How to Handle a Loved One Who Deals With Depression

and how to walk through it with them.

Read the back story here. Read the follow up here.

It’s kind of funny. Jaclyn has said that one of the things she found attractive about me when we met in college was a certain broodiness I carried. I was a bit quiet and mysterious. In reality, I was still learning to deal with my own feelings of depression and sorrow.

In the days since, we have grown in our understanding of each other. It has been a challenging road at times and it’s our common faith that has brought us through it. We have been married nearly 22 years and we are still growing in our love, our faith and our marriage. Through these years we have learned a few things about walking through life together.

God Didn’t Give us to Each Other to be Perfect

Brian: We have all read the stories and watched the movies about some knight in shining armor who shows up to save the day and rescue the maiden. Even his teeth are perfect and glint when he smiles. But we aren’t perfect. We have baggage. All of us. No matter what. My armor was dented and rusting in places. The horse we rode off into the sunset on had a limp. We have problems. She has them. I have them. We choose to work within and through them together. In realizing that neither of us are perfect I believe we have found a freedom that actually helps us move forward together.

Jaclyn: While Brian is right, we aren’t perfect, I have often told him that he most certainly did rescue me. Nearly 22 years in, and I can honestly say that our marriage is everything I prayed for and more. Because of how young we were (21 and 20) and the baggage we both carried into our marriage, there were times it most definitely felt like we had the odds stacked against us.

However, we had each other, we had the Lord, and we were unified in what we hoped our marriage would be like (or at least, what we didn’t want it to be like), and that was a great starting point.

I have a tendency to be overly sensitive, and would often misinterpret Brian’s down times as something I had done wrong. This led to unnecessary fights, and at times felt a little like we were repeating a cycle that would never end. As we have grown older and started to understand and really know each other, it has become easier to work through things together in a way that’s positive, actually fixes the problem, and makes us stronger and happier as a couple.

I’m now understanding that the times he is battling depression are not my fault or because of me, and that empowers me to help him work through it in a positive way.

Don’t Look to Each Other for Completion

Brian: This statement could actually be finished a lot of ways. If I look to my wife for completion, fulfillment, joy, or any host of other things, I am putting an unfair expectation on her.

I really can’t expect her to be responsible for both loving me and making me emotionally healthy. That doesn’t mean I don’t share with her, or talk with her about what I am feeling. The reality is that we are both imperfect (see above).

We are both human. She disappoints me sometimes and I most definitely disappoint her sometimes. When I recognize that it isn’t her responsibility to “fix” my feelings it is way easier to talk about and deal with them. I am the best I can be for her when I look to Christ for my completion.

Jaclyn: It’s pretty normal to go into marriage with the expectation that it’s going to be like the movies… that we are going to fulfill each other in every possible way and it will be all romance all the time.

However, anyone who has been married any length of time knows that marriage takes effort, and if you try to coast through it, you’ll be missing out on all the good stuff. Starting out as young as we were, we both had plenty of maturing to do, but for the most part it feels like we grew up together.

I don’t really remember life before Brian, and that’s one of my greatest blessings. When I look to him for what God intended – to be a partner in life and together an earthly expression of His great love for us – our marriage stays happy and healthy. Nobody on this planet makes me feel safer and more loved than Brian does, and that is a direct answer to prayer.

It’s not his job to fill my cup – only God can do that. Being supportive, loving unconditionally, making each other laugh, and enjoying the freedom of completely being ourselves as we journey through this place God calls our temporary home is what it’s all about.

It’s Not Her Fault

Brian: So, I’m an introvert. I am wired to be more quiet. I love people and love to help them know more about Jesus. I love what I do and the chance to be around and lead people towards a purpose. However, I need time to process and quiet to recharge. Especially needed after a lot of social interaction.

When I have a time of wrestling with some of the thoughts in my own head I can be really quiet and distant. It is easy for that to be taken as if I am angry, or upset, with her. I’m not. It would also be easy to try and lay the blame on her as if it is her fault that I am feeling down. It’s not her fault.

Learning to be comfortable with who I am helps me be a better husband, father and leader. I don’t get it all right. At times, I really need to unplug and rest. While my down times are not her fault, I also have to recognize that they impact her.

Jaclyn: And…. Brian is married to an extrovert. No surprise there, right? It definitely keeps things interesting, lol. Although there are times I think I want alone time (and enjoy it for a short amount of time), for the most part it’s conversations with friends and time at home surrounded by my family that energize me the most.

Being in front of a classroom of kids at school brings me to life. Social gatherings where I can make people laugh fuels me. Although I don’t really like quiet, I’m beginning to understand that quiet is good and God reveals so much about Himself during those times.

Because I’m wired so differently than Brian, it’s easy to not understand why he is the way he is, and to try to force conversation when he’s not ready. That gets me nowhere and isn’t fair to him. Likewise, it’s easy for him to misunderstand me and how I’m wired. What I have found though, is that we complement each other beautifully, and by God’s great grace, so far we have never been down at the same time – he’s able to encourage me when I’m having a rough time, and vice-versa.

Life is going to have up times and down times. It has twists and turns. Both of us brought things into our marriage. It is a tremendous journey for us as we learn to walk through life together in the midst of who we are rather than some idealized version. We are better together and even greater as we understand each other more and more. Recognizing these things have helped us grow together. Hopefully, they will help as you walk through life with your spouse.

•••

About the Author: Brian Hatcher is the Discipleship Pastor at ClearView Baptist Church in Franklin, TN. Jaclyn Hatcher, his wife, is a teacher and author of The Misfit Minister’s Wife.

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