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No Compassion For Depression

Question:

I have been married for 18 years. I am 36, husband is 41. We have 3 kids, one is grown. My husband and I are very close. Close meaning we talk and are together a lot. It also means our MOODS affect each other a lot. He is depressed. I think its medical. I think he has been this way on and off for years. Question: I RESENT his depression. I wind up doing all the things HE should be doing, Its more work for me. And I’m suppose to be OK with this? And nice about it?? I wind up saying all the things I shouldn’t say, like, “Snap out of it” (I wish I could slap him like Cher did Nicolas Cage, in Moon Struck) Why do I HATE it that he is depressed? Why cant I be compassionate? Why do I refuse to show compassion? I know I’m making things worse. HELP ANNE!

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  • ‘Anne’ is the pseudonym for the individual who writes this relationship advice column.
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Answer:

Psychotherapists sometimes talk about how ‘enmeshed’ couples are with one another. High enmeshment (otherwise known as co-dependency) describes couples who are so close with each other that anything that one partner does is reflected in the other. Low enmeshment couples are so distant that few things that either partner can do will have an impact on the other. As you might imagine, healthy couples generally display a medium amount of enmeshment – engaged with each other enough to allow intimacy to flourish, but disengaged from each other enough to allow for the individual expression of each partner without forcing the other partner to follow in forced lock-step. It sounds to me like you two are perhaps a bit too enmeshed for your personal comfort. You hate your husband’s depression because when he expresses it, you are feeling taken advantage of. And part of the reason why you are feeling taken advantage of is because you have it in your head that you need to make up for his failings. This may be a mistaken idea. Your husband may well have a disorder (even a ‘medical’ disorder if that makes you happy) that causes him to act badly towards you at times. Even if this is the case, it is not necessary for you to take it on when this happens. If your husband fails to do his share of cleaning in the house, it is not necessary that you need to do his share for him. Think logically about it – if you gave your dog a treat each time she acted badly, wouldn’t your dog start acting badly a whole lot more of the time? Mine would. My recommendation is couples counseling for the two of you. It sounds like you two could benefit from learning how to set emotional and behavioral boundaries with each other. I’ll also recommend that you spend some time reading some books on assertiveness and healthy boundaries, and that you take some time to explore activities that are just for your pleasure (hobbies, fitness, etc.). Being more your own person might help take some pressure off you as you encounter your husband’s ongoing depression. Good luck.

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Comments
  • Colin

    What a load of rubbish! When the person you love curls themselves into a ball you suggest that you allow the family and home to fall apart so some half arsed message can be sent? What for? Youre sending a message to a person (when in that state) doesn't give a toss what you do or don't do! How can you compare a depressed person to a dog thats learned bad behaviour? Do you even live in the real world?

    If so, you've obviously never shared your life with someone who is ill in this way. The practical answer isn't the right answer when dealing with depression because rationality and logic doesn't exist for them.

    I empathise greatly with the person who posed the question, my situation is very similar to yours. I hate her depression with everything I have. I see it almost as another person who is trying to harm the one I love. My advice to you is to seek another opinion and not a flippant response about couple's counseling

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