Today is my two-year wedding anniversary.
I am a firm believer that the biggest decision you’ll ever make in your life – a decision that will impact all of your experiences here on Earth – is who you choose to marry.
The right partner will push you towards your potential, support you through the tough times, keep you laughing and gently call you on your shit. They will be loyal, honest and make sure you not only feel like a priority but actually ARE a priority.
I can honestly say, from the bottom of my soul, that I have chosen the right partner in Mr. Jones. He has a degree of empathy that touches me deeply. He is talented and kind. He is hilarious and supportive. He makes me feel wanted and loved.
In short, he is the love of my life and today we celebrate two years of marriage and four years of partnership. Before that, we were best friends for years – a solid foundation on which to start.
I am profoundly lucky to have him as my husband, but I know that being married to someone battling depression isn’t always easy. Even the best partner in the world will struggle sometimes in knowing what to do and how to help.
While I know how to love someone with depression is an important topic, today I want to focus on how to love someone when you’re depressed. I am not the perfect wife, but I really do try my very best to be an amazing partner.
I am not a marriage expert (quite the contrary), but I have learned some important things about how to love a spouse while you battle depression.
Here are some things I try to remember on a daily basis:
1. You are a team. When one of you wins, you both win. When one of you loses, you both lose. This is an important one. I see a LOT of couples in a constant war with one another. There is a huge amount of unhealthy competition.
I’m not talking about fun competition – the kind that makes your husband refuse to play chess with you anymore *cough, cough* – I’m talking about the life wins and losses that kill someone’s spirit.
I really don’t understand why couple’s feel threatened by each other’s success or why some of them don’t feel the depth of the other person’s disappointment when things go wrong.
I’ll say it again. You are a team. If one of you loses, you both lose. If one of you wins, you both win. It’s not you two against one another. It’s you two against the world – against the problem – against the argument.
If you can’t get this part right, the rest is futile. It’s the foundation of any good relationship.
2. Explain what’s happening. Your partner deserves to know what you’re both up against. It’s not just you fighting a battle against depression. You’re a team, remember?
Keep in mind that your partner may have very limited information about what depression actually is and how it manifests for you. Take the time to explain its affects and share what you’ve learned. Let him or her ask questions without judgement. At first, they might not get it. You might both feel uncomfortable. That’s okay and that’s totally normal. Figure it out together.
Your partner might not react in the way you hope when you first talk about it. That’s really unfortunate and very hurtful, but that doesn’t mean that they will be that way forever. Give him or her some time to digest things and then revisit the issue.
If you see a therapist, consider inviting your partner to a session so that your spouse can hear from a professional about what’s happening and about how they can help. Your therapist can also give your spouse some necessary coping skills.
It’s a lot for us to come to grips with depression when it’s happening to us personally. It’s sometimes equally as hard to handle depression that’s happening to someone we love. Coming to grips with losing control and not having all the right answers isn’t easy especially for men (those on both sides of the equation). Patience and baby steps are the name of the game.
3. Be honest. Something I’ve had trouble with sometimes is explaining the depths of my depression to my husband. I want to be an incredible wife. I want to be the woman of his dreams.
I don’t want to be damaged. Sometimes letting someone see the broken parts of you is scary. I really do understand that.
To be in a real relationship, you have to be able to show your partner the dark parts. I don’t like crying in front of other people. It’s something that’s happened the last few years. I prefer to cry under the cover of night huddled in my blankets when Ryan is sleeping, but that’s not fair to either of us.
You need to know if your partner can handle what you bring to the table – the good and the ugly. You BOTH need to figure out how to confront what’s happening.
When you keep your partner in the dark, you keep them from knowing the truth. When they are cut off from the truth, they are cut off from finding their own support system, their own resources and their own coping mechanisms. That is the height of unfairness. In fact, I think it’s cruel.
