Emotional Health · Marriage & Life Partners

When a Spouse Is Depressed

Dear Dr. Ford,

I have been married for almost 27 years and for most of that time, I’d say we were quite happy. Though we had the usual ups and downs, life was good. He and I both have steady, fairly well-paying jobs, and our children are all grown and independent . We had many mutual activities we enjoyed and lots of friends. We live in a small city, but have traveled every year, and both of us were in good health.

About 18 months ago, something changed. My husband, who is 55, suffered a small career reversal, not insurmountable, but he took it very hard. He began to spend long periods sitting in his easy chair, staring at the TV, and worse, sometimes staring into space. Eventually he had to take a leave of absence from his job, which was luckily not difficult because he has a senior position at a company with good benefits.

I confronted him and suggested that he was depressed and he finally agreed to see a therapist.

After ruling out other causes for his mood, the doctor put him on an antidepressant, and though that seemed to work for a while, he still wouldn’t do much to re-engage with his life or with me. In fact, whenever it seemed that he was getting better, he would backslide — it is almost as if he doesn’t want to improve.

I am very frustrated. I try hard not to be angry with him but his behavior is very difficult for me. It feels like I am living with a ghost —a very messy one who never leaves the house. Sometimes I can push him to go out for a little while, and he even seems to enjoy it when he does, but then he soon reverts and the next time it is the same struggle over again.

What should I do? I don’t want to leave him, which I think might make him worse, and anyway I do love him. He says it is not the marriage that is upsetting him, that he loves me, but I seem unable to help him. I don’t want to be locked in this grim life forever.

Any suggestions?

Thanks,

Millie

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