Do you find yourself getting anxious before you have a discussion with your spouse or partner? Do you feel sad or maybe frustrated after an argument with your partner? Does it seem like you are at a loss as to what to say or do in conversation with him / her? Do you find yourself not sleeping or eating well after a “fight”? Do you find yourself getting anxiety when you start to think about having to talk to your spouse / partner again? Are there times when you just avoid him / her because it’s just too stressful otherwise? Do you worry about whether your relationship will last long or not? Do you find yourself getting headaches, stomach aches or other physical symptoms when you start or end a conversation? Do you feel depressed because you believe you are stuck or stressed out in your relationship?
Answering “yes” to a few or many of these questions shows friction and probably with some “sparks” in your relationship. You are not the only one. Many of our clients have expressed several times having similar feelings, thoughts and responses when it comes to their interactions with their spouse / partner. They express feeling stuck, angry, frustrated, helpless, alone, and at times let down for not being recognized or understood in a way that they are truly connecting with their partner. Their spouse may be avoiding certain subjects, not showing interest where there once was interest and when it comes to problem-solving, there are disagreements on how certain problems should be solved (or if there really is a problem as one may not see that a problem exists). Whether they are coming to counseling by themselves or are part of couples counseling, many times anxious and / or depressive symptoms are mentioned. If left untreated or ignored, the depression or anxiety may worsen and intensify your relationship woes.
As counselors, it is our passion to help individuals and couples seeking therapy for their relationship difficulties to sort out their difficulties and when there is depression, anxiety or both in our clients we help them to sort through these things. We sit down to listen and together looking at how to restore your sense of well-being. We value you as a person, you as a couple — your story with how you feel, your thoughts and actions. You are worthwhile to us.
When it comes to addressing depression, anxiety or both as part of your relationship experiences, let’s first begin to recognize what the signs or symptoms are of each. Then, we will explore experiences, perceptions and beliefs about the relationship and then what are some first steps to overcome them.
Signs of depression
Depression may seem like sadness intensified or sadness extended longer then what you would like. It affects your mood. For example, you may find yourself getting irritated at various things that didn’t annoy you before. You may find yourself procrastinating in getting day-to-day things done or not doing things that once interested or excited you (such as exercising, riding your bike, walking, reading a book, painting, drawing, building or fixing things, connecting with positive friends, playing video games, or going to the movies just to name a few). Fatigue, tiredness, or sleepiness are also signs of depression. You may also not sleep enough or too much. Disrupted appetite such as eating too much or too little or “junk” food munchies that you may be eating to satisfy your mood somehow. Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness may set in and you may feel like you’ve given up on the relationship or maybe on life itself. Sometimes there may be thoughts of guilt or feeling ashamed of what you have done or are doing in the relationship. You just are at a loss as to what to do and depression seems to be pointing this out to you. Depression may start out to be mild then grow into becoming worse. If you are experiencing intense, severe depression including thoughts of not wishing you were living (i.e. suicidal thoughts), then seek help immediately.
Signs of anxiety
Anxiety may seem to be something that comes and goes in our lives. Certain days, times, events or activities may trigger an anxious response. In a way, anxiety to a certain degree is common or normal in life. When it comes to your relationship, anxiety may be your “internal barometer” telling you something about what is going on inside…like a “red flag”. Anxiety can be understood as worry or nervousness and is an uneasy internal feeling that causes distress. This is a general definition yet recognize what may be stirring inside of you when you feel the anxiety or nervousness. Outward signs may include: shortness of breath, numbness, nausea, stomach upset, headaches, dizziness, difficulty sleeping, disrupted appetite, heart palpitations, being fidgety (not able to sit still much), and other physical symptoms. Inward signs may include: Worry about what may happen (fear of the unknown), worry about what bad thing may happen to another (or yourself), thoughts about things being far worse then what they may appear to be (catastrophizing), feeling insecure about the present or future, fear of failing, fear of being inadequate, fear of being abandoned, and other inward signs. These inward and outward signs may be directly or indirectly related to your relationship and bring a distress that calls for your attention.
Note: Please recognize there may be medical conditions that also encompass some or many of these depressive and/or anxious symptoms and seeking medical assistance may be helpful.
Experiences, perception and beliefs affecting your relationship
Remember back when you were a kid and you were learning what to say or do as well as what not to say or do around your parents, caregivers or authority figures. You had learned some different responses in order to get what you wanted or learned what not to do to keep you from distress or pain. Each of these experiences add up over time. As we grow older, we add more and more to our learning. We learn with each person in our world what, when, where, how, and to what extent to interact with them. With this knowledge comes experiences and with these experiences comes our perceptions of these people in our lives. Then you may find associating certain characteristics of people with others. For example, “He reminds me of my grandfather…”; “She’s a lot like my mom…”; “He’s just like Uncle Harry…”; “She sounds just like my boss…” to name a few.
Perception has a lot to do with how you have related, are relating, and will relate with your partner / spouse. This awareness of his / her attitude, tone, words, and overall behavior with you can be helpful for you in how you can relate. However, if you find yourself slipping into a state of depression or feeling a bit anxious in response to him / her, then it may be that these responses are warning signs of what is stirring inside of you in order for you to explore what’s triggering these responses.
There is one thing to observe your responses in a given interaction with your spouse / partner, but it is a different perspective with what you believe about what you observed. These beliefs are what you tell yourself about what you experienced with him / her. Such beliefs may be, “I’m not attractive to him…that’s why he acts this way…”; “I’m just a reject…that’s why she puts me down”; “I’m not good enough for him / her…”, and other disturbing beliefs.
What may be going on behind the scenes or what your spouse / partner may be experiencing may have little to do with you. For example, he may have just finished a long day of work, or she just had a phone call from her mom, or he was watching his favorite sports team lose their game, or she got some troubling news from a friend, or whatever may have been happening. You may have allergies stirring with coughing or sneezing, you may have had a conflict with a co-worker, or just had to reprimand your child. These events may affect how each of you interact. In other words, there are many factors that may complicate and affect your relationship.
First steps in overcoming depression, anxiety in your relationship
Your awareness that you have some depression and / or anxiety is an invaluable first step. By naming what it is helps you to be honest with yourself and with your spouse / partner. Secondly, take the time to think about what you are experiencing inside and out when it comes to your relationship. Reflect on what your mood is like, what are the thoughts and feelings you are having before, during and after your interactions with him / her. Consider your thoughts, feelings and actions when they are not around. Are you hesitant in talking or asking questions or wanting to spend time together? Third, reflect on what he / she may be experiencing in life. What is she going through with her job, her friendships, his boss, his sibling or parent, her health, his loss of a family member, or some other situation? Explore the possibility that what you are experiencing may be compounded by relationships and / or experiences from the past that are affecting how you are relating to your spouse / partner.
Thoughts, feelings, actions, and attitude you are experiencing in your relationship may seem a bit overwhelming to you or even over the top complicated. Remember: you are not alone in this. We as counselors are not only trained in helping you through these things, but we have a passion, a purpose in what we do in walking with you in this part of your journey toward mental, emotional healing and well-being.
If you have questions about counseling or would like to learn more, or would like to meet up with one of us, feel free to call 520-292-9750 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, check out our other blogs in this website for more information. Visit our site as often as you’d like.