Dear Annie: In January, I finally married the woman of my dreams. “Julie” was sweet and kind, with lots of love to give. Things went well for a few weeks, but then everything changed. Julie has always had issues with depression. She’d be overwhelmed from time to time but always came to me for comfort. Suddenly, she didn’t want me near her when she was depressed. As hurt as I was, I gave her the space she wanted.
It’s been several months now, and it seems as if Julie no longer needs me for anything. All affection has ceased, and though I ask her to join me in every activity, she refuses. We don’t even watch TV together. She prefers to do that on her own with her headphones on.
After months of begging, she finally went for counseling. (I’ve been seeing a counselor myself.) It seemed to help her depression, but she still maintains a great deal of distance from me. Worse, we are beginning to get heavily in debt and are in danger of losing our house, but she refuses to get a job or even help out around the house. She spends her time talking to friends, sleeping and watching videos.
I am miserable. I love this woman, and I know these are all signs that she’s still fighting her depression, but how much is too much? She barely responds to me when I try to discuss it. I promised “in sickness and in health,” but I don’t know how much more I can handle.
— Wishing for Better Times
Dear Wishing: If Julie handles her depression by spending money, you need to be supportive without being indulgent. This is an area that is difficult for her to control. Put her on a budget and limit her access to your joint account. Then contact the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (dbsalliance.org) at 1-800-826-3632 for information. Julie must put some effort into this for the sake of your marriage.
Dear Annie: My mom was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 30 years ago. She was 42, active in her church, taught piano and was involved in our community. She always took the time to visit or call friends. By the time she was 49, she was in a nursing home. At first, her friends visited regularly. Now I’m the only one. Her sister and brother never come to see her. Her friends rarely ask about her.
I realize we are all busy, but it only takes a half-hour once a week to stop by and say hello. It would mean so much. I have told her friends that she would love to see them, but they make excuses, saying they can’t bear to see her this way or she won’t remember them. This breaks my heart. Mom is so wonderful and sweet. Even if she doesn’t recognize you, she enjoys the visit.
Annie, there are so many people left alone in nursing homes. Please encourage your readers to reach out. It’s OK if they don’t remember you. You remember them. Tell them stories about earlier days. Bring flowers. Take a guitar and play a song. A 15-minute visit can make a difference in someone’s life. And they might make a difference in yours, as well.
Dear Washington: Bless you for inspiring our readers to visit a friend or family member in a nursing home. These visits can mean so much.
Dear Annie: I am a retired psychologist and often recommended this rejoinder to patients who found themselves in endless rounds of arguments, belittling, etc. It takes a bit of courage to say it, but it works: “You could be right. I’ll have to think about it.” Incredibly, this stops the argument in its tracks. Meanwhile, whoever says those words can blissfully go about their business, doing and thinking whatever they actually think is best.
— Former Psych in New Hampshire
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