Communicating gratitude to my depressed husband?


My husband is pretty frustrated and stressed right now, and with good reason.

Here’s the super-truncated summary: We are having financial troubles. I’m already working full-time and spending 10 hours a week commuting. DH has been looking for work consistently since last January, but has been aiming for jobs that pay no less than $2 an hour less than his last job (which he quit 2.5 years ago to be a SAHD). We had a lot of unexpected expenses and fell behind on our mortgage and have hundreds of dollars of doctor bills to pay (I am expecting a baby in early February).

It’s clear to both of us that he now needs to just get a job, any job - even at minimum wage. Hence, his frustration and stress - taking a low-paying job after all his hard work to find something better is really hard on him.

I want to let him know how much I appreciate what he is doing for our family, but because he is depressed (technically, dysthymic - chronic mild depression), I'm not sure how to communicate that to him effectively.  Telling him with words is often received with suspicion, that I'm "just saying that to make him feel better" and am not really sincere.  Non-verbal expressions of love seem to go further, but they take time and energy.  I do what I can, but I need to take care of myself first right now, since I am the sole income for the family and the pregnancy means that my body is under unusually high levels of stress as it is.

I want a way to let him know that he really is a hero for our family.  I want to let him know that having him do a job for minimum wage expresses his love for us more than working a job with double the wage.  I want him to know that I don't see him needing to do this as a sign of a failure on his part to do better (which is how I think he sees it), but as him being willing to do anything, humble himself however much is needed, to make sure his pregnant wife and children have what they need.  But when his mental health leaves him pre-disposed to take everything the wrong way, especially spoken words, and when I am already so busy just keeping things going, how can I communicate that?

So far, all I can come up with is to do my best to be cheerful and healthy in mind, body, and spirit, so he can see the fruit of his labor in his healthy, low-stress wife.  This is what he seems to really wants right now - for me not to be over-burdened by everything, and for himself not to feel like he's causing me to be tired and overwhelmed by not doing more.  Once he gets a job, I can enthuse over the value of his new paycheck - but not sure how I can thank him during this period where he is still job-hunting and investing himself before it pays off.

Does this sound like I'm on the right track?  Any other ideas how I can help my husband see that he is being a hero right now?


The only way to cope with depression, especially in such uncertain circumstances, is to take each day as it comes, and just live in the moment with the reality in which you find yourself. Throw all of your trust on God, and leave everything that is not within your control (including your husband’s mood) in His hands.

I find that it is the only way to cope.


All of this is great, but medication is also very helpful. Sometimes life saving.


Good point. Talk to a doctor about whether it would be helpful.


His therapist does not recommend medication at this time. I am encouraging my DH to ask why and push until he gets an explanation he understands because:

(a) Although dysthymia can sometimes be cured with either just therapy, or just medication, the combination is twice as likely to be effective.
(b) My husband has stated that he wants medication, and I think he needs to communicate this clearly to his therapist as part of actively managing his health. If he doesn’t agree with the explanation he gets, he has the option of going to a psychiatrist (I think this is the name) to talk with someone who can prescribe medication directly for a second opinion. I’d like him to understand why his therapist wants him to try on his own before he does this, though.

Also, to clarify: This is not major depression. This is dysthymia, a relatively mild but much longer-lasting depressive disorder which is dangerous mostly because it can last decades, and for that entire time it leaves the person very vulnerable to episodes of major depression. People with dysthymia can generally cope with life, but have some areas they struggle with. They generally don’t have trouble getting out of bed in the morning (some do, DH doesn’t), but often are not be good at making decisions or self-care, for example. So this isn’t a life-and-death type of depression. This is “just” a daily struggle with a negative view of the world and of himself that my husband has probably been coping with for about 2 decades - since he was about 12 years old - we’re guessing. He has had at least one episode of major depression in the past, and it is very different (and much more difficult to cope with for everyone). If major depression is a dark midnight, this is more like early twilight - everything looks gray and washed-out, but not black.

Part of what this means is that he actually doesn’t need to just take it one day at a time. Actually, he seems to benefit from practicing optimism by looking at the ways he can influence the future, fighting his negative assumptions, and making plans based on realistic thoughts. His condition isn’t overwhelming for him right now (this is actually the healthiest he’s been in years, IMO), so he’s really able to tackle some of the symptoms head-on and change them.

