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Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
In the words of Michael Scott, “Webster's Dictionary defines wedding as ‘the fusing of two metals with a hot torch.’” But what weds male depression and marriage? Is there an association between depression and marriage? Can a man be depressed while also fused to the love of his life?
As many experts will quickly point out, depression has many causes, and it can certainly happen without your spouse being one of them. Depression can appear without warning or explanation, even for people who know what to look for.
But if depression is affecting your marriage or any other serious relationship, getting on top of your depressive symptoms can be an important part of protecting someone you love and your bond with them.
We’ll get to the protection part of this discussion shortly, but before we talk solutions in this difficult time, it’s important to understand how we got here in the first place — why do men in marriages get depressed?
Depression can happen to anyone, and in many cases it has little to do with marital status or even relationships in general.
The causes of major depression and depression generally are genetic, biological and environmental, which can include everything from a gene that one of your parents passed down to the impact of isolation after a long, cold and lonely winter spent mostly indoors.
These things can happen to someone who is in a relationship, divorced, single, widowed or in one of those cool “throuples” your friend who goes to Burning Man mentions.
Just because a man has a great support system in their partner doesn’t mean they are protected against external sources of depression. In fact, a lot more men are depressed than you might assume.
According to the American Psychological Association, about nine percent of men in the U.S. have feelings of chronic depression or anxiety. Only one in three of those men takes medication, and only one in four tries therapy. The rate of suicide among men is four times higher that that of women with depression.
Marriage can’t save men from depression’s other risk factors. Middle aged men can have an increased risk of depression when they become unemployed or injured, when their financial stability is threatened or when the pressures of work or home life become too much. For men of any age, stress can cause other risk factors for depression (like drinking, inactivity or poor sleep habits) to surface.
But what if a man’s relationship causes issues? Studies show that depression in married people can also come from stress in the relationship itself, often referred to as marital stress. Poor communication, a lack of support, shame over things like a change in employment status and other triggers can all be associated with depression in marriage.
The signs of depression are generally the same in married people and unmarried people. But how you experience those depression symptoms — of your own depression or of your spouse’s depression — will largely depend on your communication habits and other factors that are unique to your own relationship.
In other words, we don’t have a specific list of marital depression signs. That said, there are some things that you should be able to spot if a partner is beginning to struggle with depression or if you’re depressed — particular changes in mood, behavior and quality of life that are a good indicator of depression.
Depression can cause affected people to seem:
If you see any of these symptoms of depression in your partner or yourself, and they seem to be a near-daily experience, it could be a clue that you or someone you love is experiencing a depressive disorder or another mental disorder. In that case, it’s time to seek treatment for them or for yourself — and potentially for your marital relationship as a whole.
Treatment for relationship woes usually means communicating better and supporting one another, but when one partner has depression or another mental illness, it might take more than listening and love to get the relationship where it should be. That might include working on your own problems, or working on those problems together.
Here’s a brief look at a few of the best treatment options available to married men with depression:
Married people who are struggling to help a partner with depression or ask for help for their own depression may want to consider involving a third party in the form of a couples therapist.
Couples therapy is a form of therapy that facilitates communication between healthy and depressed partners in conflict. It’s designed to help both people in a married couple become collaborative partners in the mental health management process, rather than continue to see each other as adversaries (which isn’t really a winning strategy).
Antidepressant medicine isn’t a sign of weakness, and while whether or not to take it is a serious decision to be sure, it can also be one of the most effective and safest ways of managing your mental health issues.
Antidepressants are well-known to the average person at this point, but we still think it’s important to point out that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs are currently considered the first line gold standard in antidepressant drugs.
These medications help your brain to better balance your mood by helping it to keep a steady supply of serotonin on hand. Some brains can overdo it when they reabsorb neurotransmitters — SSRIs prevent this from happening, which reduces the likelihood of you bottoming out. Learn whether you should take antidepressants today.
Therapy can be great by yourself too — a mental health professional can help you unpack those feelings of depression, as well as the negative patterns of thought that really define depression. With a therapy style like cognitive behavioral therapy, for instance, you’ll learn to identify, question and reject those intrusive, negative thoughts, which can reduce your incidence of depressive episodes and the symptoms of depression generally.
Despite your partner’s urging, you may have been neglecting your physical health. That’s dangerous, because it can have negative effects for your psychological wellbeing too. Along with therapy and medication, take a look at changes like improving your diet, sleep and exercise habits. Lay off the nicotine, cut back on the booze, and ditch the drugs that aren’t prescriptions — your prescriptions — and you may see marked improvements.
If you’re a man struggling with a period of depression in your marriage, getting help from outside your marriage is crucial. It’s not a violation of your relationship with your partner to seek help from a professional outside of your relationship, and it might be the best way to save your marriage. If you’re the spouse of a man with depression, consider urging them to get that same help (and maybe even get some yourself).
Help may come in the form of solo therapy, medication or even in the form of couples therapy, depending on everyone’s needs. That’s ultimately up to you and the mental health professionals you get care from.
That could be us — our mental health resources offer a number of ways for dealing with depression and other mental health issues, including medicine and therapy. In fact, our online therapy platform is a fast, easy and convenient way to talk to a therapy professional from wherever you can connect to the internet.
Relationships go bad when people stop communicating. Intimate relationships go bad when people stop trying. So when you continue to try to communicate better every day, you’re fighting for the relationship.
If the relationship is worth fighting for, it’s worth fighting for together, and worth fighting for the right way.