How To Save Your Marriage When Depression Is Tearing It Apart

Compromise will be required when you choose to move forward together.

husband and wife depressed in their marriage Mike Marchetti | Canva

Life ebbs and flows, so it's normal to experience peaks and valleys. Marriage and depression are no different. But what do you do when you struggle with an unhappy marriage and depression? Depression can be a challenging experience, and an unhappy marriage can be worn out. Each can be difficult to navigate alone.

However, struggling with an unhappy marriage and depression at the same time can make you feel like you’re drowning./p>


When struggling with an unhappy marriage and depression, it’s critical to understand what is happening and what you are experiencing. Have you been asking yourself, "Am I depressed? Why am I so unhappy?" Now, you need to make choices that will help you move towards finding balance.

RELATED: 8 Ways To Save Your Marriage When Your Spouse Has Depression


Here's how to save your marriage when depression is tearing it apart.

1. First things first, understand what depression is

It's common. The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) found more than 300 million people live with depression. About 20 percent of Americans will experience a significant episode at some point.

If you or a loved one has depression, remember you are not alone! Seeking help reduces depression symptoms and improves quality of life. Depression affects how you feel, think, and behave. It can be constantly feeling sad, hopeless, and losing interest. This influences everyday tasks.

Depression isn’t a weakness, and it isn’t overcome immediately. It's an illness, and it affects people in many different ways. Every angle of an individual’s life can be disturbed by depression and negatively affect those around them. Working through depression is possible with time, a willingness to change, and support.

2. Know what leads to an unhappy marriage

It's common for married couples to go through marriage problems and experience times of unhappiness, doubt, and despair. But how do you determine if it’s a rough patch or chronic dissatisfaction?


3. Recognize communication is essential

How you and your partner communicate is essential. Communication is an issue if you and your partner constantly fail to understand each other. Misunderstanding motivation, words, or actions creates distance and conflict in a relationship. This is particularly true with how a couple communicates about problems that are not easily solvable.

4. Don't lack making the commitment

Commitment is the promise to keep going and work together towards an agreement or resolution, no matter what. It means being invested in your partner on all levels.

3. Protect against infidelity

Trust is broken when a partner cheats, it brings a sense of betrayal, bitterness, confusion, and unhappiness for both.

4. Don't let finances take the power

Money is a sensitive issue in marriage because money symbolizes power. Finances can cause tension or frustration when there is a lack of agreement on how money should be used.


5. Explore the role of intimacy

Chronic intimacy issues in marriage create frustration and dissatisfaction. These can be physiological or emotional inhibitions, a mismatch in needs, love language differences, or a lack of vitality. Intimacy issues play a huge role in whether a marriage is perceived as happy or unhappy.

6. Be compassionate about struggling with an unhappy marriage and depression simultaneously.

Depression may affect one person in the relationship, but depression's effects extend beyond that person. The disorder may not lead to a divorce, but the consequences of not addressing the depression may. Depression can lead to less productivity, engagement, and enjoyment of previously enjoyable experiences in the depressed spouse.

The partner may begin over-functioning in the relationship to compensate. This leads to exhaustion, frustration, anger, or resentment. The partner may also not understand what the depressed partner is experiencing. Additionally, those with depression may unintentionally experience more interpersonal stress. Interpersonal stress occurs when someone perceives difficulty in a relationship as a threat. Although unintentional, this affects choices, actions, and reactions, creating a web of relationship difficulties.

RELATED: 10 Warning Signs Your Relationship Is Making You Depressed


This leads to reduced relationship satisfaction, more complaints, and a negative perception of the marriage. Blame and hopelessness may exacerbate depression, creating a vicious cycle and increasing marital distance and dissatisfaction. Both depression and an unhappy marriage require lots of time and energy to improve, so it can be taxing to attempt to fix both.

By focusing on and improving the depression first, positive gains can be made in the marriage. Working with an individual and couples counselor can help maintain progress in both areas, even though one may be the main focus for a time. Causes for depression remain not easily understood. Depression may also continue for long periods or reoccur. Boland and Keller found that over 75 percent of depressed individuals have more than one depressive episode, often relapsing within two years of recovery.

The key to preventing relapse is creating a plan to not only work through today’s depression but also adopt tools to handle potential future episodes. Everyone is different, and no single plan works for everyone.

If you are experiencing the symptoms of depression, try these solutions:

1. Depression treatment

Speak to your primary care physician to consider medication options and seek counseling through a trained professional. Counseling can be significant in improving depressive symptoms.


2. Join a support group

Consider joining a support group to share experiences, feelings, information, and coping strategies in a safe space. Support groups also provide the opportunity to gain insight and perspective by hearing about others’ journeys.

3. Seek social support

Build a social support network with your partner, friends, and family. Social support limits isolation improves your ability to cope, and boosts your self-esteem.

4. Talk, talk, talk

Over-communicating with your partner can create a new dialogue of understanding. You probably feel you can predict your partner’s responses, but assumptions are inaccurate. Active listening and “over-communication” leads to a greater understanding, validation, and empathy.

5. If your partner is depressed, make sure to do these:

Learn what you can about depression to understand your partner is not doing this to you. Also, your partner may not realize they are depressed. Share your concern with your partner and what you’ve learned about depression. Get your partner to make healthy meals with you and exercise together. This will improve your connection with your spouse, and studies have shown exercise can be effective. Help your partner break complicated tasks down into smaller steps. Depression makes just about everything seem too much so practice patience and understanding.


Shifting the focus to companionship and enjoying joint activities reduces loneliness and enhances connection. Develop social support for yourself and encourage a social support network for your partner. Social support can improve your ability to cope with stress, help reduce emotional pain, and promote mental health.

When you decide to stay in an unhappy marriage affected by depression, you might wonder if it is worth it. Opportunities to create a stronger relationship occur when both partners decide to work together to overcome depression and marital disease. However, when one partner is unwilling to commit to progress, it may be better to part ways.

Evidence shows staying unhappily married lowers well-being even more so than divorcing.

I am not suggesting you should get a divorce in such a situation. Know that a willingness to work towards change together is paramount. Neither depression nor an unhappy marriage operates in isolation. It takes more than one person to fix it. Assistance from a couples' therapist can be of particular help in getting a marriage back on track.


When you try to move towards positive change, know that marriage is about you and your partner.

Compromise is required, with each person working towards a middle ground. Little steps can lead to giant leaps in growth. A therapist can help uncover resources available to make progress toward compromise.

Talking with a licensed counselor may be a big step, but it can lead to the most success. Depression and an unhappy marriage can be hard to work through without professional support.


Even though you may struggle with an unhappy marriage and depression simultaneously, there is hope. You and your partner can jointly reduce depression and improve your marital satisfaction.

I hope that you can choose to move forward together.

RELATED: I Refuse To Let My Wife's Depression Ruin My Marriage

If you or somebody that you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, there is a way to get help. Call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or text "HELLO" to 741741 to be connected with the Crisis Text Line.

Jean Tschampa is a co-owner and principal therapist at Life Care Wellness, a group psychotherapy practice. She specializes in wellness, life transition, anxiety, and addiction treatment and is a Board Certified Coach and professional counselor.