How to Work Together to Save Your Relationship from Depression

Relationships can break down quickly under the impact of depression. While many depressed partners decide to leave for good, I think it’s more common for two people to stay together and try to tough it out. If that’s the situation you’re in, you need more than hope to make a go of it and eventually restore the relationship.

As my wife and I discovered, one of the first things you need to do is learn all over again how to communicate, how to be with each other. If we hadn’t done that, I doubt we could have kept going over the last 25 years.

There are methods that can help you start the process of healing the relationship, but they take a lot of practice and commitment on both sides. If you can stay with them, they’ll help you just as they helped us.

Keep in mind that they won’t solve every problem, and they won’t cure depression. But they can help keep your relationship going while the depressed partner is getting treatment for the illness.

Communicating Goes Beyond Words

A lot of the advice you hear about relating to a depressed partner is all about words. There are countless lists of the helpful things to say, and the things you should never say. The problem is that the words alone don’t express what you mean.

Communication comes from total presence of a person. When you and your partner are talking, you’re much more attuned to facial expressions, physical signs and, above all, the tone of voice than to the bare words. You’re in motion when you try to relate to each other, and you’re both responding to a dozen changes that all the senses are picking up.

In the midst of depression, all those signals you’ve gotten used to either disappear or take on different meanings that block each of you from getting through. The methods we’ve learned help us get behind those signals and better understand what we need from each other.

Everything depends on our working together. That’s the first step, but we couldn’t get started on our own.

Here’s how we got going and what we learned.

  1. Get Help Together

    You may be able to master new skills on your own, but you’ll come to a lot of rough patches. A skilled counselor or therapist can guide you through the early stages and give you exercises to practice. A good professional can also introduce you to techniques you might not otherwise hear about.

  2. Make the Commitment

    It’s important that you agree to work with each other over time. This is not something you can do in 20 minutes a day. You’re trying to learn skills so well that they become second nature. Eventually, you’ll both know when and how to use them without prompting. But that takes a major commitment and a lot of time and practice.

  3. Find Out What the Triggers Are

    One of the best starting points is to discuss what each of you feels and needs, and also to identify the triggering incidents that send you into a tailspin. Julie Fast describes a good method for doing this in Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder. Each of you lists on paper what you feel in the relationship. When you read these to each other, you’re both likely to discover a lot of misconceptions each of you has had about your partner.

    Then you can each list the types of incidents that stir the deepest feelings of anger, hurt or injury. You can’t try to evaluate what your partner is identifying. The point is to be alert to the danger spots so that you can try to keep them from setting off a confrontation.

  4. Stop the Rush to Judgment

    The psychologist Carl Rogers believed that conflict began with our habit of making judgments. We hear an opinion or witness an action, make a quick assumption, pass judgment and react. We’ve worked for a long time with a method to interrupt the process the mind goes through to make the snap judgment. It seems instantaneous, but you can interrupt this sequence.

    • First, you perceive something – hear a statement, see a facial expression, catch a glance from your partner. It’s a trigger that starts up the process.
    • Next your mind identifies what that perception is and interprets it. You assume you know what it’s meant to communicate.
    • Then comes an emotional response. If it’s a sensitive trigger in the context of depression, it’s likely to be negative. You feel angry, hurt, frustrated.
    • You form a judgment. You’re being attacked for no reason. Your partner refuses to listen, is angry and is blaming you for something you didn’t do.
    • Lastly, you fire back and you’re off to serious argument.

    This all happens in a split second, even though your mind is doing something quite complicated. What you can learn to do, after a lot of practice, is to stop the process before making that final judgment and launching an attack. It sounds simple, but it’s hard to do: You have to check out your interpretation with your partner.

    You say something like: “Here’s what I just saw, here’s how I’m interpreting it. Am I right? Is that what you meant?” You may find you’ve missed the mark completely – or you may find you were right. But even if you read the message correctly, now you have a chance to probe what’s wrong. It’s amazing how that pause and questioning can stop the escalation of feelings into a fight.

    But remember: As we did, you may need to learn the method from a therapist. He guided us in practicing it. And we agreed to work on this every time we felt we were running into trouble. We’ve used this basic tool for a long time, but we can easily forget. Even when that happens, however, we both have the model as a reference point. There’s a good chance that one of us will realize what’s happening and try to take us back to where we went wrong.

  5. Listen to the Other Side

    Once you’ve been able to interrupt the rush to judgment, both of you can listen to one another’s concerns more easily. The hard part is to listen without trying to evaluate or judge. There’s a strong urge to interrupt, criticize, dismiss – all by making those quick judgments you’re trying to be conscious of. The best thing is to listen silently and concentrate on what your partner is saying. They’re describing how they see things, and that’s what you need to understand.

