The quality of your home life and your marriage is certainly affected by your spouse’s mental health. When your spouse suffers from depression it can feel as though a cloud is obscuring the sun from your own heart. While others may see your spouse as needing all kinds of help, you need help too.
George (not his real name) wrote to me not long ago about the devastation he experienced in his marriage and home as a result of his wife’s serious depression (and worse). There were some medical issues involved, but the journey forward has been overwhelming. And years later the journey is still ongoing.
The burden of managing more than what your load “should” be can leave you drained, lonely, and perhaps angry. While praying for your spouse’s healing and growth, here are some things to keep in mind for your own heart and soul.
Don’t Take it Personally
Depending on your personality, you may be tempted to feel as though your spouse’s depression says something about you. You’re not good enough. You can’t fix it. If you were only a better spouse they would not be struggling as they are. Your spouse may have blamed you for their moodiness, or demand you do certain things as a result.
Don’t buy into those distortions of the truth. Yes, how you treat your spouse will impact their emotional wellbeing, but you are not responsible for their depression.
It may seem difficult to both own your own role in the relationship and not take on things your spouse is responsible for doing for themselves. That doesn’t mean you walk out with things get difficult, or get a free pass on bad behavior or emotionally checking out because of how your spouse responds – or doesn’t respond.
Your spouse’s depression is not about you. Remember that. Tweet that.
Help Your Spouse Get Help
Some people with depression can reach out for the help they need, but many such individuals need someone who cares about them to help them get that help. Help your spouse see a doctor, and go with them if necessary. Help them get established with a mental health professional if they are not making progress otherwise.
Elements in your spouse’s daily lifestyle can make a big difference in their mental wellbeing. Healthy nutrition, regular exercise, engaging with caring family and friends, even having a pet – there may be many things you can do that help your spouse maximize the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Walk together. Take the initiative to involve your spouse in volunteer or church activities with you. Pray with and for your spouse.
Keep as your mantra Loving Well. That’s what you are called to do for your spouse. There may be many times when you’re not certain what that means, but just keeping that focus will help you navigate many of the challenges along the way.
Your spouse will need to make their own decision to fight for their mental wellbeing. But your consistent and loving support will make a huge difference.
Take Care of Your Own Heart
A depressed spouse can leave you feeling lonely and frustrated in your marriage. This may be a season where God needs you to be His hands and feel in ministering unselfishly to your spouse. But you are human too; an empty glass cannot provide anyone a drink.
Be intentional about finding regular nourishing food for your own soul. That means inspiring books or media programs, physical exercise, and one or a few same-sex friends you can talk with openly. You may be emotionally vulnerable yourself; don’t take risks that could lead to emotional affairs or worse.
Most of all, spend regular time with God and in His word. Being the strong one in a marriage can be wearing. The only way to make it is to hold on to God for dear life. Enter His presence and let Him minister to your soul.
During the weeks and months my husband became increasingly ill he also struggled with depression. I know how challenging that can be. Sometimes it can be difficult to know how much to do for your spouse and when to take care of yourself, and we don’t do that perfectly. But most of all, I learned that daily time with God is critical, even if you only have brief moments to do so.
I pray for you the courage and wisdom to be Jesus’ hands and feet as you hold your spouse’s heart caringly. And may you invest often in your own relationship with Jesus. He sees you, He understands you, and He will not let you down.
Your Turn: If your spouse struggles with depression, have you reached out for help for yourself? How can you do so now? Leave a comment below.
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