for years, the partner does get tired of it and seeks divorce, Ahrons says.

Which couples are most likely to stay together? Those who acknowledge depression as a problem, try to relieve it, and keep talking with each other.

Remember the young couple at the beginning of this story? The new mother and her husband actually strengthened their marriage once they acknowledged the depression and sought treatment, Sherman says.

When she counseled the couple, the wife acknowledged she had ambivalence about becoming a mother. Her husband took issue with her housekeeping and his displeasure only grew worse when motherhood reduced available time to clean. The marital dissatisfaction may have contributed to her depression.

So they worked on those issues. He eased up on housekeeping standards. She talked through her ambivalence about motherhood. It was mainly rooted, Sherman found, in her lack of confidence.

“Her depression lifted once they started talking,” Sherman says. Their relationship improved.

“The last time I talked to them,” she reports, “they were doing well.”