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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Can my unhappiness with my partner make my depression worse?

    I've got to the stage that I do not want to continue in my marriage because I feel it is all give and no receiving. I have suffered depression for around 5 years now, and it really has affected my relationship with my husband, but also, I believe it has made me see that I do not need him around to be happy. I get very anxious when it is time to go home after work. I think my unhappiness is aggravating the depression and making it worse. Is this possible?
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  • Grace Gonzalez

    Counsellor, Psychotherapist

    Counselling Training and QualificationsI am a counsellor and psychotherapist with over 15 years experience working with non-profit organisations and community health services in Melbourne.I have … View Profile

    You indicate that the depression you have suffered for the last 5 years has made you see that you are not happy with your relationship with your husband. Exploring your depression, which it’s what you seem you have done,  can help you identify what are some of the things you have not been dealing with one of them being your marriage, thus, the statement ‘I don’t need him around to be happy’
    Your statement seems to imply that you have a level of certainty about what you need or don’t need. However your question also implies an uncertainty eg: ‘… my unhappiness is aggravating my depression, is it possible?   One of the things I would suggest in order to get more clarity on what you feel or sense is to reflect on how it is that your relationship aggravates your depression.  Is it that you don’t want it? Is it that your husband represents something that you don’t want to see?
    Some questions to ask:
    Was I ever happy in the relationship?  
    Why am I in this relationship?
     What makes me stay, what would make me leave?
    How have I tried to express my experience to my husband?
    Those are only some of examples of questions to ask. Of course there might be others depending on your situation and emotions experienced in relation to your marriage. Having said that, it is common that depression might be aggravated if we become aware of something and do not act to improve it or remove it. At a less self-awareness level, an unfulfilling relationship can aggravate your depression.
    Since you have experienced depression for 5 years it would be a good idea to see a counsellor, if you have not done so already, to use as a sounding board  about your reasoning and motivations/desires. Also to discuss what is like to be you in the relationship, and to help you visualize what it might be like to be you without the relationship.

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    I am a Melbourne Relationship Counsellor and Family Lawyer who is skilful in helping people get out of the pain of relationship distress and create … View Profile

    Hi there, Yes, it is all related. Our life circumstances, work, relationships, marriage and family, history, diet, exercise, all of these things are connected to the well-being that we feel or the lack of it; in our day-to-day lives. It would be fabulous if you could get some counselling to sort out some of these issues as it may well be that you leave the marriage and then find other problems just take it's place. You say you feel you give more than you get. That is a very common sentiment in marriages. Marriage counselling can really help you get to the bottom of this, and to help you connect with your partner in a meaningful way again so I would encourage you to give this a try before you give up on the relationship. Good luck!

  • I have been working in Eltham, Melbourne as a relationship and family counsellor for over twelve years. I draw on current theory and research about … View Profile

    Yes - it is all related! It sounds like you have realized that trying to work out ‘cause and effect’ may not be as helpful as focussing on how both you and your partner may be perpetuating ways of communicating that might cause both of you to feel unhappy with the relationship. A common dynamic in relationships where one partner suffers from depression can go something like this - I try to express what I need to my partner, he either reacts negatively or doesn't respond in the way I need him to - I then feel powerless and helpless to get my needs met, and become more negative in the way I communicate - my partner feels like he can't get it right and starts putting less effort into the relationship….
    This may or may not fit for you - you may have your own pattern that resembles this, or has some important differences. A skilled relationship counsellor can help you understand your own negative escalating patterns that both of you are actively doing - even though you may be unaware of what you are contributing to the problem -  and assist you to understand and develop skills in creating more positive interactive patterns together. A positive pattern starts with identifying and stopping the negative one - then learning new ways that you can start a different way of connecting, rather than feeling that you can only be in a rewarding relationship if your partner changes. If you have been diagnosed with clinical depression, part of changing your role in perpetuating the negative cycle may be to get treatment - the place to start here would be with your GP.  If you believe your depression is more a consequence of being unhappy with your relationship, doing the work I've described may be sufficient to improve your mood - there's nothing like experiencing your own ability to successfully ask for your needs to be met, or alternatively to take effective action on your own behalf to leave a relationship where your needs are not met, to bring about some more positive feelings!

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