    After that, it’s helpful to mirror back what you’ve heard to show that you really do hear what they’re saying. The feeling that you’re being heard and understood is a powerful one in any relationship. It’s an affirming and hopeful experience.

  6. Be Realistic:

    It’s easy to expect too much too soon from any method. You may try it for a while, but have trouble making the new techniques work. That happens with any kind of therapy and with the process of recovery as a whole. The onset of depression has changed everything, and you’re scrambling to make things better.

    You need to be patient with yourself and your partner. Give yourselves plenty of time to internalize new ways of relating to each other.

Have you and your partner been able to work on relationship issues while treatment is underway? What are the key problems you’ve tried to work on? Which methods have been most effective?

Image by munzz at Flickr

38 Responses to “How to Work Together to Save Your Relationship from Depression”

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  1. Liz says:

    I have suffered from severe bipolar depression and PTSD for quite a while and currently I am in a relationship of nearly 3 years that I am terrified is going to fall apart… I am in such a rut that I could never blame him for leaving and well I just would sell my soul for some advice to keep from losing the greatest thing I have ever had… I just stay sooooo angry and upset anymore I don’t know what to do to save us?

  2. Beau says:

    I went out with a woman, who has a history of suffering from severe depression, for almost a year. She broke up with me a month ago, but said I am her best friend and she doesn’t want to lose me. Several months ago, however, she told me that she voluntarily stopped taking her depression prescriptions. I have noticed the changes in her since then. I’m sure I don’t need to detail, but she’s exhibited a lot of aggression against me. Almost everything I do irritates or angers her to the point of no longer talking to me for long periods of time. I’d forgotten she stopped her meds until yesterday, reading this site. I don’t know how to help her if she neglects herself of her treatment. What should I do? I love her and don’t want to abandon her, but I can’t discuss this subject with her without her becoming enraged at me.

  3. Soffy says:

    my boyfriend keeps suggesting me to leave him. i know he’s going through depression and he feels like he cant do anything right at this moment. he has a rough time right now. he wants me to stop being there for him and he isnt sure if he still loves me. that were his last words. i dont know what to do. i want to stay and be there for him, or should i leave and break up like he wants me to. thanks in advance!! soffy

  4. Elizabeth says:

    My boyfriend and I are only in our early 20′s (I am 21, he’s 22) and we have been together for almost 5 years now. He is the love of my life and I know I am his, but he has been suffering from depression since he was 13 years old. When we first started dating the depression never really showed its face and we were happy together. When he was taken off of his depression meds things surprisingly got better and a lot more enjoyable. We would always have time for each other even though we went to different schools a 1/2 hour from each other, we always texted and talked on the phone, went on dates and just enjoyed each others company. Ove the past 4 1/2 years of being together we have fallen deeply in love. Even talked about getting married in a couple of years and then starting a new life together. Unfortunately, up until very recently his depression has gotten a lot more worse. His anxiety levels are through the roof and he never wants to do anything with me. He tells me he goes to class if he can get out of bed and then comes home and lays in bed again until he has to go to work. He tells me that he always thinks I am angry with him and that I’m going to leave him. If i sit a certain way on the couch or look at him oddly it triggers an anxiety attack in him and then we start to fight. It has gotten really bad because it is effecting our sex life/ Recently he hasnt been able to preform or even finish with me because he tells me he has all these bad thoughts run through his mind during it. This destroys me when this happens and I feel so helpless. I feel angry and upset with him as well. I am trying my best to cope with this but almost every time we see each other now we end up having some sort of argument about his depression and it makes things worse. He also tells me he is afraid to tell me anything because he thinks im going to judge him or get offended by whatever it is. To me this is crazy because I do not think of him at all like that. He always is just so scared to go anywhere. We cannot go out to eat or go grocery shopping without him having anxiety attacks or feeling extremely nervous. He even hates it when I go out with friends or when another man looks at me and I dont know how to tell him that I dont want anyone else. Unfortunately I have talked about leaving him or taking a month off from seeing each other so he can get some help, but I don’t know if that is a good idea or not. He doesnt want too but I dont know if I have any other choices right now. He is finally going to start seeing a therapist(after 2 years of me asking him to go) so I am hoping it will help out in some way. Any advice on how I can be a better support for him without getting too frustrated? And any advice on how we can get our sex life back together?

