Dear Dr. B,
My husband has suffered with depression for over the decade we have been together and many more years before that. When he is depressed he views me as the enemy, so any time I try to reach out he views it as manipulative, controlling, etc. He pushes me away!
Is it typical that when he isn’t depressed we discuss how his behaviors are hurtful and he acknowledges it but then when he cycles into depression he does the same behaviors that we discussed?
His family has an interesting dynamic. He has been abused and manipulated by his mother and ex-wife. Is it possible that the depression could be part of his anger and hatred toward women?? Many times the things I do are twisted so that he becomes the victim. I have grown in my relationship with God so as to not take it personal!
Thanks for your thoughts!
Trying to Understand Spouse’s Depression
First let me say, I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with the anger from your husband. I know that’s so very hard!
Depression is OFTEN expressed through anger. BUT, that being said, there are often other things going on that are less obvious and harder to diagnose without a thorough evaluation.
It is quite possible that while depression is part of the picture, there is another diagnoses lurking in the background. But the only way to know for certain is for him to undergo an evaluation. It is not possible for me or any other provider to make a diagnosis from such a brief description or without seeing him and talking to him personally. Many medical conditions often present like depression.
I would first encourage your husband to see his primary care physician to rule out a medical condition which could prompt such changes in mood and personality. Then if he is cleared medically, I’d strongly recommend a psychological evaluation to determine if what he is struggling with is truly depression or perhaps something else or something in addition to depression. Accurate diagnosis is essential to effective treatment.
Kudos to you for growing in your relationship to the Lord and learning that his anger, and his depression is not your fault. I know it hurts to be the object of his wrath.
Hurt people hurt people
The truth is that hurting people hurt other people. If your husband has been the brunt of others’ pain, it makes perfect sense that he may then inflict pain on others. The good news is that while hurt people hurt other people, freed people free people, so with appropriate help and treatment, he could help others too.
The Bible encourages us to “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15 NLT). As a spouse, you can be understanding of his feelings, show him love and compassion, and discuss with him how his outbursts make you feel in an emotionally neutral context and tone of voice.
It can be very difficult to talk to a spouse in the heat of emotion. When our thoughts and subsequent behaviors are based on our emotions rather than on God’s truth, discussions are often pointless. That is why you can have reasonable discussions with him at times but when he is in the depths of his depression, his behaviors don’t match up with the discussions you’ve had.
You may find some of my other posts about What to Say to Someone who is Depressed, What not to Say to Someone with Depression, or How to Help a Depressed Loved One helpful.
I do not believe, however, that God intends for you to be the recipient of abuse. If that is part of the equation, please take appropriate steps to ensure your safety.
You mentioned that your husband was the target of abuse by other women in his life. It may be helpful for you, or a trusted friend, physician, or pastor to encourage his participation in therapy to help heal old wounds inflicted by those relationships. You too may find it beneficial to participate in therapy to learn how to better support your husband, while also protecting your own heart from intentional or unintentional wounding.
10 Affirmations for Depression
I would encourage you to speak God’s truth to and over your husband. Declaring God’s truth is the best way to combat the lies of the enemy. Truths such as:
- You are Special (Ephesians 2:10)
- You were Created for a Purpose (Jeremiah 29:11)
- You are Cared for (Ephesians 3:17-19)
- You are Strong (Psalm 68:35)
- You are Important (1 Peter 2:9)
- You are Forgiven (Psalm 103:12)
- You are a New Creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- You are Empowered (Philippians 4:13)
- You are Protected (Psalm 121:3)
- You are Chosen (John 15:16)
Above all, know that God sees and He cares. He has not and will not leave you to fight this battle alone.
Because of Him,
Get a free copy of my eBook: How To Help a Depressed Loved One.
(If you have a question you’d like Dr. B to answer, contact her here now. Your name and identity will be kept confidential.)
About “Hope Prevails” and the “Hope Prevails Bible Study”
Want even more help for battling depression? Here’s what others have said about “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” and the companion “Hope Prevails Bible Study”.
Testimonials for “Hope Prevails” and the “Hope Prevails Bible Study.”
“Your books and web resources are a God Send and helping me tremendously! I don’t have the words to express my gratitude. After a life of depression, hope is on the horizons…” ~ L.E.
“As a psychologist, I often purchase and study books written by authors who I respect. I am then able to share those books with specific individuals who I feel might benefit. “Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression,” by Dr. Michelle Bengtson is one of those books. If you are struggling or have struggled with depression, this is a special book that I highly recommend. You’ll not find a better faith-based, practical, real and from-the-heart approach for tackling depression head-on than that shared by Michelle. Always remember that ‘hope prevails.’” ~ H.A.
“I have to tell you that your book, Hope Prevails is my all time favorite non-fiction Christian book EVER. When the Lord led me to buy it, I had no idea how absolutely perfect it would be for me. Just what the Doctor ordered. At first, I read through the whole book, all the time exclaiming “She gets it! She really gets it!” Then, I began going through the book as my morning devotional, page by page, making copious notes and writing out the Scriptures that affected me the most…
Thank you so much and may God bless you abundantly.” ~ PD
Is your husband familiar with the 6 Pillars of Self Esteem by Nathaniel Branden? they are the practices one can take to build self-acceptance and self-efficacy. Oftentimes anger results from a relationship that seems out of ones control or due to internal conflict (
such as depression). You can’t change your husband from the outside. That change has to come from within him. Anyway, I highly recommend he check out the 6 practices of self-esteem. It’s an easy way to audit oneself and determine if perhaps attention is misdirected and leading to this conflict.
There is some great encouragement in here! I am glad that you are offering God given advice
Thanks Michelle. I pray it helps others and provides them hope. I know it can be a challenging situation. Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
I appreciated reading your good advice to this writer.
Excellent advice. I wish someone had explained to us last year that depression that last for a long time and doesn’t seem to respond to medication might be something else!
This is an amazing and very helpful response to this question. Thank you for all you shared. I have a friend whose husband is in depression and apparently he is verbally abusive at times too. I plan to share this with her. She is finding some of your other resources so helpful for her. I so appreciate your willingness and availability to answer questions and share with all of us. I love and appreciate you Dr. Michelle!!!
I never condone abuse of any kind, but I will tell you that depression can “bring out the ugly” in people sometimes. I regretfully remember times when I was in the dark valley of depression when my words were anything but kind toward my loved ones. It breaks my heart to think that out of my own pain I caused others pain, but it is true that “hurt people hurt people.” I hope this helps many, including your friend. Thank you for sharing resources to help others where they are.
I love your 10 affirmations! Thank you so much for posting this. It’s going to help marriage survive this very difficult time.
Pinned & tweeted.
Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!
You’re always such an encouragement to my heart. Thank you.
My hope is that my posts will help those who are hurting or those who want to stand by those who are.
Pinned and tweeted! As always, you have such actionable advice!
Thanks Anita. I always appreciate your encouragement.
Thank you for these helpful words. I think it’s helpful to remember that “it’s not about me” when someone is depressed. When we had a depressed loved one in our family, I tended to take everything as a personal rejection. It helped when I finally realized that this was their battle. I can love and encourage, but I can’t fix it.
Kim, you’re so right. It’s hard not to take it personally when sometimes the behavior feels directed toward us. So good to remember it’s not our job to fix them or the situation, but to love and encourage.