Marriage and Depression

marriage and depression

Somewhere along the way we have lost our friendship and our love, and our lust for one another. My depression has really been hard on him. He seems to think I don’t know that. He avoids me by drinking and working. Myself, I feel like I am giving up on the relationship. Using the little energy I have to create and stimulate the growth of new friendships.

If you want to know about the effects of depression on marriage please read this post on Vicarious Therapy: Love, Work, and Play

Marital Interactions of Depressed Patients

  • Compared to the marital interactions of nondepressed couples, the marital interactions of couples with a depressed partner are characterized by a higher frequency of negative communication behaviors (e.g., blame, withdrawal, verbal aggression) and a lower frequency of positive communication behaviors (e.g., self-disclosure, problem-solving behaviors, smiling, eye contact).
  • It is mostly unclear whether the problems could be due to depression, marital distress, or the interaction of the two factors. This question is important since uncertainty of interpretation could have negative clinical implications, as certain patterns of communication may be erroneously attributed to depression when they are actually related to marital distress.
  • Group of studies show that when marital distress levels are corrected for by statistical procedures, depressed and nondepressed couples continue to differ on communication behaviors, but the differences do not remain as strong
  • In studies comparing maritally distressed couples with a depressed partner and maritally distressed couples without a depressed partner, it appeared that couples who were experiencing both depression and marital distress engaged in more frequent depressogenic communication of self, personal well-being, and their future.
  • Studies comparing marital interactions in maritally distressed couples with a depressed partner to two comparison groups: nondepressed medical patients and nondepressed community comparison subjects it was found that the depressed and medical patients did not differ significantly from each other in terms of frequency of smiling, eye contact, and pleasant facial expressions. Moreover, both groups rated their marriages as less satisfactory than those of the nondepressed community sample. Problematic interpersonal behavior in both depressed and medical patients suggests that the behaviors that differentiated the couples in these groups from the couples in the community sample may be nonspecific behavioral markers of interaction where at least one partner is experiencing a negative life circumstance. In another study results showed that couples with a depressed husband could be reliably distinguished from couples with an alcoholic husband in terms of interactional sequencing. For example, compared to couples with an alcoholic husband, the marital interactions of couples with depressed husbands were characterized by less interdependency and less negative reciprocity. It remains to be seen if marital distress is specific for depression.
  • There is evidence indicating that women are more emotionally expressive and report higher levels of both positive and negative emotions and that they are more likely to display symptoms of depression and to seek help for mild levels of depression. Data suggest that women may have a greater interpersonal orientation toward, and responsibility for, the marital relationship. It is possible that men inhibit expression of depressive symptoms during social interactions. Four studies comparing the marital interaction between couples with a depressed wife or husband showed conflicting results. Some couldn’t find an influence of gender, some studies suggest that depressed females’ marital behaviors are
    more impacted by their depression than are males. The numerous methodological differences in the studies may be contributing to these discrepant findings.

Marital distress is not specific for depression, the influence of gender on the marital distress is unknown. What is already known is that depressed women are significantly more likely to generate stressful interpersonal events, which both perpetuate depressed mood and set the stage for depressive relapse. Depression has interpersonal causes, is interpersonally mediated, and that interpersonal factors are linked to depression relapse. This should be taken into account when treating patients of both gender with depression.

What to do about it

The ones closest to the Depressed are often on “the front lines” of the depression battlefield, and they are sometimes unarmed with the necessary tools to cope. Compassion fatigue, a term used to describe those caregivers who have been unknowingly drained by another’s illness or care-needs, is often the result. It can test even the most secure of relationships.

Some Tips on Melancholy Waves
U REHMAN, J GOLLAN, A MORTIMER (2008). The marital context of depression: Research, limitations, and new directions☆ Clinical Psychology Review, 28 (2), 179-198 DOI: 10.1016/j.cpr.2007.04.007