Have you caught yourself questioning, “Is my marriage making me depressed?” There are ways to tell if you’re suffering from situational depression that stems from relationship problems.
Depression can feel like you’re under a perpetual dark cloud and cause you to feel blue or in a grumpy mood. You may feel heavy, tired, and without interest in activities, you usually enjoy.
Depression also causes uncharacteristically negative thoughts about yourself, others and your future.
But can a bad marriage cause depression?
There are many causes of depression, and problems in your marriage or relationship are just one reason you’re experiencing situational depression. Depression can come from a disorder of power, or it can come from a message from someone you care about that wounds your self-regard.
In general, women are more likely to experience depression after a divorce than men. However, men are less likely to talk openly about their depression.
What are the signs of an unhappy marriage?
Some signs of an unhappy marriage range from no longer having sex to minimizing each other’s feelings and concerns. In other words, you’re no longer having fun and your confidence is gone. You feel neglected and everything your partner does gets under your skin.
If you’re feeling powerless and/or hurt in a relationship, either in general or because of a particular event that happened, odds are high that depression will creep into your emotional state.
How do toxic relationships affect your mental health?
Toxic relationships stress you out, and stress shortens lifespans. Relationships like this may cause you to feel more insecure or lower your self-esteem, which allows hurtful thoughts to pop into your head. They make you feel helpless, scared, anxious, and even paranoid. These are all symptoms of depression.
And, believe it or not, a bad relationship can cause mental illness. All of those feelings are gateways to some very severe mental health issues like depression or anxiety.
Instead of ignoring these red flags, consider what you can do differently to prevent them from knocking you down. And if you feel your depression getting worse or need help or support, reach out to friends, family members, and/or professionals. It doesn’t have to last forever.
Is it possible my marriage is making me depressed?
Yes, it’s entirely possible that your bad relationship or problems in your marriage are making you depressed — or at least contributing to your depression. These are general signs of an unhealthy relationship, so if you’re seeing these but are not depressed, you may still have reason to be concerned.
Here are 10 signs of situational depression caused by staying in toxic, emotionally abusive relationships or marriages:
1. You feel dominated.
Depression can emerge when you feel smaller and less powerful than the person you’re interacting with.
Not all power differences create depression. For instance, while a parent has most of the power in a healthy parent-child relationship, as long as the parent uses this power to nurture, rather than to dominate, over the child, all will be well. Similarly, employers have more power than employees.
In love relationships between two adults, though, shared power is healthier than a one-up, one-down power imbalance.
2. You feel criticized.
“I don’t like your hair that way.” “You shouldn’t have bought that new sweater.”
Criticisms are put-downs. Feedback is not a problem, but criticism is.
Feedback lets you know in a gentle way that something you have been doing is problematic and it usually starts with an “I” statement: “I felt uncomfortable when I saw your new sweater because I’m worried about whether we’re going to have enough money to cover our bills this month.”
Being constantly criticized by the one person you love is valid grounds to cause a breakdown, so this is a serious issue in your relationship that needs to be addressed immediately.
By contrast, critical words and a judgmental tone of voice make criticism problematic. Not only that, but constant criticism from your partner can make the voice inside your head turn on you as well, which will make the depression even more intense.
3. Your partner tells you what to do.
Bossy attitudes are demoralizing. Even a benign order like “Go get the paper for me, honey,” is likely to trigger either irritation or depression in the receiver because no one likes being told what to do. That’s the pattern when two autonomous people work together as a team.
Depression stems from feeling like you have insufficient power. Being told what to do conveys that the other person is the boss and you are a servant. It’s better to ask. Requests allow for yes or no as an answer.
4. Your partner tries to control you.
Controlling what you can do with your time, finances, friendship choices and how much you can visit your family: all these behaviors are likely to invite feelings of depression.
Getting mad at you if you didn’t load the dishwasher his way, or left dishes on the counter-top, are signs that your partner focuses on controlling you instead of being captain of his own ship.
Remember: depression is a disorder of power. When your partner takes away your power to make personal decisions (or at least to contribute jointly to decisions), depression is likely to be imminent.
5. Your partner is ‘always right.’
It’s fine for your loved one to be right, as long as he/she doesn’t require being right all the time.
If your partner’s being right means that there’s no ability to admit mistakes, that’s a problem. And if your partner being right means you are consistently wrong, lookout.
6. With your partner, it’s ‘my way or the highway.’
Listening is loving in a healthy relationship because of the opinions and concerns of both of you count. That’s true whether you’re wondering what to eat for dinner or deciding where to live.
If your voice gets dismissed, you’ll be at risk of feeling powerless and depressed.
7. Your partner is depressed.
Depression is contagious. It’s not contagious in the same way as the flu, but one study showed it’s a social contagion theory, explaining that humans will naturally adopt the behavior that is around them.
When someone is depressed, he/she tends to see the world — including you — through dark glasses. If you adopt your partner’s view, you’ll sink down emotionally, too.
Encourage your husband or wife to attend therapy sessions or even take a walk outside. Sometimes little things like that can give them a sense of purpose and get them out of their head for a bit. However, a therapist would be best.
8. Your partner is irritable.
Irritability is low-intensity anger. Anger spreads toxic negative energy. This toxicity can induce depression in the receiver of anger.
Anger is disturbing and unpleasant to witness, even for on-lookers. For direct recipients of anger, the toxicity is even more so.
9. Your partner is abusive.
As we’ve mentioned already, abuse can be expressed emotionally in a partner’s critical and controlling attitude, verbally with name-calling, or physically by pushing, throwing things, or hitting. All of these forms of abuse are incompatible with a loving relationship.
This is when you should walk away from your marriage.
The impulse to hurt someone is the opposite of the impulse to love, nurture and be intimate. Any form of putting you down can engender depression. Any form of appreciation adds to good feelings. It’s pretty simple.
10. Your partner doesn’t do his/her share.
A partner who takes an active role in the project of living and loving together is a joy to partner with. Whether he scrambles eggs for the two of you in the morning or scurries around with a quick clean-up before visitors arrive, helping is loving.
By contrast, a partner who does not do his part is passively provocative. The irritation or anger you will feel in response signals that you’re not getting a full adult partner.
If you’re feeling sad in the relationship, you need to address why and find a solution. Talk with your spouse or a marriage counselor to help you work through your feelings.
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