6 Min Read
- How Depression In Women Can Differ From Depression In Men
- What Your Wife’s Depression Is Doing To You
- How You Can Help Your Depressed Wife
"I don’t feel up to it.”
“You guys go without me, I’m not much fun right now.”
“I just don’t feel like myself, nothing sounds fun.”
“I don’t know why I feel this way.”
Any of this sound familiar?
When your wife is depressed it doesn’t just affect her, it affects you too – deeply. It affects your entire family as well.
Your wife’s depression is a struggle for both of you and there are many men who feel lost and helpless in this struggle. Some can even feel like they’re pushed to their own breaking point. So, if you’re saying to yourself, “I'm sure my wife is depressed and I can’t take it anymore,” what should you do?
Helping someone suffering with depression is complicated. Telling them to “Cheer up,” “Just get over it,” or to “Look on the bright side” will not work.
In fact, those platitudes can actually make things worse. And, in the case of a husband and wife, there’s also a difference in the way men and women handle depression. So, for a husband who thinks his wife is depressed, knowing what to do to help her, his family, and himself, can be particularly difficult.
How Depression In Women Can Differ From Depression In Men
One of the problems with helping someone suffering from depression is recognizing that they’re actually depressed.
Depression manifests in different ways and can be mistaken for other problems, or even hidden by the sufferer so that only the most observant would realize that there’s something wrong. Before we can really discuss how a husband can help his depressed wife, we should consider the differences in depression between men and women.
Women are more likely to develop depression than men. This reasons for this are many and the subject for another article. But because women are often seen as more emotional and/or moody than men, true depression in a woman can be overlooked for a long time.
A common question from men is, “How do I know if my wife is really depressed?”
Below are some of the most common indicators of and responses to depression found in women, and the differences in depression for men.
- Women’s sleep patterns become erratic when they are depressed. They may sleep more than normal or at inappropriate times. I knew one woman who would nap on and off all day rendering her incredibly unproductive only to stay up until the wee hours of the morning watching TV. Men on the other hand may feel restless and unable to sleep.
- Women more often turn to food for comfort whereas men may choose alcohol.
- Every woman’s standard of personal care is different. Not all women put on make-up and style their hair each day. But if your wife’s personal care habits take a drastic turn, especially for the worse, she may be depressed.
- Women assume they themselves are the problem. Men typically look outward and blame others for their problems.
- A depressed woman may lose interest in, well, everything. She may become apathetic and stop parenting, become anti-social, or stop doing the things that she once enjoyed. Men will often find things to distract themselves from their own feelings.
- Women may feel sad, lack energy, become withdrawn and self-isolate. Men are more prone to unpredictable anger and constant irritability.
- Women are more likely to talk to friends about how they feel, perhaps not to identify themselves as depressed, but that they don’t feel well, like themselves, or feel unable to preform day-to-day responsibilities they way they should. Men don’t typically talk about anything that they feel could make them seem weak.
This is not a comprehensive list of depression symptoms in women, but it is some of the most typical. If you are seeing any combination of these things in your wife, it’s quite likely she’s depressed.
It also should be noted that there are different types of depression, especially for women. If your wife has had a child within the last 18 months prior to symptoms she may be experiencing post-partum depression. Although men can experience their own version of post-partum depression, it can be much more severe in women and is dealt with differently than general depression.
A midlife crisis can also cause depression in both men and women. But once again, the symptoms of midlife crisis in men differ from the symptoms of midlife crisis in women. There are specific considerations to take into account before assuming that your wife is experiencing a midlife crisis, however. So, you will need to familiarize yourself with a midlife crisis before determining that’s truly what’s going on.
What Your Wife’s Depression Is Doing To You
If your wife is depressed you are most likely struggling with how to help her or make it go away. But one thing that gets overlooked by the partners of someone depressed is how to take care of themselves as well.
Many husbands take their wife’s depression personally, assuming they have somehow caused it. It can be an easy thing to do, especially if your wife has lost interest in the things you used to enjoy together, is no longer affectionate and happy, or doesn’t want to be intimate anymore. Husbands can mistake these things for disinterest in the marriage or feel that their wife has fallen out of love with them.
