You don’t have to be a psychologist to note the powerful links between depression and divorce.
These two facts of modern life intertwine in several ways:
1. Depression leading to divorce
When one of the two partners experiences depression, it triggers a destructive chain reaction. The clinically depressed person loses a lot that made him or her attractive to and cherished by the other person: humor, optimism, ambition, the ability to contribute to the marriage.
Depression threatens the ability to earn a living. It can place responsibility on the non-depressed person to pick up the slack. This often leads to the problem of two depressed persons, not just one.
All this time, unless depression is diagnosed, it may seem like the depressed person no longer loves the partner, or seems distant, or just isn’t the person he or she married. As the depressed person withdraws, the marriage starts to die.
2. Divorce leading to depression
No one thinks divorce is fun. The two parties arrive at the decision to split up, and a grueling process is underway. If the divorce is contested, the two sides lose privacy. Anxiety over finances and what will happen to the kids eats away at people’s optimism. The future starts to look very bleak, with each party’s assets reduced by half. A feeling of futility envelops the individual.
This (literally) depressing situation leads to what some call existential depression, depression resulting not from a physical cause but from reality. Like grief, it will not lift until the depressed person is ready for it to lift.
3. Post-divorce depression
People expect, in the midst of divorce, that life will brighten as soon as the process is completed, and bluebirds will come perch on our shoulders, like in the movies.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Many people, even those whose divorces could be considered “successful,” go into a psychological tailspin afterwards. They feel they have failed, that there must have been something to prevent the breakup. Optimism about the future sours as the reality of having to pay for two homes instead of one sets in. Bankruptcy may rear its head – more feelings of failure!
As you might guess, this post-divorce depression occurs most when the divorce loses sight of the positive objective. It may be triggered by the harshness of the process, the exposure of family secrets, and the challenges of making a living become clear.
This part is important: divorce done right does not lead to this joyless place as often. You set out clear objectives, and you focus on them. You don’t insist on winning every single battle. And you sit back and let counsel do the heavy lifting and paperwork.
Focus squarely on the future, and it will be a future you can live with.
Our hope for you
We do not wish to belittle the suffering of clients taking this big step in life. Clinical depression is the epidemic disease of our age, and can’t be solved in a blog.
Our advice to both sides in a divorce is the same: Don’t go it alone. Talk to your doctor. Admit that the problem exists. Be open to change, and patient with the challenge of recovery.
The optimism underlying divorce is for a better, more peaceful life on the other side. That is our hope for you and for your ex.