Many clients come to see me to help with marital blahs, and deadness and inconsolable partners. What happens when one spouse, or both, have depression; I’m talking the real thing not the occasional blues. Depression may reside in one spouse but it affects the entire family.

As often as this occurs, it is never to my knowledge mentioned in the magazines or otherwise openly discussed socially or in public. I guess there’s still an element of shame, secrecy, embarrassment attached or else why wouldn’t this oh so frequent problem be outed.

So many couples complain about poor communication as the greatest hindrance to marital perfection.  Others of course say it is sexual malnutrition.  Very often the communication itself is not the problem – it’s the message that no one wants to hear.

In other words, “I hear you but I don’t like what you’re saying.” If an activity or a social outing is under discussion, the spouse lacking interest may be depressed.  They may be socially avoidant or anxious and mingling with others or even the thought of it just drives them further indoors. But the message is just “No,” “I’m not in the mood,” “I don’t feel well,” “I’m tired.”

The partner may complain about a downer rather than state the fact that depression is a household visitor that has overstayed its welcome. The sexual complaint too, often an indication that the naysaying partner hasn’t the emotional energy to play in bed.

Depression can destroy the willingness to be sexy, certainly to feel sexy.  And the necessary response to touch and arousal is blunted.  Why bother.

Ironically, medication, often prescribed  to help these same symptoms, can dramatically lower one’s sexual appetite and/or lengthen the time it takes to orgasm, sometimes deadening it completely.

This is so well documented that these same medications are often suggested for premature ejaculators.  It is very successful in helping them last longer. Talk about irony.

So what can one do when this is the honest truth of the issue?

Like so many things, I think it has to be acknowledged, spoken about bluntly, without apology, and dealt with on those occasions when it happens. Not everyone who is depressed is depressed all the time.  We have good days and bad. So many choose to never make plans of a social nature for fear that they may not be up to it when the date arrives.

Both spouses would do well to add this as another “elephant in the room,” and call it out.  Talk about it, speak about it bluntly and with sympathy . Sometimes just bringing it into the open will have a softening effect.

Also, the well- spouse can’t take the problem personally or critically. No one wants to be depressed or without joy. It’s necessary to be honest; it’s not a case of being obstinate, or a “party pooper,” a “downer.” Sometimes just  partner support will change the mood.

I would even suggest that these marriages may do well  implementing a strategy of separate agendas. If a spouse cannot rise to an occasion, there’s nothing wrong with solo engagements.  What is the gain in both spouses staying home and brooding.  It’s not disloyal, or insensitive, in my opinion, to agree to allow for this arrangement.

So, given that the numbers of people struggling with their own moods and the heavy affect it can have on families, is significant, I counsel for acceptance and awareness.

We’ve made great strides to educate about depression and anxieties, but we have not yet made it okay to personalize out loud.  If you speak up, you may find it in your own home, next door and in your extended family.   I say talk about it.  It’s healthy to take away the mystery and silence that keeps mental illness in the closet. It may be the best way to for healing and social rejuvenation.

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