Other men may begin to feel exhausted by their wife’s depression. Her lack of enthusiasm or participation in the normal family or social responsibilities can make things difficult. You may feel like the weight of managing both your lives and your family falls on your shoulders. This can put strain on a marriage and leave a husband feeling lonely, stressed, and potentially facing a depression of his own. Indeed, it has been shown that spouses with a depressed partner are more likely to experience depression themselves.
And if the depression goes on untreated for a long time the alienation that a husband may feel can make them feel trapped in a loveless, sexless, unhappy marriage. These feelings can make a marriage vulnerable to other problems like emotional affairs, cheating, or eventual separation or divorce.
All of these are normal feelings if your wife is depressed. They aren’t, however, an excuse for hurting your wife through insensitive comments, cruel behavior, or damaging your marriage further by ignoring the problem, having an affair, or otherwise making things worse. Rather they should be considered a call to action and reason to seek help for your wife and/or yourself.
But what can you really do if your wife is depressed and you feel like you can’t take it anymore?
How You Can Help Your Depressed Wife
The next question men typically have is, “How can I help my wife with her depression?”
Helping someone with depression isn’t easy. Often the person who needs help doesn’t recognize they’re depressed or that there’s a problem. This means you must first get them to acknowledge there’s something wrong and then that they need help getting better.
Dr. Kurt has worked with many people battling depression. It can be a difficult process. He shared these thoughts on the subject,
A depressed person is typically going to reject any attempts to help them. This can go a step further to becoming hostile and even abusive toward a partner trying to help. While getting blamed and attacked isn't uncommon between spouses, it's still discouraging and hard to help your wife when she pushes you away, but this response is typical with depression. So, having realistic expectations of how much you can actually change the situation is important. Your objective should be to influence her, not change her. You want to motivate her to want to deal with her depression. Certainly if there's anything you can change about yourself that could help with this, be willing to give it a try."
The first and primary thing you need to do when you think your wife is depressed is to be there for her. This means supporting her, being patient, and communicating your love for her. Depression is infinitely worse when the depressed person feels alone and as though they are responsible for the unhappiness of those around them.
Helping your wife get over depression and healthy again requires patience.
What it doesn’t require is for you to have all the answers. Generally speaking, men like to fix things. You have to understand that you can’t just “fix” your wife’s depression. You can, however, pave the way for her to get better and encourage her through the process. Below are some tips to get your started:
- Ask questions and show interest. If your wife is depressed she may not be forthcoming with all her thoughts, especially if they are dangerous. You will need to be willing to ask her to explain how she’s feeling, if there’s anything specific that’s upsetting her, and if she’s been having any thoughts of harming herself. If she says, yes, go to number 5.
- Let her know she’s not alone and that you are in this together. She may resist and claim that this is her problem, but don’t let her forget that you are a team, and her health is important to you.
- Be ready to talk to your kids. If you have children and your wife is depressed, they will be affected. Determine an age-appropriate way to explain in simple terms that mom isn’t feeling well.
- Don’t blame her, yourself, or get angry. Most people do not want to be depressed, so getting angry and trying to assign blame isn’t helpful or healthy. Depression can be triggered, or it can just happen, but it should be understood that you are dealing with a health issue and not simply an emotional response.
- Seek help. Although some people will come out of depression on their own over time, many will need help. Working with a professional counselor can be a good place to start. Counseling can also help provide the needed tools for managing depression if it happens again. If she will not go herself, then go on your own for guidance on how to help her.
Depression is a serious issue, and it can, if you’re not careful, pose a serious threat to happiness and satisfaction in a marriage. Even with the best of intentions, being married to a depressed spouse can be frustrating, painful, and isolating.
If you have been saying to yourself for a while, “I know my wife is depressed,” and you’re feeling at your wits end you’re not alone. You will need to take care of yourself and seek your own support if you are to be a real help to you wife. Keep in mind through it all that it’s the depression that’s the enemy – not your wife.
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