4. Having depression doesn’t give you the right to be an asshole. Yes, I know how much of a struggle mental illness is. I know how crazy the emotions get and I know how uncontrollable things can feel. However, this doesn’t give you the right to treat your partner like a piece of shit.
They are NOT your punching bag. A healthy person will not stay in a relationship that makes them one.
You need to take a really long and hard look at the way you talk to and treat your partner. The sniping, the micro-aggression, the condescension – it’s all unacceptable. I have always been a firm believer that you have to treat your partner better than anyone else in your life.
The strongest marriages I see are the ones where the partners are respectful and kind to one another. Just because you feel broken on the inside, doesn’t give you the right to break those people around you with your sharp edges.
5. Figure out how your partner gives and receives love. The whole “5 languages of love” thing might sound a bit cliched, but it actually is true. Since Dr. Gary Chapman released his book about this in the 90’s, it’s been a super common phrase for a reason.
Once you figure out your partner’s love language, it’s a lot easier for you to show (and receive) love. It’s important to note that you can have more than one love language and that most people still appreciate all of the following ways of showing love. They just connect more easily to one of two of them.
There are five love languages according to Dr. Chapman and they are:
- Words of Affirmation – telling your partner you love them and appreciate them. Writing little love notes or talking to them directly about how you feel.
- Quality Time – giving your partner undivided attention and spending time with them.
- Receiving Gifts – these people love the thoughtfulness and pre-planning that goes into getting someone a gift. They like to know that their partner thought of them.
- Physical Touch – this includes hugging, kissing, holding hands and of course, sex.
- Act of Service – this is all about easing the responsibility on the other person’s shoulders. Maybe you do the dishes without asking, or take the dog out for a walk.
Now you can probably see how these things get turned around and miscommunicated. For instance, imagine if a wife’s love language is quality time and her husband’s is acts of service.
When he goes to change the oil in her car instead of chatting to her about her day, she’ll get annoyed and he’ll be confused. He thinks he’s showing her love but she won’t get the message.
If they had communicated their love language, she would have known that he was expressing his love for her and he would have known to sit and spend some quality time with her beforehand.
I think I’m pretty lucky in that Ryan and I have very similar love languages – we are both physical touch and quality time…and words of affirmation…and acts of service…and who doesn’t like gifts?! Haha I think if you’re covering the spectrum you’re usually pretty safe 😉
6. Let’s talk about sex. Oooohhh getting a bit hot and heavy now! Although I’m pretty sure my mother-in-law reads this blog, I adore her and I know she’ll understand that this is a subject I cannot ignore.
Sex and intimacy is a huge part of any marriage. As they say, a good sex life is 10% of a marriage. A bad sex life is 90% of a marriage. I do think this is pretty true.
Sex can get very tricky when depression is involved. Not only do we sometimes just feel like shit and gross, sometimes our antidepressants can have a huge impact. Some of them reduce sex drive and make it next to impossible to reach orgasm. Luckily, mine don’t have that effect.
However, I do often times feel like a hot mess and getting naked isn’t very appealing. This is when I have to temper my feelings with my husband’s needs.
And, before you write to me about being sexist, the same goes for husband’s suffering with depression when it comes to their wives. The same goes for same-sex couples. It’s across the board and it’s something that you cannot ignore without consequence.
Just because your sexual needs and desires wane, doesn’t mean your partner’s do. Ignoring that is not fair and it’s a one-way ticket to a marital breakdown.
Now, keep in mind that intercourse isn’t the only form of intimacy. If you don’t want to have full-on sex for whatever reason, find other ways to please your partner even if it’s one-sided.
Complete side note – if you ARE able to have an orgasm, it is really relaxing and helps a lot with anxiety and depression. I recommend several orgasms a day if at all possible 😉
There are many other ways to maintain a healthy relationship while battling an unhealthy mind, but those are a few I’ve found to be very important. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how depression has impacted your marriage and what steps you’ve taken to help things.