Spouse Without Their Usual Spark: How You Can Help
It’s difficult to see someone you love grappling with sadness, a lack of motivation and general listlessness – especially if it’s your spouse. Is there a way to help?
In his February column, Dr Demartini provides insight on how to best help your spouse when they are going through a dark place and struggling emotionally.
The term most commonly applied to persistent negative feelings that leave one feeling despondent is “depression”. However, I have my own definition of this term: I believe that depression is the emotional state one experiences when your current life is different to the one you think you should, or want, to have.
Sadly, this is a state that many of us experience. We wish our lives were different, because we have a fantasy that if they were, everything would be perfect. There would be no drawbacks, and we would be entirely happy. These unrealistic notions or delusions about how life should be are propagated by the messages we receive in society. What happens when it’s not you who is experiencing this state of emotional turmoil, but your spouse? The challenge here is that you cannot help your spouse, or even try to help them, until they have established that they do, indeed, require your assistance. If you move in with unsolicited suggestions about how to fix their situation, they’ll become aggravated and even more hopeless because they feel disempowered; as if they have had their control taken away from them.
Then again, few people in this situation understand that they need help. Your job is to guide your spouse gently to this realisation by asking a few key questions; for example, “It’s been my observation that you seem to be in a low moment. You look subdued. Is this a misinterpretation; or is this how you feel?” You also need to find out what the other person expects of you. Ask if they want you to wait things out, if they are willing to discuss how you can resolve it, or even if they are open to your assistance.
If they’ve indicated that they’d like your input, it’s time for even more questions. Ask what feelings they’re experiencing. Now, this is the key part: as I’ve said, downheartedness is usually caused by the idea that you should be living a different life. Encourage your partner to examine what they think that life should be. But don’t let them revel in it: help them find the drawbacks that life would present. Similarly, help them find the ways in which their current reality is benefiting them.
I once had a client who suffered from terrible depression, which set in after he lost out on a promotion. The condition was so severe that he left his job, and later wrote a book about his experiences. I smashed the fantasy that his life would have been better if he had been awarded the promotion by pointing out that he had, in fact, gained far more than if he had remained in the job. The drawbacks of the life he felt he should be living included a career with a ceiling, while new reality had allowed him to become a best selling author, travelling the world.
It’s important to look for ways that your reality serves you – but it’s equally important to understand that you cannot live in a state of permanent elation. Life is a series of positives and negatives, ups and downs. Accept this, and accept too that we cannot expect the people in our lives to be happy all the time. Just as you have dark times, so will the people you love.
Who Is The Writer?
Dr John Demartini is a human behavior specialist, educator, international best-selling author and founder of the Demartini Institute. Visit Dr Demartini’s website for more information.
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