One of the “silent” killers of marital intimacy is depression. It’s so deadly that we will address it through an article written by Dr. Todd Linaman. Dr. Linaman is a licensed psychologist, a certified marriage and family therapist (a friend of ours) and President of Relational Advantage, Inc. found at drlinaman.com.
After reading what Dr. Linaman has to say, we’ll close with a few comments at the end.
DEPRESSION: The Silent Killer of Marital Intimacy
Everyone longs for —and needs —intimacy. Intimacy in marriage exists when a husband and wife allow each other to experience everything they have to offer physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually without fear of criticism, judgment or rejection. Without intimacy a marriage cannot thrive and will struggle to even to survive.
Some of the more common threats to marital intimacy include parenting, financial stress, unresolved anger, and unforgiveness. But the “silent killer” that often goes unaddressed is depression. Over 17-million Americans [alone] suffer from depression each year. While both men and women are susceptible, women are twice as likely to suffer from symptoms as men. One of every four women will experience at least one depressive episode in their lifetime.
Depression and Marital Problems
Studies reveal that depression can be both the cause and result of marital problems and dissatisfaction. It can also cause people in otherwise happy marriages to perceive themselves and their relationship in negative ways. For example, if a husband comes home late from work; a depressed woman may perceive his lateness as a sign that he no longer cares for her. But, in reality, it is a simple matter of his boss detaining him to finish a project.
As a result of her assumptions, she may avoid him when he arrives home. This may cause him to feel isolated or rejected. He may also react by finding excuses not to spend time at home. Unless the silence is broken, the cycle of negative perceptions and rejection will destroy intimacy in the relationship.
It’s normal to experience feelings of disappointment and discouragement for brief periods of time. However, many people experience these symptoms as well as other, for longer periods of time without recognizing it for what it really is — depression.
Symptoms and Causes of Depression:
Symptoms can range from mild to severe. These symptoms can last from a few hours to a few years. Mild symptoms include fatigue, irritability, sadness, decreased motivation and pessimism. More serious symptoms include feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. There can also be low self-esteem, negative thinking patterns, and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
Depression can be caused by difficult and traumatic life circumstances such as death of a loved one, a divorce, the loss of a job or unresolved marital problems. It can be the result of prolonged periods of stress, personality traits, heredity factors, biochemical changes and sleep deprivation. Regardless of what may trigger depression, it is ultimately the result of changes that occur in the brain’s chemistry. A deficiency of certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, is what causes a person to experience the symptoms of depression.
Women and Depression
Although women are more likely to experience depression in general, some women are more vulnerable than others. A recent study revealed that women with exposure to childhood adversity such as family violence, parental alcoholism, death of a parent, or parental discord or divorce are more likely to become depressed following stress than women without such adversity.
And women who experience what are referred to as humiliating life events, like infidelity on the part of their husband, threats of marital separation or divorce, or physical violence are six times more likely to experience a major depressive episode.
Today’s women suffer from depression 10 times more often than their grandmothers did. Younger women are at a greater risk for depression than ever before. Nearly one out of three women 18-24 will experience depression. Women with other siblings or parents who have suffered from depression have a 20-25 per cent greater chance of becoming depressed themselves.
Keys to Overcoming Depression and Keeping Your Marriage Strong:
As is true of any illness, prevention is the best medicine. Here are some strategies for preventing and/or defeating depression while keeping your marriage strong.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle. A balanced diet and adequate rest will help stabilize brain chemistry. Regular exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood elevators.
- Learn to say, “no” to activities and responsibilities that have the potential of creating overload. This is the first step to creating balance in your life.
- Seek professional help as early as possible. Begin by talking to your family physician or a Christian counselor about possible treatment options.
- Confide in your spouse or a close friend. It’s important that someone know exactly how you’re feeling.
- Educate yourself and your spouse about depression. Having an awareness of the signs and symptoms, understanding its potential impact in your life and knowing what treatment options are available to you can greatly help to minimize negative consequences.
- Address problems in your marriage or personal life as they arise. Avoiding or ignoring problems will not make them go away or easier to cope with.
- Take one hour “vacations” at least three times a week. Give yourself permission to spend at least three separate hours per week doing something that you really enjoy.
- Take your focus off yourself. When you begin to feel discouraged or sad it’s easy to dwell on the circumstances we believe are responsible for our negative feelings. Place your focus on someone [or something] who would benefit from your time and attention.
- Pray consistently and study God’s word regularly. The ultimate key to guarding your marriage and your emotions is to strengthen your relationship with the Lord.
Maintaining companionship, affection and harmony in your relationship will provide you with personal fulfillment and satisfaction. But it will also strengthen, guard and preserve your marriage.
By understanding the potential impact of depression and knowing how to effectively address its symptoms, you will be better protected to combat the “silent killer” of marital intimacy.
Knowledge First Hand
We pray this information from Dr. Linaman is helpful. Both Cindy and I (Steve) have suffered from depression so we know first-hand how it can strain a marriage. Fortunately, we sought help and treatment. It made a huge difference in our marriage partnership and intimacy as we supported each other.
It’s important to know that there is no shame in being depressed. Even King David fought depression. And he was still called “a man after God’s own heart.” To help you fight this battle, we have many articles posted in the Mental and Physical Health topic on this web site.
Cindy and I also know that the road may seem long to getting better, it IS possible! If your spouse is the one depressed you need to walk alongside him or her as much as they will allow. It is important for them to know they are not abandoned or alone in their struggle. As their marriage partner, you are God’s colleague in loving them.
And as we love “as Christ first loved us”, there is hope and healing in any struggle we may encounter in our marriages.
That’s the prayer of our hearts for your marriages,
Steve and Cindy Wright
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