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"My Husband Has Been Ignoring Me Since I've Become Depressed"

A depressed wife is afraid she will lose her husband.

Key points

  • Depression is hard on marriages, partly because partners may not know how to cope with depression.
  • Avoidance is a common reaction to a partner's depression.
  • Being patient and honest with each other, while seeking professional help, can help couples face depression together.

Dear Dr. G.,

I really do need your help. I am a 38-year-old mother of two and have been with my husband since our sophomore year of college. My husband has always been my best friend. We have had many happy moments together. We have a 12-year-old daughter and a 10-month-old girl. We were delighted to have a second child. We loved having our first child and really wanted to give her a sibling. We were so happy about our life together and the family we created.

About three months ago, I started to become depressed. Since then, I noticed that my husband has started to ignore me. I don't think that I am imagining this. He hardly speaks to me. So now, I am dealing with trying to take good care of my kids while dealing with depression and my fear that my husband is losing interest in me.

I have brought this up with him and he denies that he is withdrawing from me. I don't know where to go from here. I do not want to lose my husband. I also want you to know that he grew up with a depressed mother.

A Scared Wife

Dear Scared Wife,

Thank you for writing to me. I am quite sure that you are on to something here. If you feel that your husband has been avoiding you, then you are probably right. You have known him for many years and you are describing a significant behavioral change.

There are many reasons why a partner may withdraw in the face of depression. You said that your husband grew up with a depressed mother. Your own depression may be triggering for him. He may not have known how to deal with depression as a child and may be experiencing the same feelings of not being quite sure what to do as an adult. He may feel incompetent and frustrated. He may also be experiencing anger and or anxiety. Perhaps he feels that you are too busy with the baby to attend to him and is reluctant to admit this.

Let's face it. No one is trained or taught how to deal with their partner's depression. It can be terribly frightening. Perhaps you and your husband can go to therapy together and learn how to deal with your depression as a team. My hope is that you will become even closer as you address the depression. Try to be patient and honest with each other during the process. As we all know, good marriages have ups and downs and require good communication.

I wish you freedom from the depression and an even stronger marriage with your husband. Please stay in touch.

Dr. G.

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