What To Do When Your Spouse Has Depression

A Personal Story of Survival and God's Grace

Rodney Harrier

   Copyright 2021 by Rodney Harrier


Photo by Dmitry Schemelev on Unsplash

Photo by Dmitry Schemelev on Unsplash

If you or someone you know has situational depression, this article may help and encourage you. It will also help the person who is suffering. You are not alone!

There are stresses to every marriage. We made it thirty-years, and it had been relatively peaceful and happy. We had good communication. My wife was my best friend…until she got depression—we didn’t know if we would make it to thirty-one.
What happened? Where is the wife I was married to, and why is she now so manipulative? Why is she so unreasonable, suspicious, and untrusting? Why is she crying and sometimes in hysterics? What happened?
It happened after we both had insanely busy schedules. I was self-employed and in my busy season. I was a deacon, Bible teacher for senior adults, author of an online Bible-teaching ministry, and co-commander with my wife in the Awana children’s program. My wife co-directed a children’s choir and led a college moms group (a group of moms who gathered to pray for our college students and send care-packages). She also served with me as co-commander. At home, she processed medical claims and kept our business and personal budgets in line, besides her regular duties. There was little downtime or an opportunity to recharge for either of us. Busyness can be a trap used by our enemy, the devil.
And then I wasn’t interested in intimacy (I developed a problem common to older men). This made my wife feel insecure and wondered if something was going on outside our marriage. She wasn’t right, but I couldn’t explain—I didn’t understand it myself at the time.
My wife’s hysterics, severe anxiety, insecurity, and controlling nature were hard to understand. No one in our family knew what we were dealing with. It was distressing. She was sometimes suicidal, so I asked her parents to watch her while I was working. Later, we learned that she felt like she was slipping into a dark hole and trying to grasp at anything or anyone to keep from falling. This made people draw away from her instead of toward her.
Perceiving her condition’s seriousness, I quit everything but the business and my online ministry to focus on her.
We got medical help and counseling early when the symptoms were diagnosed, but the depression continued. Medicine was only effective for a couple of days. Then her body rejected them and returned her back to deep depression. This went on for several months, as the doctor tried to find the dosage and medicine that would work.
Meanwhile, our marriage was stressed to the breaking point. Sometimes, I didn’t want to come home. I didn’t want to be falsely accused or screamed at. Only duty to my wife and the fear of losing everything—my home, respect from my family and church, all spiritual ministries, and my wife—made me stay. I would probably never get her back. She would feel I betrayed her and might even commit suicide! I also feared the LORD, for He hates divorce—it is an act of violence on the family and dishonors Him (Malachi 2:14-16).
Nevertheless, we were very close to splitting up half a dozen times. I prayed in anguish and with earnestness daily, feeling that the devil was using her depression to try to break us up.  Somehow, even after each stressful day and night, God helped us stay together. I might argue that I didn’t sign up for this kind of marriage, but yes, I did—I promised to love, honor, and cherish her.
Cherish—that is the word I needed to focus on. I was mostly concerned about my own pain—I wanted her to stop beating emotional guilt and pain on me. I have done nothing to deserve this, I thought.  But cherish? No, I can’t say I was doing that. I wasn’t treating her as I would wish to be treated. Tired of what I was going through, I sometimes talked harshly with her. I just wanted her to get over it. I wanted “normal!”
But what if it were me? What if it was me falling into the black hole? I didn’t want to cherish her—I was hurt—but God wanted me to do it. It is what I promised…whether I felt like it or not.
When I started cherishing her, things began to improve. Instead of withdrawing, I moved toward her in kindness. I held her a lot and let her sob. She replayed her pain and hurt endless times, like a scratched record.  And when she did, I tried to sympathize and empathize with her. When I went to work, I checked on her every two hours. Other friends and family also checked with her regularly, so she felt supported. I went to the doctor and got help with my physical problems. This helped her feel more secure. We prayed together every night. For three years, day and night was an up and down experience, but things gradually improved with time.
My wife was pro-active, too, in dealing with her depression. Besides counseling and medicine, she got a cat to cuddle and pet. To improve her mood, she used a Happy Light to simulate sunlight and tried to get out of the house to change her environment. Spiritually, she had daily devotions with the LORD and taped up postcard pictures with Bible verses all over the place. She also prayed with me, re-focused her life to minister to young mothers, and got a new hobby.
With the LORD’s help, we survived depression. Now we can encourage others. To the men I say, Be strong! Usually, things will get better with time, much prayer, and persevering patience. Cherish your wife, and you can help her through it. Stick with your spouse! “Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth” (Malachi 2:15, NIV).
Prayer: Dear Father, sometimes You allow pain because of our own poor choices. Thank You for Your mercy and grace in helping us through the difficult times in our lives. Thank You for being beside us through our struggles. Help me to stay faithful to my spouse and to love and cherish the gift You have given me. Thank You for teaching me to rely on You for wisdom, endurance,  strength, patience, and perseverance. Please be our helper, comforter, and encourager. Let us not be selfish but live to the praise of Your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Discussion Questions:
1.      What difficult things have we gone through? Were any of them the result of poor choices? What will we do differently so the devil does not ensnare us?
2.      God wants us to respect, love, and cherish our spouse. What things can we do to assure our spouse of our commitment and further the relationship?
3.      How can we keep the devil out of our marriage?

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