Helping Your Spouse

2014-02-27_7-50-33You have gotten help for your depression. You have seen a therapist or psychiatrist and spent long hours working to understand and improve your situation. Your spouse, who has been there for you during this process, has not.

And now you are confronting the almost inevitable realization that he, or she, is really uncomfortable in the psychological world.

Maybe she (or he) is now wrestling with her own depression, or maybe he (or she) is responding to a family crisis in a way that is clearly unhelpful, the fact is that you have learned some important lessons along the way and it is easy to feel frustrated that your partner has not.

The answer is completely clear to you: your spouse needs therapy… or needs to see a psychiatrist…

But your partner doesn’t see it that way.

Often he (or she) has actually developed some distaste for the mental health profession. After all, it took you months (or years) to get well… do therapists really know what they are doing?

What can you do in this situation? Is it hopeless? Is your partner just resolutely ignorant?

The fact that I can write this post based on the experiences of just the last week suggests that you are not alone… This is a common problem, and your partner is not particularly stubborn or prejudiced.

So, the first step is really understanding the different experience of your partner. Realizing that your journey and his (or hers) are not the same and the lessons you learned that seem so clear to you, are not at all the lessons they learned. In your conversations try to paraphrase (either mentally or out loud) what it is they your partner is saying or thinking.

In the words of Stephen Covey – seek first to understand, and THEN to be understood.

If you have really done that you are likely to have a feeling that is related to how your partner is feeling – helpless, or angry, or worried.

That is good, but your goal is not just to understand how they feel but to also help them to understand your perspective. So don’t get stuck in that emotion.

You have your reality to share.

Imagine yourself back in your world before you found your way out of your depression, and try to use words that will make sense to your partner. And then share your experience, belief, and understanding of how therapy can make a difference.

This is the message of hope. And it is one of the great gifts that we can give to each other.

Even if he (or she) rejects your perspective, it will be having a positive effect. It will be resonating somewhere inside. If you can stay with your hopeful self, you will end up having a profound impact on them.

But just as it took you weeks or months to understand this when you were depressed, it will take him, or her, a while.

While you are doing this talk to your therapist, or find others (friends perhaps) who have had to deal with the same challenges. There are many who have had to deal with these issues who are signed up on our forum.

If you haven’t signed up, here is how you can – go to (they provide us with the plug-in that allows us to provide you with a secure and user friendly experience on this blog) and sign up for an account. Then send me (Peter Forster) an email to let me know that you have signed up and include your user name (I encourage you NOT to use your full name) and I will help you get started.