My wife has depression

Hi, my wife has had depression for years and she made me aware of it when we were going out. But tbh I am struggling emotionally. She is sweet, kind, supportive, loving, good fun, considerate of others (and me) and great company. She really is my best friend. We'd met at work and got together after my divorce (my ex-wife was emotionally abusive). So my ask for help and ideas is - when she falls into 'that place' it's like she's a different person. I feel so helpless and often I am at the brunt of her comments. It's like she's determined to chase me away and I'm really not sure what the best approach is. We work in the same office in different departments and typically she starts emailing me. It usually quickly focuses on me and my faults, and nothing I can say seems to help, it just seems to make things worse. Intellectually I know it's the depression, but emotionally I feel deeply upset and anxious. It becomes the entire focus of my day. Because of my treatment at the hands of my ex-wife I start to panic that I am being attacked again (which I am not but it's hard to shake off). I am really worried that this repeated behaviour will drive me into 'defence' mode and we set up a negative cycle which undermines our relationship. Can anyone advise me, please, on the best approach?

5 Replies

  • Hello Frizzlybear, life is very difficult for someone suffering a spell of depression and also quite hard on their partners. It is very important other things being equal that your relationship continues to be strong for both of you. Almost always ,unless its a very bad marriage, which yours does n't sound, a marriage means both parties are stronger both individually and together. Its likely although you are upset and anxious, your wife 's need to have you as a partner is probably greater than yours when depressed.

    I don't think there is a best approach anyone else can give you , after all you know your wife better than probably anyone, but I do think its important that you explain the effect your wife's criticism is having on you. You must obviously do this very considerately as your wife in a spell of depression is likely to become more upset than you if the discussion becomes emotional.

    Your wife is doing very well to continue working through spells of depression, its far from easy. You are certainly each other's best friends and it should be possible to explain that while you will always be there for her, that your own past means that over criticism can stress you.


  • Thanks, Olderal. These are wise words and also I will freely admit that I am maybe not the best person to see things clearly given my past treatment. My instinct when faced with hostility from a woman is to (inwardly) panic and feel it's all my fault, it's my responsibility to 'make it better'. I went through therapy (at my wife's recommendation) which I found very beneficial, but I still find it challenging to 'push back' and I realise that's not necessarily what she needs. I try to be patient, not offering 'solutions' but asking questions (gently) and giving her some space. When we are face to face it is usually fine, but she does tend to hide behind text and email to make challenging comments. I know you are right that I should explain how upset I feel when those comments are made. I am concerned to avoid any feeling on her part that I am 'competing' or claiming that my feelings are more important or more negative than hers. Thank you again - I will think long and hard about how and when to have that discussion.

  • Reading your two additional posts my opinion is that you are lucky to have each other. The emails and texts seem the main problem but a bit of inward panic should n't be a problem as you can let this pass and then take your time replying carefully. As I've said your wife is quite courageous and resourceful to be working through spells of depression. The fact that she can do this is fortunate as work is good therapy ,giving social contact, easing financial worries , and generally giving one a much better feeling about oneself. Even so the fact she is able to do this I suspect is partly due to tthe consideration and support you provide.

    Perhaps your wife does n't fully realise how important to her your support is when she is depressed. Maybe you should take your time select a particularly unfair email that criticises you and instead of replying by email in the first rush of panic, treat her to lunch or discuss it in the evening and point out it was unfair and that you found it upsetting. At least you'll be face to face with a lot of "signals" you won't get via an email or text which should help to keep emotion out of things, and spoiling the lunch.

    If your wife is generally as considerate as yourself I'm sure you'll work something out, but I do think while you should apologise when her critical texts/emails are correct ,you definitely have to push back gently when they are not, before her communications become more critical and upsetting.

    Maybe you should start to read a book on coping with panic attacks and making sure your wife knows this which might be a good way of introducing the subject.

  • Hello Friz, I am the one with health issues in our marriage and I've come to the realization that I have been very hard on my husband, I can be a bitch to put it plainly. I am in a lot of pain most days and then I have my depressed days. There is nothing he could do or say that would make me nicer, even in the middle of it I can't always bring myself out of it. I suggest you speak to your wife on a good day and before you criticize her tell her something positive and then tell her what's bothering you and offer her a solution . Have a =plan= when she starts say How can I help you. I'll try to follow the plan..Now this will only work if she helps devise the plan other wise she will resent it. I hope this works for both of you. What makes me so angry is how much of my life I've lost, how helpless I am some days, and I don't have control over very much of my life.Let me know if it sounds at all feasible . Pam

  • Thank you, Sweetiepye, your experience does seem to mirror what I am experiencing from the other side. I know she is in pain and probably just lashing out. I just feel so helpless because I can see she is hurting. I also over think the things she says to me and I am sure with many of them there is a grain of truth, but these points become a real bone of contention and I just worry that now she is away from her mother (who was narcissistic and manipulative) it's me who becomes the focus. When she starts I really feel like crying and running away. It's like I'm a *bad person* all over again. My therapist also recommended raising the issue on a 'good day' and seeing if we could agree a coping strategy. Even if it's just me saying that she is wonderful and loved and I am there for her, and giving her some space. I guess I am worried that it escalates into some sort of blaming session, but I am sure that my fear is motivated by my past experience and nothing more than that. This current episode was better in that I didn't engage with the accusations, just simply said I loved her and she was wonderful; and at lunch breaks encouraged her to come out for walks. I just played it calm and encouraged her to talk things through and she seemed much more patient. It is upsetting because she is such a lovely person and I feel so lucky to have her - it's just what she is going through is so challenging for both of us. Sorry about the lengthy reply! But thank you again for this insight, definitely food for thought and I will let you know how we get on.

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