In a Relationship with a Depressed Man
Statistics about men and depression are hard to gauge because so many men feel that acknowledging they are depressed is sign of weakness. This denial of depression, however, can be much more detrimental to the man and everyone close to him, especially a partner in a relationship with him.
Women and men deal with depression differently. Women who are depressed might blame themselves initially, but they are more likely to go to a doctor for help. Depressed men often find unhealthy outlets such as drug or alcohol abuse or uncontrolled anger toward others.
Other signs of depression in men:
• Daily irritable, angry, or very negative
• Picking fights, being critical or mean
• Loss of interest in activities or hobbies, withdrawal from family and friends
• Talking about death or suicide
• Acting unreasonably, without concern for others
• Having trouble at work or school
• Talking suddenly about separation or divorce
• Complaining of aches and pains
• Eating/sleeping too little or too much
When you are in a relationship with a depressed man, it might feel like you have no way out and no options. Do you confront him about his depression and risk shaming him even more, or do you minimized it like he does? No matter what the consequences might be, you HAVE to address his depression. If you don’t, it will seep into every aspect of your relationship and/or family life and will slowly destroy everything you have built together.
Because men are very sensitive about the topic, you have to be careful how you broach the depression conversation. This is a very real disease, so treat his feelings seriously and lovingly—don’t minimize what’s happening to him. Try to be as positive as possible, even if you feel at the end of your rope.
Being a source of hope for him might not pull him out of depression, but being negative will certainly further him deeper in his struggle.
Try to get your partner to a physician as soon as possible so he can start the path to recovery. Bribes and tricks, though they seem deceiving, are OKAY. If you have to use the pretense of a yearly exam to get him to the doctor, then that’s what you have to do. Here’s where it gets tricky: YOU will have to be the one to tell the doctor about your partner’s depression, because there’s a good chance he will not share the information on his own. Either go with to the appointment, or contact the doctor ahead of time and explain everything that has been going on.
For your part, do as much research about the disease as you can. Check out some of the resources at the end of this article. Talk to people who have gone through depression or have assisted a loved one through depression. Join support groups. Find a counselor of your own to talk with about how you are coping. The more you can learn about the whole scope of depression, the more help you will be to both your partner and yourself.
The road to recovery will be bumpy. It might take time to get the right medications. It might get expensive, so check with your insurance provider and make sure you are prepared. There might be setbacks and hard times. Persevere. Anything is better than continually just watching as he suffers, and you suffer, and your relationship suffers. Try your best to always keep in mind that this is the man you love, and he is worth the fight.
Recommended additional education:
“I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression” by Terrence Real
“Morning Has Broken, A Couple’s Journey Through Depression” by Emme and Phillip Aronson
“Depression Fallout” by Anne Sheffield
“When Someone You Love Is Depressed: How to Help Your Loved One Without Losing Yourself” by Laura Epstein Rosen and Xavier Amador
Families for Depression Awareness – www.familyaware.org
“Real Stories of Depression” -- online video from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Source: Wax, Beverly. “When Depressed Husbands Refuse Help.” Today’s Caregiver. https://caregiver.com/articles/depressed-husbands/