    • Daniel says:

      Hi Elizabeth,

      I’m currently struggling with depression and anxiety attacks, and my symptoms meet nearly all you have described about your boyfriend. my girlfriend and I are the in a very similar situation. She’s trying so hard to help me and I constantly feel like I’m letting her down. I worry about everything and I pester with questions that shouldn’t be asked. like will you not quit on me? are you mad? Questions that I know the answer to. she doesn’t deserve to go through it. All I can say is that I feel terrible about it. absolutely terrible. My advice is to keep doing what you can. Therapy has pulled me from depression more than once. I love my girlfriend and I’ll never stop trying until I’m finally ok and she’s ok. if he worries about you leaving him, I think he feels both bad and loves you. Just hang in there.

      best wishes

  5. sandy says:

    i am married from 1 year and half my husband is always depressed each month & half he would stay in bed like 3 days with barley food and not talking to anybody he had back injury than he did a surgery and fix his back and we do sex like once or twice a month i thought after surgery he will change now it have been like 5 months he did his surgery he is fine he is more depressed not even talking to me if i don t talk to him and it have been almost two month he didn t even hug me and when i touch him he is mad what should i do im so mad and he is transforming me his depression what should i do?& last time i told him if you don t change im leaving he wrote letter saying that he is going to kill himself what should i do?i love him but i don t know how much love will last or how much i can support this situation

  6. Melody says:

    I hear all of you, believe me and as the depressed person in my own relationship I have to agree with an earlier poster who basically said ‘stop!’

    There could be all sorts of reasons for the depression, especially if it comes on later in life and has not been a constant thing. The hardest, hardest hardest thing for the ‘other half’ to do is – nothing. You can’t fix another person. All you can do is take care of yourself the best you can.

    My husband ended-up moving out of our home and he’s in the midst of what I think is his mid-life crisis/transition. Thankfully he moved in w/ mom and not into an apartment with the town harlot. :) But it still shook me up and has forced me to deal with a lot of things. He is obviously dealing with his own things as his upbringing has not prepared him in any way for the life he actually wants to live. (being emotionally connected and communicating effectively)

    Stephanie, your support needs to come from having a life. Find hobbies, find like-minded folks online who enjoy things you do if going out is a problem financially or otherwise. But don’t sit around waiting for the next shoe to drop. I did that myself, and it’s a horrid, soul-sucking way to live. You may be married and you may believe in your vows as I do but that does not mean you need to be a doormat.

    The less you enable your husbands fits and tantrums the more he will realize he feels miserable and no one else is going to jump in and save him. I won’t lie – it might get worse before he gets it. As has been said on this site, often the depressed person has to reach their own personal ‘rock bottom’ before they realize all their shenanigans won’t ‘fix’ their life. The key is for you to ‘get a life’ to the point where you are able to live and exists with or without him. I know it does sound like crazy-talk since marriage is a partnership and all that. But it’s a partnership of two complete, whole people! Not a one-sided blame-game.

  7. Stephanie says:

    My story would take up pages and pages of this site, So I will spare you guys the details, But I am looking for some kind of support, I am currently living and engaged to a man that suffers from Major Depressive Disorder as well as Anxiety. We have been together for 7 years and he is a retired soldier. He served in the Army for 17 years and was medically retired after several bouts of depression. Any way there are several things that we have been through, through out the years, but I am finding myself having a harder time coping with his illness, and the up and down days. It’s so hard watching someone you love go through this, and at times I wonder if I am strong enough myself, If I am suppose to be his rock and support system….Who is mine? I just feel totally helpless right now.

    • Lili says:

      Hi Stephanie,

      Im not sure if you still follow this site or not, but i would love to chat with you about our problems.
      We are similar, my partner of 4 years fell into depression and with in the period of a couple of month he went from a loving, caring man that im planing to spend the rest of my life with, to a stranger. We talked of a future together often and have never argued. Our relationship has been stable and very loving. How can this man suddenly turn on me, he’s cold emotionally and i just remember the nights coming home and he wouldnt even say 2 words to me. I lived like that for almost a year, in deep hurt and misery while he withdrew from me. The worst thing is that depression also have turned him into a very blame-y person, all the sudden i was to blame, our relationship was to blame. When i first heard of those cruel words, i could not believe my ears. It was things that made no sense, like i didnt share his interests or taste in music…(honestly really nonsense stuff.) While he’s not angry, all this was very mentally and emotionally abusive for me, while i do what every depression article suggest: “Do not take it personally”, but how can i not? at the very bottom of my heart its a thick layer of guilt and self blame, as if somehow i feel, yes, i caused this. I am a very sensitive and emotional person, i know im not strong enough, but for us i have picked up the burden and decided to be one that try to hold things together. I moved out to give him more space and visit him everyweek to do the week worth of cleaning and dishes! While he fell in and out of depression. Recently he went far as telling me that he feel too much pressure from our relationship and guilt for treating me badly that he feel its making his depression worse. Have he have any idea how hurtful that sound to me? To this point, although he said he is working towards getting help, he have yet to get help from a doctor or therapist; pitiful attempts at changing his lifestyle, but somehow it’s blames on me again. I had to talk to him 3 times to stabilize the situation and save the relationship. But how long for? i dont know.Not knowing if he ever will get help and when he will finally break completely and end the relationship. I have no one to support me emotionally and no one to pat my back while i cry myself to sleep every night..

