Marriage, Midlife & Mental Health

A few years ago, a good friend of mine went through a painful divorce. He was shocked – many of us were – when his wife of 20 plus years said she wanted to end the marriage. I know, and he knows, that all of us could do things different and better in marriage, but it was obvious this was a guy who loved his wife, was happy with his life and wanted to stay married.

When she made the announcement, he willingly attended counseling together and wanted to find ways to improve their marriage. From what I could see, he went to heroic efforts to save it.  Still, she said, she couldn’t think of one thing he could do to make her happy.

When they were married, I had often heard him compliment his wife and point out to his children that they had a wonderful mother. Once he said to me, “The thing I wish I would have done different through the years was that when she expressed feelings of personal unhappiness, I should have done more than just try to ‘build her up’ with compliments – I should have encouraged her to get some help.”

He never actually said she had depression or anxiety issues, I don’t know for sure that she did, but I do know that millions of people struggle with deep feelings of personal unhappiness and it can ruin a marriage. It can hit particularly hard at midlife. If you’re in a marriage with someone who is always fretful or unhappy, consider whether they might be suffering from something you can’t fix — like anxiety, depression or other mental health issues.

Get a checklist for anxiety and depression and offer to go with them somewhere to get some help to their medical doctor, and/or mental health professional (if you are in the Jackson area, you can find a professional by calling 2-1-1). If you are the person who is constantly unsatisfied, go to your spouse and tell them you think you might need some help. And continue working on strengthening your marriage too, maybe taking time to be together through the sadness could make you even closer.

As far as my friend and his divorce, he still suffers because of the damage the divorce has done to his kids, but he is a strong individual and perhaps the most optimistic person I know. He will be okay. I’m not sure about how things worked out for his ex-wife, but for her sake, and the sake of the kids, I hope she finds the help and healing she needs.