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Coping with my wife's depression

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  March 22, 2013 08:34 AM

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Q: Hello,

My wife and I have been married for three years. She has children from a previous marriage and we have one of our own. I absolutely love all of the kids and they are the world to me. No drama with birth dad.

After the birth of our child, my wife had terrible depression and anxiety. She is being treated and is going to therapy but it's been more than a year and I can't even remember how she was when we got married.

My issue is that her anxiety is preventing her from being a great mom to our child. It takes so much effort for her to do even little things. Unless it's something that simply MUST get done she's more likely to sit at the table playing computer games for hours (she says it relaxes her). I totally understand the struggle she is going through and how hard it is on her; she knows she isn't being a great mom and that causes her even more anxiety. I try to be as supportive as a husband can be and I do everything possible to make life easier for her. She's recently gone back to work because we felt the structure of a low stress job would be good for her. The problem is that now she is more focused on work than our family. We are spending far more on childcare than she earns at work, so it's a financial burden for her to be there.

I feel like she is doing everything she can do to NOT take care of our children. It is a constant struggle for me to not get angry and argue with her. Part of me thinks she needs a "kick in the bum" to motivate her and help snap her out of her troubles. I've been told I'm wrong but my instincts are really to push her to fight though the anxiety. Is it possible to support someone too much? Am I enabling her depression/anxiety by providing her the tools (time, a nanny, space, affection, and support) to dwell on how she's sick and a victim of her anxiety?

I'm not sure our marriage will survive this.

– Panic-stricken and Anxious, Boston


A: You need your own therapist, PSAA. That's essential.

As for your kick-in-the-bum question, there's a difference between snapping someone out of their troubles and asking for what you need. I'm not in favor of you shocking her into reality with tough love, but I do hope that you can tell her how you feel and that you haven't stopped treating her like an accountable human.

You can ask her to pitch in. You can absolutely communicate your feelings. As in, "I'm exhausted and our kid looks bored. I'm feeling overwhelmed right now. Can you read everyone a story?" Or, "I'm having some stress about money. Can we talk it through so I can relax a bit? I need your help."

If you're just staying out of her way and keeping silent about your own needs, this isn't a marriage. You're supposed to help and listen. She's supposed to do the same.

Find a therapist and treat your wife like a partner. Again, there's no need to kick anyone in the bum, but you should be communicating your own feelings and expecting a give and take.

Readers? How can he keep her accountable? Should he give her more tough love? When will this phase end? What should he do? Help.

– Meredith



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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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