Divorce-Proof Your Marriage: How To Help A Spouse With Depression

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Brandie Waters doesn’t blame her husband’s depression for her marital issues. She blames herself.“It’s me,” says the Annapolis, Maryland mom of two. “I basically have had to tell myself, ‘you love him, you married him… and this is the hand you’ve been dealt, so deal with it.’”

It’s not an unusual position to be in. Some 14.8 million American adults deal with a major depressive disorder, and their illness often takes quite a toll on them as well as on their partners. A number of studies have even tied mental disorders such as depression to a heightened risk of divorce.But like many people, Waters says she’s determined to make her 14-year marriage work. And it turns out there are some solid methods for divorce-proofing your marriage in the face of depression.

Know the signs.


Often the first person to spot a spouse’s depression is their husband or wife, says Jill Murray, PhD, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Laguna Niguel, California. Seeing something and doing something about it is one key to helping your spouse get better while keeping your marriage healthy, too.

According to Murray, a true diagnosis of depression—rather than sadness, which everyone feels from time-to-time—is characterized by a two-week period of at least five of the following:

  • A loss of interest or pleasure
  • Changes in appetite or weight gain (that are not related to dieting)
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Feelings of restlessness or being slowed down
  • Fatigue or a loss of energy
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

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