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How do I talk to my spouse about the possibility of depression?



Getting your spouse to discuss the possible presence of depression is no small feat. Many times when Bern and I have led groups or offered presentations, the most difficult question to tackle is “How do I get my husband to even hear me?” And yes, it is almost always a woman asking about her husband, rather than the other way around.

This past week when we met with the support group we lead, a new friend joined us. And she asked the big question. She was considering the fact that her husband was self-medicating with alcohol, that fact that he has a family history of bipolar disorder, the fact that his sleep regimen is a complete wreck…over all, she was adding two and two and coming up with a “four” that made her feel very concerned. Combine all this with the fact that her husband refuses to see any kind of doctor for any reason at all, and she was at a loss.

There’s only so much a concerned spouse can do. And yet our lives are profoundly affected by our spouse’s behaviors. It is simply a fact that no matter how much we care, no matter how much we want to make things better, the ill person himself must take some responsibility for seeking help.

Our advice in this situation tends to fall back on our mantra of “Take care of yourself.” Whether the husband hears or not, it’s important that we state very clearly exactly how his actions and moods affect us. Speaking the truth might make a difference. It might not. But we have the right to say how we feel. It’s part of recognizing the worth of our own feelings and needs.

Speaking the truth is an important aspect of taking care of ourselves.


8 Responses

  1. I would suggest to your new friend she read “I Dont Want to Talk About It,” by Terrence Real

  2. Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. I love reading your posts because as a depression/Bipolar 2 sufferer, it really helps me to understand how loved ones feel – particularly my spouse. Perhaps being female, I am more inclined to seek professional help than a male? I am what they call ‘compliant’ with my medication and lifestyle regime. It must be incredibly difficult to deal with a partner who won’t help themselves. My condition has a big enough impact on our lives, even with me being a ‘good’ patient!

    Ps. I used alcohol to cope years ago, before I knew what was going on. I normalized it by thinking everyone drinks so it was an okay way to deal with things. Once it became apparent that I had a mental illness, I gave up completely. Even a few drinks would leave me feel very down. My Dr said alcohol will enhance whatever mood state to are in…so if you feeling depressed, it will make you more so. Same for anger etc.

  4. and it can be even trickier when both are depressed, but one doesn’t want to “be like the other one”. When one is depressed, sometimes the other won’t admit they also have a problem… thank you for this post!

    • You’re right. I’ve actually had a hard time with that myself. The thought of my SAD being layered with his worst bouts of all-the-time depression is something I don’t care to face.

  5. Reblogged this on Little Blog of Letting Go and commented:
    Wonderful post about helping a depressed spouse. This blog is devoted to those supporting a depressed loved one. Check them out!

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