It's Not Your Job to Get Him Out of His Depression

 Dear Karen,

 “My husband is pretty depressed.  I don’t know what to do about it.  He doesn’t seem to respond to any of my efforts to get through to him, or to cheer him up.  It is really getting ME down, and I am having a hard time with this.  How do I help him get through this?” – Joan

 Dear Joan,

 I really feel for what you and your husband are going through. This is a tricky situation to navigate.


 I want to make sure you’re clear about something: my advice to you is not about his depression; it’s about how you can take care of yourself.  I am not a therapist, and am not qualified to advise you about his mental health (or anyone’s).  Having said that, there are situations and times when depression requires professional help.  If you feel that your husband’s situation falls into that category, do whatever you can do so that he gets what he needs. 

 Note: You can only go so far with this; if he’s not willing to help himself, you may need to accept that it’s just where he is right now. 


 You said in your question that YOU were getting down because of your husband’s depression.   I’m sure you already know this, but you cannot help him by becoming depressed yourself!  In fact, the best thing you can do to “help” him is to help yourself. 

 What do I mean by this? 

 Simply that you must continue (or start) doing those things that keep you feeling good, that take care of you, and that keep your life working. 

 Given that men are hardwired to provide and protect, he’s probably feeling even WORSE because he knows you’re basing how you feel on how he’s doing, and right now he may be feeling completely powerless to do anything to help you.

 Here are some suggestions for ways you can take care of YOU:

 1)      Eat healthy and nourishing food.  Feed your body nutrition that will help you as you deal with this stress, and try to stay away from the “comfort” foods that can really backfire by robbing you of energy, as well as adding weight gain to your problem (potato chips, mac and cheese, ice cream, pastries, alcohol, etc.);

2)      Get your body moving!  Whether you go to the gym, walk around the neighborhood, follow along with an instructional exercise video, ride your bike, or whatever feels best to you, you will raise your endorphins (feel-good hormone) through exercising, and you’ll feel more in command of your emotions;

3)      Talk about your feelings.  Share what’s going on for you with those you trust (Caution: DON’T turn to anyone who will contribute to any negative feelings you’re having about your husband or your marriage; unfortunately there are people who focus on the negative.  Make sure you only confide in friends/professionals you’re sure will support your commitment to your marriage);

4)      Plan things in your life that are uplifting to you.  Spend time with good friends, take a class you’ve been interested in, start that project you’ve been meaning to tackle, clean out the clutter in your closet/attic/basement/file cabinet (you’ll be amazed how good you’ll feel when you do that!).

 Notice that nowhere on that list did you see “get husband to X”, or “give your husband X so he feels better”. 


 There certainly are things you can do that at least won’t contribute to his depression, and may even help a bit.  Try some of these:

 1)      stock up on funny movies, and invite him to watch them with you (even if he says “no”, you’ll be having fun);

2)      work on having a peaceful and calming environment in the house: decrease clutter, kids’ toys neat/put away, noise level of mechanical things lowered/eliminated, etc.;

3)      fix him his favorite foods and have them available;

4)      reduce/eliminate the unnecessary “Honey Do” list items (temporarily, of course) – let them wait – although it could be helpful to the way he feels to be asked to do simple things he could do for you – experiment with some of those;

5)      if he’s unable to do anything around the house, and you’ve got something that absolutely MUST get done, find another way of getting it done (family/friends can help, or pay a professional – just don’t get resentful or blaming toward your man);

6)      share your life with him, be engaged, talk with him about what’s going on – and  be careful of any expectations you have about the way he responds to you (in fact, those expectations of a response from him will be felt, and will likely make him feel worse, if he’s not able to do what you want him to do).


 Depression is something many, many people deal with, either as the sufferer of it, or as the spouse/family member affected by it.  The current times presenting challenges for many people and some will be hit very hard by what’s going on.  We may see a rise in depression, and for men, who are hardwired to provide and protect, their sense of themselves as a man may be extremely challenged.

 Navigating this road with someone you love can teach you so much about unconditional love and acceptance, as well as the deep knowing that you must take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. 

 I love to remind us all about a great example of this principle: when we’re flying on a plane one of the first things they tell us is that in the event of an emergency, we must put our mask on first…before we help anyone else!