Sarah wasn’t sure if she was feeling down because of something wrong with her, or if she was simply feeling her husband’s depression. His recent health problems had led to the loss of his job, and he was taking it very hard. Many days Sarah found herself feeling guilty that she wasn’t being a better support to the man she loved at such a difficult time.

When you’re married, your spouse’s mood can affect you a great deal. If the one you love and live with is depressed your own emotions can take a severe beating. Especially if you have been strongly connected in your marriage you may find it hard to separate your own feelings from those of your spouse.

God’s plan for marriage is that husband and wife be a support to each other in good times and in bad. When your spouse is struggling with depression you will likely need to draw on the full range of physical, emotional, and spiritual coping strategies in order to do so.

During such challenging times, there are two goals to keep in mind:

  1. Maintain your own strength.
  2. Be a helpful support to your spouse.

It’s possible to fall into the ditch on either side of this path. Ignoring your spouse’s extra vulnerabilities and needs, and refusing to help where you can, may well destroy your marriage, and certainly is not the Christian model of love. But ignoring your own vulnerabilities and needs in favor of your spouse’s will leave you completely spent and unable to help in any meaningful way.

A few things to do and not to do that will help you remain sane, strong, and supportive:

  1. Don’t take it personally. Your spouse is not depressed for the purpose of ruining your life. Their struggles and emotional heaviness are not about you. As difficult as life may seem to you right now, it almost certainly seems even more difficult to them.
  2. Do acknowledge how you are affected. When you care about someone, you hurt when they hurt. When they are unable to carry some of the household load, it adds to what you must carry. You may feel angry, lonely, disappointed, frustrated, and tired.
  3. Don’t do too much. Whatever state your spouse is in, there are certain things they CAN do. Don’t do for them what they can do for themselves. They may be able to clean the house or yard, or make a necessary phone call that can help them feel useful.
  4. Do help where necessary. Depending on the level of your spouse’s depression, you may need to help them plan what they can do. Sometimes doing necessary tasks WITH you may help you stay connected together as a couple, while accomplishing what is needed.
  5. Don’t neglect your own health. It’s even more important at such a time to insure you yourself are getting healthy nutrition, enough rest, and appropriate exercise. Staying healthy physically will increase the mental reserves you have to help your spouse when necessary.
  6. Do find ways to fill your own emotional tank. Being around someone who is depressed is often extremely draining. Know what feeds your own soul, and be consistent about doing so. That may mean taking walks alone, listening to music, reading something just for you, or extra time with God.
  7. Don’t remain isolated. Depression is an extremely isolating illness, and if you’re not careful you can become isolated yourself. It’s vitally important that you maintain connections with friends and others who can help keep your own spirits up.
  8. Do encourage your spouse to get help. Your firm but loving push to get appropriate professional help may be vital: a physician, a psychologist, a pastor, etc. You cannot force him or her to do so, but going with them may be enough to let them get help.
  9. Don’t take responsibility for fixing your spouse. You can help, encourage, and support, but you cannot take charge of another person’s life. You can do important things to help lift their spirits, and focus on whatever is positive about your life together.
  10. Do pray. Pray for your spouse, and pray for your own strength. God knows better than you do the struggles your spouse is facing, and He also knows the burden you are carrying. He’s the only One with enough wisdom and strength to help you through.

Love means being there. Draw on God’s love if you need to on the tough days. He won’t let you down.

One final note: if you believe your spouse is in serious danger of harming themselves or others, get them some help immediately. It’s a sign of respect and love to do so.

Your Turn: What do you do to be supportive when your spouse is depressed? How do you keep your own spirits up during that time? Leave a comment below. 

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