One of my foundational teachings from my research is that we women want (and need) our husbands to love us even when we are unlovely, while men need us to respect them even when they may make mistakes. But something that has become quite common these days, which especially calls for unconditional love and respect, is depression.
You would not believe the number of questions I get about this in my email inbox or at my events—depression seems almost as rampant as the common cold! The difference, though, is that the questions at my events usually arise from someone taking a circuitous route to come talk to me, privately, looking sideways to be sure no one is listening, and asking the question in a hesitant voice, as if it was shameful to be dealing with it! I always encourage them—hey, I have a history of depression-like illness in my own family, and it's nothing to be ashamed of. What it is, is something to be aware of and purposeful about!
We should always be aware of and do our best to meet the needs that are so important to our spouse (or a boyfriend/girlfriend), but it is especially important when that person is struggling with depression. Whether it’s deep, ongoing depression or a bout of depression associated with winter blues, post holiday “dips,” an episodic crash, or general cyclical blahs, you can make a HUGE difference for your spouse.
For sure, if the wife is struggling with depression, she especially needs the security of knowing that her husband is always going to be there for her—and that unconditional love is especially impactful if expressed in her “language” (see Gary Chapman’s book the 5 Love Languages). If it’s the husband struggling, then in my experience, what he most needs are demonstrations of how much you appreciate and respect him (you recognize what he does, you say “thank you for _____”, you show that you are confident in his decisions by trusting him when you want to criticize). Of course, that doesn't mean putting your brain on hold if there are things of real concern, but all too often we don’t recognize that stuff we disagree with is simply a difference of opinion!
Those little actions don’t change the clinical reality of course, if it is a true depression. If it is, I've seen in my own family the difference the care of a doctor makes! And of course, the spouse of a depressed person themselves needs support—that is a whole other article. But don’t overlook the impact that you can have on a loved one who really needs it.
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