  8. Mitzy says:

    The worst part of all of what I have been through is I tire of having compassion and understanding. It does no good and he sinks deeper into “projection” as if by downloading HIS problem on me he gets cured by pushing me down and away.
    Now I have his problems and shortcomings and responsibilities and my own to bear. I can’t even have a headache without his “competing” for NO you can’t be the needy I am. I also have shingles, unfortunately, and the stress his “checking out” of our lives for the second time, with the expectations I will just deal, not only with my bills and life, but the full responsibility of his bills and meet all his needs while he doesn’t even LIVE with us is unreal, and frequently results in my NOW being really ill, and in pain with a shingles outbreak. He doesn’t care except to tell me “you wanted this”. I guess that makes HIM feel better. I feel like a human garbage can most of the time.

    • De says:

      Sheesh, that rings a bell — that weird sense of “competing” for who’s neediest. Like, if you get hurt (minor injury) then instead of being sympathetic, the depressed person will tell you all about how he got hurt way worse than that, he can top that easy. If you feel a bit tired and want to lie down for a bit, pretty soon he’ll be complaining that his throat hurts and he thinks he’s getting a cold. It’s like — during the depressed phase — the depressed person just has to be the victim, Poor Little Me, he has to be more suffering, more needy, more injured than anyone else. Like somehow this is “winning”. A lot of it seems so childish to me, like the sulking of an upset teenager. Is depression somehow regressive, like the person is travelling back emotionally to remembered childhood abuse and terror? It’s so hard to understand. I feel like I need 2 degrees in psych just to figure out my home life.

      What really gets *me* down is the sudden chill in my heart as I realise that, oops, my partner is no longer talking like a rational person, the invisible switch has flipped, I’m no longer on firm ground, I can’t predict what he may do or say next (or conversely, I may be able to predict it all too well as he will repeat the same, ritualistic, word-for-word rants/gripes/glooms/tics). And the realisation that for the next N days I’m basically on my own, there will not be a functional person in my life for affection, support, or anything else. He becomes useless, dead weight, non-functioning, even kinda toxic until he climbs back out of it. OMG what a waste of the life time of an otherwise wonderful human being.

  9. Mitzy says:

    I wanted to add, a spouse can only do, say or support the other’s illnesses, depression, or carry the mostly full load of adult responsibility for so long. The key word here is support. It is up to the ill person to do their part in getting well. None of us are saints here, but humans with our limitations of own inability to DO, or suggest what might help others.
    A year is a long time to be expected to be “supportive” or carry the load of adult responsibility while our spouse takes NO steps to “self heal” and for the non depressed person to also bear the brunt of the load of still “there” responsibility, and the ANGER and blame of the depressed person is too much to expect as a “new lifestyle” with no limitations. When this condition lingers on for several years it is hard and unfair to expect us to understand, as we are now depressed or over burdened with all the “other stuff” in life that stops for NO one.
    Without the depressed person doing their part in getting well, resentment and the feeling of being taken advantage of has NO choice but to creep in.
    When life goes on and gets more difficult, and we have no help, emotional feed back or appreciation for being caring and supportive, there is NO choice but to eventually self protect, and get relief. Living with an angry, or severly depressed person who does NOTHING to help themselves, but project blame to the “caretaker” is not a row most people can hoe forever.
    I once read depression is just ANGER turned inward and I had a lightbulb moment. All my steps to support and help were more enabling of my husbands selfish refusal to even consult with anyone as he was in total denial of his part or RESPONSIBILITY to himself and others to seek treatment outside of using me for a whipping post, and crutch.
    At various times in my life I was left to deal with my minor boughts of depression, and received little to NO support from my husband while I struggled through ALONE, thankfully these never lasted much more than six months and were, I believe, mostly due to hormonal changes after giving birth, and MOSTLY due to his treatment of me, as a servant not a person with feelings, and or due to total exhaustion and sleep deprivation that usually goes hand in hand with babies, and all the time and work needed, and a husband that rarely was home.
    But, those were enough to teach me, NO one was going to carry my “self indulgence” to mentally obtain r and r, and that I was responsible to “heal self” to a large degree. It also taught me that anger at injustice or reality was a counter productive reaction to actually changing circumstances or my outlook. Sometimes, when a person refuses to help self, being supportitive can backfire into a total dependance and lazy approach by the person that is ill, but refusing to take responsibility for SELF.
    I do not mean to be harsh, but being so “babied” can itself delay a person being FORCED to do everything and anything to help themselves as the survival mode then can kick in. Avoidance of self responsibility can actually deepen depression in my opinion. When one is expected to be “support” indefinately, the “sick” person has NO need to deal with self healing.

