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Depressed Spouse

Question:

I am looking for resource material or something to help cope with or where to draw the line at dealing with a spouse you has been diagnosed with depression. All the books I find are strictly for the depressed person(of which I am rapidly becoming one) but nothing on trying to keep a marriage together when your spouse is depressed. He is on an anti-depressant medication now, but it still hasn’t helped other problems that have been created in our marriage because of the depression. Most importantly I don’t know where to draw the line for dealing or putting up with his behavior. Basically being understanding and empathetic because it may be out of his control for a time verses I can’t stand this behavior and I feel I am putting up with too much. We have 3 children so I want to do everything possible to keep my marriage together. Yet, which is the better environment for the kids that mom and dad are married and in the same home with one extremely dysfunctional person (maybe two now) Or that I separate from their father so We don’t have to deal with all his depressive irregularities and problems. What is reasonable. When does compassion cross the line to co-dependant. Frankly I am sick to death of dealing with all his mental crap and am tired of working my butt of to get us ahead and then he has a depressive episode and completely destroys what I have accomplished emotionally and financially. He has not only wiped out our bank account but put us in the hole so I couldn’t even pay rent with out borrowing money for our church or his parents twice in 4 years. Now he is on the medication but my trust level is zero. We have virtually no sex life now because of all the emotional upheaval this has caused me. I’m not even attracted to him any more.

This Disclaimer applies to the Answer Below
  • ‘Anne’ is the pseudonym for the individual who writes this relationship advice column.
  • ‘Anne’ bases her responses on her personal experiences and not on professional training or study. She does not represent herself to be a psychologist, therapist, counselor or professional helper of any sort. Her responses are offered from the perspective of a friend or mentor only.
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Answer:

Only you can draw the line you want to find between compassion and co-dependence. It is an awesome and frightening line to have to draw and I’m not surprised to find you struggling with drawing it. On the one hand you have a truly ill man you are dealing with; one who needs support and understanding and who, to some degree, is not in control of his actions. On the other hand, you have an intimate relationship with someone who has repeatedly harmed you and failed to work together with you. You are angry and upset with some justification. On the still other hand, you have a family with this man and you have understandable reservations about breaking up your family. Will this be better or worse in the long run for your children. Deep and painful questions to have to address. While I can’t give you answers to your questions, I can make a few recommendations. I see your strength and independence clearly in your letter, but I don’t see how you are being supported during this extended crisis. If you haven’t done so already, I will ask you to consider hiring a therapist or counselor (or perhaps working with a pastoral counselor from your church) to help support you emotionally. It would also be well worth carving out some time to find a support group for spouses of persons with chronic illnesses (which is what your husband has). Having a place to vent and express yourself can really be helpful. The other thing to consider is that you need some respite; a break from all of this chaos. One way is to enlist family members to help you with your parenting responsibilities and then to make some time to renew and enjoy yourself. This might be a walk in a garden, an ice cream cone, a spa treatment, a bicycle ride, or just something you enjoy and do for the joy of it. Essentially, you need some time where you are free of responsibilities and can just relax. Having this time will help you to become more centered and more able to meet your family and marital responsibilities head on. Good luck. – Anne

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