Many couples I see come in for couple therapy complaining of boredom, a drop in sex drive and increased conflict. In the first session it can usually be identified if one partner is experiencing symptoms of depression. The Gottman Relationship Check-up makes this easier as it screens for symptoms of depression, anxiety or suicidal ideation if a couple chooses to take part in this.
Unfortunately when one partner is suffering from depression it creates a domino effect in the relationship. If treatment is not sought the relationship will suffer greatly and may very well not survive.
The depressed partner may experience feelings of irritability, worthlessness, fatigue and brain fog. The partner who isn’t depressed on the other hand may also experience negative feelings such as frustration, helplessness and confusion. The non-depressed partner may feel criticised and they also may criticise the depressed partner for being too negative creating a vicious circle. It may be the case that they don’t fully understand the demise of the relationship is due to symptoms of depression. The non-depressed partner could be taking behaviours and moods personally and experience feelings of rejection.
If the depressed partner is taking anti-depressants they may also experience a dramatic drop in libido that can cause havoc when it comes to physical intimacy. Antidepressants may help some to feel less sad but is not the be all and end all to depression because they do nothing to change thinking or behaviours.
Depression often leads to social isolation and a reduction in desire to go out or make effort in the relationship. Coping mechanism such as eating, drinking, drugs, gambling or porn may be used as an emotional escape negatively impacting the relationship.
It is extremely important for the depressed partner to seek individual counselling for their depression and in fact this should be made a non-negotiable if the relationship is to be saved. The consequence of not seeking treatment are emotional disconnection and increasing resentment in the relationship.
If you believe your partner is depressed and believe it is causing major dysfunction in your relationship you are entitled to make your partners refusal to seek individual therapy a deal-breaker. Couple therapy is usually a good start to greater awareness of how these symptoms are damaging the relationship. A depressed partner may find it easy to start with couple therapy and more confident to seek individual therapy thereafter.