  10. Rilke says:

    I have been reading through your posts in the past couple of days and picked this one to comment on. I feel a sense of relief getting validation (there is someone out there who knows what we are going through!) and despair (my husband refuses to learn to manage his own illness) sensing that this will not be how the story goes for us.

    You describe the thoughts and feelings of a depressed person very intimately and accurately and it has been very beneficial for me to read through in order to try to understand my husband better. You also state very encouragingly what kind of steps the depressed person, their partner and the couple together can do to learn to build new intimacy and connection despite the illness.

    This list is great but we fall already the first step. My husband refuses help. Period. He thinks most of our relationship problems are because of my shortcomings and mistakes. This is hard to deal with. It is getting increasingly harder to deal with. He’s not even just one of those isolating moping depressed people. He’s the kind that needs to have me there by his side, keeping him company, while he mopes. One false move, and he gets angry at me. Then he needs me to hug him again. I’m tired.

    Agreeing to sit by his side works great for him as he doesn’t have to deal with the world but won’t feel so alone either. It works terribly for me and I start to feel depressed as well. I’ve tried it for some time. As a result I pulled away for him as well as the world, because I ran out of emotional energy. Taking care of my own needs, even just some, works much better for him but causes so much headache. He feels lonely and abandoned. I feel pressured and stressed. If I try to reach out away from him too much, he rages and pulls me back in. I comply for a moment to keep the peace and then start to yearn for my own space again.

    I suspect we will divorce within one year if nothing changes in his willingness to help himself. Through me working on my way of communicating, maintaining my emotions and on the other hand not taking responsibility of his feelings — he has had to learn some new ways of containing his and simple self-soothing. But it is such a slow and an insecure process as he is not even aware of himself doing it. The weight of fixing the relationship is on me, through working on myself to become the best person I can be. I can see results but not enough benefits. I’m moving closer and closer towards making my request for him to help himself an ultimatum.

    I feel scared too, of the depression not subsiding, of my future with him. I feel angry at him too. I feel left alone and lonely. When I express these feelings they are only met with his twisted views of how it is all my fault or his sense that since I haven’t listened to his feelings enough he won’t listen to mine either. I gradually lose touch with him but I’m afraid if I some day announce my wish to divorce him it will come to him as a complete surprise. But not due to lack of my efforts to talk about it.

  11. Natalie says:

    My husband took depression after the death of his father in Feb this year but i didn’t release what was going on until he moved out in Sep. The run up to him leaving was very stressful, as he would treat me badly in front of people (run me down). He slept in a different room or the couch and was very distant. I have enough and ask him to move into his Mothers for 4 wks to see what was wrong or to see if he loved me.
    After he left it was very apparent that he was suffering from depression, as he would say things like ‘feeling empty’ in ‘limbo’ and made a few comments saying that if is wasn’t for our daughter then he would be off a bridge.
    Its now 3mths down the line and he is now on antidepressants and has been to a counsellor a few times and currently still going.

    Even though he seems slightly better, he has made no attempt to help our situation and tells me he does love me but it doesn’t feel the same or as much as it should be.

    I feel in total emotional limbo and keep swithering if ‘I’m flogging a dead horse’, so to speak. He has made absolute no physical contact with myself and even over the Xmas period not even a peck!!

    We have been together over 16yrs and have a bought house together. I have tried speaking to him about situation but he has no answers and feel that the more he stays away, then the harder it’ll be to return.

