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Ask Lisa: My Wife is Depressed, Angry and Drinking

I hope you can help me with this. I think my wife is depressed but she refuses to admit it or see anyone about it. She’s always in a terrible mood, has been sleeping way too much, is sharp with the kids and generally seems down. I’ve tried talking to her about it but she gets angry…has been drinking more than usual lately too. I don’t know what else to do. I know I can’t force her to counseling but there must be something I can do! By the way, our sex life has been out the window for months too. Do you have any ideas?

Lisa’s thoughts…

Depression can be very challenging to relationships.  You’re right, nobody can “force her to counseling” unless she’s actively suicidal.

As you are seeing, depression (and alcohol abuse) not only impacts the person – but their partner and family (children).  I would try sitting her down calmly (when she hasn’t had anything to drink) and express to her how much you care about her and are worried. Try to describe what it feels like not to have your wife in the way you used to – and how the kids might be experiencing her. Be gentle and loving – and try to stay on the emotional process. Be cautious not to use language that might be perceived as attacking or critical. If she’s depressed, she will likely be highly sensitive to this.

If she opens up, listen very closely to her and let her speak. Try to validate her experience while maintaining your concern. Shift the problem to something you’d like to work on as a team. What can you do together to tend to what’s going on?

If you’ve put your best foot forward in your attempts to communicate with her with compassion – and there’s no acknowledgement or change of behavior, consider involving her family and friends. My biggest concern would be for your children – you didn’t mention their ages but if their mother is struggling with clinical depression, this can have long term implications as well.

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Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of LoveAndLifeToolbox.com with emotional and relationship health articles, guides, courses and other tools for individuals and couples. She is a frequent consultant for the media having appeared in CNN.com, HuffingtonPost.com, MensHealth.com and others. Lisa has a private practice in Marin County, CA and offers Emotional Health and Relationship Consultations via email, phone or video conference.