Is your relationship making you depressed? The truth is it could be. Check out Sara's situation and see if it sounds familiar.
Sara looked around and thought, “Another day and nothing has changed.” Her husband went to work, came home, barely talked to her, she went to bed, then he did, and the next day it was all the same. Of course, there were the occasional arguments when he told her how useless or wrong she was, or how she spent too much money and was a drain on him. Today as Sara listened to her husband shuffle through the house all she could think was, “my relationship is making me depressed and I want out.”
Ring a bell? Sadly, for many this scenario will sound all too familiar. Sara (name changed for privacy) is a patient like many others we see who is experiencing depression because of her relationship. And although in this case Sara is a woman, feeling depressed because of your relationship is something men experience as well.
Depression is more than just passing sadness and can become very serious. It encompasses a profound loss of hope, lack of interest in friends, family, or job, and, at its most extreme, suicidal thoughts. None of us would imagine these feelings as the result of a relationship when it begins. Quite the contrary, in fact. So how is that someone like Sara, who was once excited about her partner and their life together, can find herself thinking, “My relationship is making me depressed?”
The Connection Between Depression And A Relationship
The beginning of a relationship is usually full of hope, anticipation and excitement. Falling in love is one of those things that can create intense happiness and it can be very hard to imagine that you could ever feel any less in love and enthusiastic than you do at that moment. Unfortunately for many, this is part of the problem when depression is caused by a relationship.
Those intense feelings of love, lust, and happiness will eventually change. That’s not a bad thing - especially of you recognize that these changing feelings are a normal part of relationship’s growth. In a healthy relationship the love you feel at the beginning will mellow over time, becoming something that is solid, comforting, and deeper. Just because it’s less intense doesn’t mean it’s less real or important. This is the love that builds a life together, creates a family, and lasts.
For some, however, this change comes as a surprise and creates problems. Not only do some couples feel like the love has gone and begin to struggle, but for certain partners this change can be really difficult to handle and depression can set in. In this case it’s idea of losing what they thought they had, and the realization that the life they imagined isn’t the reality they’re living that can cause them to become depressed. Often this type of depression occurs during the middle years and can initiate, or be part of, a midlife crisis.
Dr. Kurt often works with people dealing with depression caused by their relationships. When asked about why this can happen and what can be done about it he had this to say,
Expectations are a huge factor in becoming depressed about a relationship. Unfortunately, these are often unrealistic and frequently go uncommunicated. A key contributor to developing depression is also silence – we don’t tell people how we really feel. Examining how honest you’re being with your partner about your expectations as well as how you feel is a good first step in addressing relationship related depression.”
Relationships Can Make People Depressed
The failure of a relationship to live up to what was anticipated is certainly one way that a relationship or marriage can cause depression, but it’s not the only way. In some relationships the issues that can cause one partner to feel depressed go far deeper and are much more challenging to fix. Take a look the comments below from real people who are experiencing depression caused by their relationships.
I’m so exhausted and I try so hard to care for our home and our family...I don't know what to do anymore...I’m stuck. He never wanted me to work after the baby so I have no money and no options. I feel so lost and alone. Is there anything I can do?” -Amanda
Sound familiar? Or maybe this one rings a bell.
I’ve been married for 16 years and it’s been hard. We’ve dealt with the same issues for as long as I can remember. Zero intimacy, no kissing, no talking and no sex, it feels like she doesn’t even like being around me. When I try to talk about our issues, she either shuts down completely or says I’m negative all the time. I feel like I can’t go on living. I’ve become so depressed that I can barely function each day. I feel so hopeless that I will ever feel happiness again. I don’t know what to do.” –Ben
In the cases above, as with Sara, these partners are dealing with much more than loss of an ideal. They are in relationships that lack respect, balance and equality, and are potentially abusive. They feel trapped and can see no way to make things better. Circumstances like these in a relationship almost always leads to depression.
Ways To Tell If Your Relationship Is Causing Depression
Relationships can be one of the most meaningful parts of a person’s life. Romantic relationships, especially the ones that become a lifetime partnership, are particularly important and have an enormous impact on a person’s happiness.
A healthy long-term relationship should be a source of love, comfort, and happiness. When this relationship instead becomes a source of pain, feels like a prison, or makes a person feel unsafe, that relationship causing depression isn’t uncommon.
If you feel like this may be the case in your own life, or the statements above sound familiar, but you’re still unsure if your relationship is making you depressed, check out the red flags below and see if you can relate.
- You feel inferior. If your partner seems to have all the power and things are done almost entirely his or her way this is a problem. In a healthy relationship partners are equal, but when that equality is skewed and one partner dominates it leaves the other partner feeling inferior and helpless. A situation like this in a relationship can lead to depression.
- You have no control. Whether it’s control over household decisions, social interactions, child-rearing, or finances, these are things that should be shared. When they aren’t and one partner tries to control everything including the other person, it’s an invitation for depression. Having control over one’s life and independence is critical for mental health and subsequently a healthy relationship.
- You don’t feel like you have any options. This can be a particular problem when it comes to money and who handles the finances. And unfortunately, this is a problem more often faced by women who have chosen to raise children rather work outside the home. Men can certainly fall into this category as well, but it still tends to be more women than men who find themselves feeling trapped and without options. Especially when kids are involved – you don’t want to leave without the kids, you don’t have the money to leave, you have nowhere to go, yet staying becomes more and more painful each day. If this sounds familiar then it’s quite likely that your relationship is making you depressed.
- You feel defeated. When you have gotten to the point of feeling as though there’s no use in trying to make things better this is a big red flag.
- There’s no joy. Perhaps the balance of power and control are fine and there’s no one thing you can point to as a problem, but you and your partner are simply unhappy together. This can happen when communication breaks down and there’s a loss of intimacy and connection. Sadly, couples can exist in this state for years. The idea of starting over, facing loneliness and being alone, and all the drastic changes breaking up brings seems like too much to face – so they stay together. Eventually living this way with the lack of joy, emotional fulfillment, and connection will take it’s toll. This could mean your relationship is causing you to feel depressed.
- There’s abuse. Any type of abuse in a relationship will eventually lead to depression. If you are in an emotionally, verbally, or physically abusive relationship change is essential.
Handling A Relationship That’s Causing Depression
If you are in a relationship that’s making you depressed it’s time for a change. That may or may not mean breaking up, but that’s not a decision to make in haste or without first making an effort at changing things.
Your biggest priority if you feel like your relationship is causing your depression is to take care of yourself. Depression is a serious problem and rarely goes away on it’s own. If things in your relationship have gotten to the point that they are affecting your mental health you will more than likely need outside help and support in order to make the right changes. With these changes, however, you can effectively improve your relationship and your own feelings of depression.
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