    I do love him dearly but feel that I’m beginning to suffer and have had lots of bouts of tears and just feel helpless……

  12. Carla says:

    My recently ex boyfriend has suffered from depression a few years before he got a full time job and met me. This year he started university after being away from a school environment for a long time. The stress of having no money, pressure on himself to do well and pressure to maintain a loving relationship gradually became too much for him, and he broke up with me saying he needed to be alone for a while and find himself again. I am starting to wonder now if he did this because depression has formed into his life again and he is used to dealing with it on his own. We have hung out, cuddled and kissed once since our break up, we are remaining close, I don’t know whether I should assure him that if he needs me I am here for him or if I should say to him that I know he doesn’t find anything enjoyable any more (he has said that to me) but why? or what should I do? I will continue to support his decisions through everything and give him the space he needs, but I don’t know if I should reach out and try and help or not. Can anyone help?

  13. It is understood that when a person suffers from both addiction and depression that they have concurring disorders and that both must be treated in order to achieve relief from even one disorder. A treatment center that specializes in dual diagnosis is the best option. If you are suffering from depression and it has led to an addiction help is available.

  14. Counselling says:

    Thanks for sharing an inspirational story.Any marital problem can be solve if acted together by couples.Communication is important.Having an open relationship is the best.I learned a lot here.

    • Judy says:

      I don’t think it’s true that every marital problem can be solved, just because we are human. The healing sometimes has to come through acceptance of our flaws and those of our partner and the realization that no one can be all things to anyone.

  15. James says:


    My wife and I are on the verge of breaking up after 10 years of marriage and 3 children. I think we have both suffered from depression for most of our lives. She has just started to get treatment and I until now have been in denial. I understand that my depression and the related irritability and anger have contributed to to her state and vice versa.

    As I start to read more and more about depression the more I understand the negative afffect it has had on our relationship.

    My wifes doctor started her on a mild dose of Prozac, her doctor has now left and she has seen a new one who promptly doubled the dose of the drug. This seemed to trigger a episode that could be the final straw in our marriage. Has anyone else had a similar experience withh medication?

    I am finally taking steps to try to deal with my own problems, I just hope it is all not too late.



    • Mitzy says:

      In answer to your question regarding experience with Prozac. I had a terrible and scary reaction to Prozac. I felt dizzy, disoriented and suicidal. What happened was that I was also on an antihistimine, and was in reality also severely dehydrated. Many over the counter, and prescription medicines, mostly antihistimines are also used for depression. They are given to help the person sleep but are ALSO used as antihistimines. I can only put forth that Prozac is well know to cause problems in lots of people and for these people it is NOT the right drug for them. Drugs, are, contrairy to opinion not “one size fits all” and some people have severe suicidal and or other adverse reactions. When I called the doctor to relay my scary symptoms they told me to keep taking it. This was BAD advice as I was having a classic adverse effect. Combined with the antihistimines and dehydration (duritec effect) I had inadvertantly made it worse, though they told me it was ok to combine the two.
      Without knowing how your wife behaved I couldn’t say for sure if that was caused by this medication, just know that not all antidepressant drugs work well for everyone, sometimes they just don’t “calm” or whatever but cause an esculation of problems. I would guess your wife needs a different antidepressant.

  16. Liz says:

    Hi L — I’m the “Liz” that John refers to in his response to you on July 17. I discovered Storied Mind when I first realized the severity of my partner’s depression and how it effected our relationship (circa 2008). Storied Mind was invaluable to my understanding of what my partner was going through. I tried not to be angry…even though at times I was. I went thru some fairly dark times of confusion, loss, anxiety, and deep sadness over the breakup of our relationship and trying to understand a chronic disease that I couldn’t blame him for…it was the toughest thing I have ever been through(some of my older postes on this website reflect those feelings). Today we are together and loving each other very much. I don’t have a magic answer for you on why we have been successful in moving through his depression. As a matter of fact, it never leaves us. As a chronic condition, we are reminded every day that something could trigger an episode. The difference for me is in the understanding of what he is going through and talking about it with him in an open and loving way. Maybe age has something to do with it as we are both in our late 40′s and I would like to think with age comes more patience and understanding. We don’t have the complications of children or extended family so our experience is just between the two of us. I am not as eloquent as John in writing about my experience so I will end with a few things I have learned from reading this site. Take care of yourself first. Your partner must realize not only what he is doing to himself but the effect it has on his loved ones and be committed to getting better through therapy, medication, etc. If you love him…continue loving him but not at the expense of your health and well-being.

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, Liz -

      Beautifully put. I’m glad things are going well.

      Thanks for writing.


  17. L says:

    My partner and i have decided to have some space from each other to see if we need to separate we have a 3 year old and have been together a long time and love each other dearly. I have found this website very useful in understanding my partners depression but I was wondering if there are any people who have survived this together and if there is hope of a fulfilling happy relationship I would love to have something positive to hold on to.

