Emotional Health · Marriage & Life Partners

When a Spouse Is Depressed

It is important that your husband see someone regularly, at least weekly, during this period. Also, if his doctor is not a psychiatrist with a deep knowledge of psychopharmacology, you might want to consider seeking a new one. There are alternative drugs, new treatments, and even old ones, like electro-shock, (though it has a bad reputation it has been refined and can be effective for resistant depression) that should be tried before you “give up” on him.

Peter Kramer, M.D., an expert on depression wrote a book called “Should You Leave” in which he said though we used to believe bad marriages cause depression, maybe it is often the other way around: depression can wreck a marriage. You say you love your husband and things were good before this, so it seems worth your while to keep trying.

Meanwhile, how do you live with such a person, particularly if he seems not to be complying with his doctor’s orders? It is difficult to walk this tightrope between worry about his safety and your own need to get on with life. I suggest that as much as possible though, you show him and tell him that you love him but that you are going to go on living a full life. That might include going out with friends or even travel, as well as devoting time to your career. Make it clear that you want him to join you in this life and the door is open, but he has to step up and make a greater effort to try to get better.

I realize that it may not work, but this technique has been very effective for people who have problems they refuse to recognize, like alcoholics. Making it clear that you don’t want to “collude” in his self-injurious behavior because you love him rather than you don’t care, can help.

Finally, if he won’t go to his therapist, make him go see a couples therapist with you. You can set an example for him of showing a willingness to face a difficult problem and keep working at it. I think you will be better off, if you do decide to leave, knowing that you have tried everything.


Kramer, Peter. 2005. Against Depression.
Kramer, Peter. 1998. Should You Leave?


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