Also, he’s been IMing me throughout the day. Surprisingly, given his upset behavior this morning, he seems to be cheerful now. This morning he seemed like he was trying to be cheerful, but failing. I think what happened is that he made a conscious decision not to let this overwhelm him and to try to act cheerful no matter what, and managed to follow through until he actually was cheerful. I’m in awe. I’ve never seen him attempt this before - behaving cheerfully even though he didn’t feel it, in an attempt to actually become cheerful. It’s a powerful technique, but takes a lot of strength of will to pull off. I know because I’ve used it in the past from time to time. I should really be using it a lot more often at work, actually. The funny thing is, I don’t remember talking to him about it, certainly not any time recently. So either this is from his therapist (which I doubt, since DH didn’t mention it), or he came up with it on his own.

I think he’s decided he is going to handle this, whether he’s really capable or not :thumbsup: Maybe that means he’ll be ready to hear how much I appreciate it soon! Maybe I just need to give him a little more time. :shrug: I’ll know in a couple of days. But I do have to admit . … I’m starting to get a little excited about this challenge now! I can’t wait to see how DH handles it. :smiley: Now, if I can just contain my normal bubbly enthusiasm and follow his lead on how I show my feelings about this . . .


I don’t have any words of wisdom, I just wanted to let you know I’ll say a prayer for your family for overall health of every type, financial stability, and peace and joy. :crossrc: :hug1:


I have suffered from the same condition your husband does. The thing that helped me was repetition. If Dh says something once, I tend not to believe him; if he repeats it often, then it becomes a lot more easier to understand. Sorry if this sounds dumb. But seriously, it’s what has helped me.


Thanks, this really helps a lot - I can see how that would work. I’ll try to keep this in mind.

Unfortunately, since Wednesday he’s taken back his statement that he was going to start looking for minimum wage work and claims that was a misunderstanding on my part. I really have to interpret this as a defensive mechanism, since I’m SURE there was no misunderstanding. He knew I was going to find a friend to babysit the girls while he went around store-to-store to ask for applications, and it was HIS idea.

I’m trying not to feel scared or letdown that he’s changed his goals like this, since I was OK with him gradually working towards minimum wage instead of just jumping in originally, but I failed big-time this morning and broke into tears while trying to understand what his current job application policy is. It’s just so hard to talk to him and get him to say something straight right now! But I think I understand enough that I can encourage him on the things he is doing well - looking for data entry as well as tech support is a really big deal, and I am proud that he’s doing that. Both the “take anything” and the “gradually expand what I’ll take over 3 or 4 weeks” approaches have their pros and cons. It’s just . . .

I thought he was ready to do anything. I thought he was willing to work whatever he had to so our family would be taken care of. I was so proud of him. And now I’m having to re-revise that image of him. I really liked that person I was seeing him as. I was ready to brag about him to our closest friends. I was thanking God for him. And it’s hard to admit that, while I still believe he could be that man, he’s not ready to be that man quite yet.

And it’s so hard to keep supporting him, be consistent about the messages I’m sending him, when he is being so inconsistent himself. I feel like I’m trying to support him in swerving more or less in the right direction, because heading straight towards the goal is just getting there too fast and freaking him out. But I’m also not able to look out the windows and see where we are - I’m relying on the movement of the boat and what he tells me about the scenery to figure out where we are and which direction the goal is right now. Does that make sense?


That is perfectly understandable. It sounds like you are all alone in trying to be the grown-up in this relationship. It must be very difficult for you, since it’s almost like not only are you practically a single parent, doing all the grown-up jobs at home as well as holding down a job in the workforce, but you are also trying to be a supportive wife, at the same time. :frowning:

I just want to tell you that it’s okay - you are allowed to cry sometimes, too. He is not the only one with permission to feel weak, at times.


You are a good woman and fine wife.

I went through the exact same situation: depression, kids, no job and wife. Men are programmed to provide and when we cannot, it is humiliating. Constant humiliation.

As difficult as it may be, simply show him respect. Remind him of his manhood - nurture that. have faith in him. A man needs to be believed in.

Ultimately, my wife grew impatient w/ my depression and lack of work in a position I had worked for and deserved. She nagged and destroyed my already fragile self esteem. I left home and started work as a plumber’s assistant. Childcare was more than I made, which did not matter because I spent money on food and a room before I sent her much. I crawled under houses every day for 5$ an hour and repaired sewer lines just to prove I was not lazy (and the only obvious available work).

the upside was I learned a new trade. the downside was I stopped my search for real work for 11 more months. After a lot of pain I did find a job in my field in my hometown and returned home to reconcile w/ my wife. She may have given up on me, but I knew I would find work again for my worth and now make 34$ an hour.


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