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, L -

      There are positive stories here about couples who have been able to stay together, though it can be hard to track them down in the comments. If you look for comments by Liz on How Can You Communicate After Your Depressed Partner Leaves?, Why Depressed Men Leave and other posts mentioned on the Relationships in Crisis page of this blog, you’ll find her encouraging story as well as others. You can also look at my ebook, which tells how my wife and I got through my depression. I hope you and your partner can work through this together.


      • L says:


        Thanks for your reply i will look into the posts did try to find them but struggled.
        He has been gone a week now and i actually feel a lot calmer i am managing better than i thought capable i believe my anxiety levels have been high for soo long its a bit of a relief but this in itself has given me loads of doubts over carrying on fighting the depression with him or escaping. I don’t think i want to give up on such a long (mostly loving and fun) relationship or the father of my son i have learnt i don’t need him to survive this week but do i still want to be with him and love him and support him? Confusing is not the right term.

        • KCA says:

          Hey L,

          I think I came here for the same thing as you. My fiance and I have a five year old together and there are times when I take a step back and look at our relationship and wonder if it is even healthy. There are times I feel unhappy or even depresesd. But there is never a time I know what is going through his head because his communication skills suck. But anyway.. how have you been doing since having space back in July? I love really appreciate an update – perhaps it could give me courage to change something in my life for the better. Thank you


  18. Jocelyn says:

    Dear Bill, John: It is great to have a partner who is willing to participate and engage. My husband is not. He says I am the problem, the one with the problem, so whatever damage I have caused our marriaged due to my depression and other issues, I have to fix. I am the one who needs help, not him, he repeats over and over again. Thus, I pray for strength and courage and the gift to listen, to let go of the pain and the resentement and the anger, “to interrupt the sequence” as Roger recommends and don’t jump to judgments, to learn new ways of relating to him. I am accepting this reality for now. I must do all the work to get better, to get stronger, to heal. I am beginning to understand how he see things by listening, although I disagree. I don’t have to agree or disagree. His words are not the Gospel about my life or anything else. I listen and understand and then move on to write, to work out, to read or pray, to speak to my soul and spirit and keep fighting for my life, alone.

    • Melody says:

      Sounds like me right now, Jocelyn. I hope it has gotten better for you, at least on your emotional end of things!

      I am the one who checked-out in my relationship. It was complicated by the fact we worked together in a family business and I checked-out of that, too. So his anger is doubled by being upset about the state of business affairs and the fact that he hated coming home to me because I was a shell of a person who was just angry all the time.

      We separated just over a week ago after 20 years together and a child. He wants to work toward getting back together and I do think a large part of our problem is just our inability to communicate. His listening skills suck, too, and what he says is not always what he means. That has lead me to a lot of misconceptions about how he feels and what he wants.

      I am grateful for finding this website. I will probably forward him some of these articles in the future. Right now things are so raw and he is not terribly thrilled with my saying I have been suffering depression. As is usual for other people, spouses included, he hears it as an excuse and thinks in his mind this is my way of justifying being lazy. As I said, lots of raw emotion right now!

      • Me says:

        Dear Melody, since January things got worse, than better, and are now declining as I am having bouts of depression. Communicating my feelings when I am depressed is very difficult especially to a defensive husband who things I was possessed by the devil when I was severely depressed in January. He says he is still hurt at how I turned against him. He says I became a different person. But what amazes me is his inability to listen and accept what I feel and express. Today I bough t a supplement called 5 HPT and told him about it. He chastised me for trying something new all the time and never finding anything that works. When I told him, I didn’t appreciate his response and would have liked a less critical response, he said that I never give him the benefit of the doubt and misunderstand him. I guess we just misunderstand each other. He doesn’t think I am depressed or have any reason to be depressed since he provides so much stability, we don’t ave financial problems, my daughter is in college and doing well. I just have a stressful job to deal with. My husband retired a year ago. Despite whatever says, depression is creeping back in. E says I don’t fight it hard enough, that I embrace depression and permit it to take over me. I fight more than he would ever know. It takes a lot of work to stay in a relationship with someone who just doesn’t understand and has no empathy. In the meantime, if you can, follow the steps on the book The Depresssion Cure. They really helped me. I also took three months off from work at the time. Can’t time time off now…continue to get help and take care of yourself. My husband never wanted to try counseling. If yours wants to reconnect with you, I pray he considers Theraphy with you. I wish you both the best.

