mort-fertel.jpgby Mort Fertel

Are you depressed? Is your spouse depressed? Do one of you THINK the other is depressed?

I recently had a series of phone sessions with a woman named Regina (name changed) who lives in Canada. I asked Regina what her husband thinks is the problem with their marriage. She explained, Ted says that the problem with our marriage is that I m depressed. He thinks if I wasn t depressed, we d be fine. And so it s up to me.

It IS common for depression to accompany marital strife. But what causes one spouse to be depressed?

We usually think of depression as an infliction caused by an INDIVIDUAL S mental state. But, as if often the case, the problem is the way we see the problem.

In marriage, although depression is something that may inflict only one spouse; it s usually caused by BOTH spouses. In order to understand what I mean, let s consider what it REALLY means to be depressed.

The dictionary definition of depressed is: to press down or cause to sink.

And, in fact, a depressed person feels that someone or something is PRESSING DOWN on them and not allowing for the relief they seek.

Regina s husband had good reason to think that Regina was depressed. She threatened suicide, had the habit of breaking $200 china against the $5000 breakfront, sometimes cut the laundry with scissors rather than folding it neatly, and would break down in tears for no apparent reason. The interesting thing is (are you ready?): Regina ONLY did these things in front of her husband!

No one other than her husband ever heard Regina threaten suicide or see her break down in tears. Her husband never came home to find china pieces or shredded laundry on the floor. It ALL happened in front of him! And (listen carefully and try to put the pieces together), it always happened after they talked.

There s much more to Regina s circumstances, but here s the bottom line. Regina was desperate for her husband s attention. She wanted to make an EMOTIONAL connection. She wanted him to be part of her inner life. But Ted couldn t connect with Regina. He didn t know how to make her feel understood. He didn t know how to treat her special, different than everyone else in his life. Ted wasn t a bad person. He didn t do anything wrong. He rarely got upset. But he was very controlled and detached. And so Regina had all this emotion PRESSED DOWN inside her but no one to share it with. Ted was there, but emotionally unavailable.

Regina s outbursts were her way of trying to get Ted s attention. She just wanted him to care about her and what she did. So she did things he simply couldn t ignore. Of course, this is not really the kind of attention Regina wanted. But she was frustrated and was trying to release what was PRESSED inside her.

When one person in a marriage is depressed, it s usually caused by a marital dynamic between BOTH spouses. And the solution is usually a MARITAL solution not an individual one.

If you or your spouse feels depressed, you should explore how your relationship might be causing the depression. As much as one of you might want the other to get INDIVIDUAL help, it could be that it s your MARRIAGE that needs attention.

Mort Fertel
Author & Founder of Marriage Fitness

From Sarah – I’ve talked with Mort by phone, his personal story is both heartbreaking and triumphant, and the way he healed his own marriage helps everyone who’s coached by him – I’ve referred women to him who were able to turn their situations around – even after their husband’s had LEFT the home…you can get Mort’s free newsletters here->


  1. Preeti on April 3, 2009 at 10:48 am

    Marriage is a meeting of two individuals. Couples and partners in a marriage go through good and bad times. It is up to both the partners to stick around during rough patches and pull your better half through the gloom. The author is right in saying that problems in a marriage are not individual problems, rather they are martial problems which have to be resolved by getting together and taking professional help if required. This is an informative write-up and will surely help others who are in a similar problem.

  2. Kimberly Coss on April 4, 2009 at 8:37 am

    I found this article intriguing. I am going through this situation right now with my boyfriend. We started out perfectly. He was just the affectionate and loving man described in the article. Then he got laid off and has completely shut down his emotions. He is living in a “dark-world” right now. I would definitely want to read more on this subject, in hopes of preventing the “tailspin” that was mentioned.

  3. sam g on April 6, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    What a wonderful article – and I can totally relate. I am battling depression and while it can be hard on our relationship at times, having someone that loves and supports (and understands!) me has helped a lot.
    I hope lots of people will take your article to heart, I will certainly read it again and recommend it.

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