    • Mitzy says:

      The big key to what might be YOUR problem and your husbands is in your post. You say he retired over a year ago, well that was the real trigger that I am afraid is about to end our relationship. His job and the status he had with it was everything to him. Just about the time my “job” of raising 4 children was coming to an end and I looked forward to having time for my hobbies of painting, fixing old things into new, building and metal detecting which I love, and of course, hopefully, spending more time on outings with my husband, He developed severe depression. This has lasted six years, it got so bad he refused to do anything but sit on the floor. All attempts to “get through” that the problem was obvious and he needed help dealing with that, boomeranged into being MY problem. He wanted me to give everything up, mostly my new found friends and my hobbies. I refused, as after many years at home without time for any of that, I desperately wanted to keep my interests. He didn’t want to do ANYTHING with me, just was jealous I had anything in my life. The fights were awful and yes, until I really began to understand what was motivating his “meanness” and rage, I had been depressed with the disappointment of his approach to our “retirement”. To be blunt he was vicious in the projecting of blame to me, this was hard as I was at times struck with saddness over my mostly empty nest, and the loss of my identy also, however, I knew the best medicine was to get a new identity and interest to combat the “sads” caused by him and my own issues with my “babies” being all gone and having their own lives. It worked for me, yet he was still horrible about everything about me, and seemed to like spending his days, now combating and besting me. He clearly was bored and needed to boss or conqueor me as his “windmill” or kill us both in the process. I had to finally lock him out, due to the near physical fights that were occurring in front of my teenaged daughter. He left, signed a lease for a year, and took 10,000.000 dollars out of our pension. Sadly, all he does now is set in his bachelor pad with no furniture and go nowwhere, and still blame me for his own choice to do this, rather than do anything of any consequence that would allow us to at least stay busy until a new way began to develop. He now wants to be KING of two castles, and unfortunately to protect myself and daughter financially, I filed for divorice in order to “maintain” the old home for many reasons, and to care for our minor child. He likes to be here, but not permantly, that is clear, and I have tired of the limbo, now feel I have no choice but to move forward as I feel too young to be so “nothing” to no one. I have had interest, but after 34 yrs and old time sake, really do not want to give up. I fear it is a lost cause, as he is happier with nowhere to go, nothing to do, and no one to consider. He still doesn’t want to see HIS part in anything. Sad.

      • Mitzy says:

        I also wanted to add, he think I am a nothing, but more of a servant, that should totally sacrifice myself to his “whimsy” which means I defer, am treated badly, must be the one to take care of everything, give up everything, just to watch him watch TV and occassionally work in the yard. He drinks too much, and is way too full of himself, and frankly I wonder if he ever even thought of me as we had nothing but all work and no play through out the marriage. I now realize that wasn’t CLEARLY due to his jobs being so demanding, but rather his choice to “go alone”. I wished I had known this years ago that this is his true personality, or at the least the one he cultivates……..of course it is me because I, in defense of my daughter and self filed. It sickens me to see our hard earned (by having no vacations or fun) money go repeatedly out the door to his “pad” which he frequently launches tirades of what I need, should, or am responsible to do, while he takes NO responsibility for the lack of his.

        • Mitzy says:

          Of course, being a stay at home, due to tax brackets and his jobs that involved traveling and shift work, I have NO training or skills, other than those I have gotten being both the man and woman on the home front. He has been “kind” and hasn’t cut us off financially but in a way this makes me feel even MORE pathetic and like a “duty” not someone he really cares about. He is just now a distant “boss” if I need to enteract with him at all. Many new fights about his “brass” in STILL treating me as if I work for him. I am not going to particapate in his dillusions of our imbalanced dealings anymore, as he refused to address, “whats really up” and “where do we go from here?” This is embarassing to stick by someone through it all and then get cast aside like yesterdays garbage, but I must “deal” as the pension is all in his name, and I fear it will be very hard on me and daughter at this point. She has one year to go, and then I may lose my beloved country home. Not my idea of “retirement” at all. I could kick myself for being so “trusting” all those years and believing we were working toward a MUTUAL goal as we sacrificed so many good years of happy fun when young. I choke down anger and depression every day…..and sometimes think I haven’t really let the reality that there appears no reconcilling in our future.

  19. Bill says:

    This information really helped me and my GF a few months ago. Thank you so much for providing it.

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, Bill -

      I’m glad it was helpful and wish you will in your relationship.



  1. [...] How to Work Together to Save Your Relationship from Depression …Jan 9, 2012 … Have you and your partner been able to work on relationship issues while treatment is underway? What are the key problems you’ve tried to … [...]