Depression in a Partner – How To Cope

By Eve Pearce

Depression is a major problem in Western society, affecting more and more people every year. When a partner is afflicted with this horrible disease, it can put a huge strain on a relationship.

While one partner becomes emotionally withdrawn, unmotivated, and perpetually sad, the other may become worried, frustrated, or wonder if this change is permanent and the person they love is lost forever. Depression is still a misunderstood condition. Its attendant emotions are very difficult for someone not suffering from it to comprehend, and even harder to witness in a loved one. If your partner is suffering from depression, the best thing to do is to seek professional help – both for their own sake and the sake of your relationship. Alongside this, there are a few important points to take on board to help you to understand, cope with, and help your suffering loved one. Continue reading →

Rules for Fair Fighting: Couples Therapy

This is used in couples therapy to help my clients have productive conversations.  If you can follow these rules, you are much more likely to have productive discussions.

1. Decide upon a time of day and time limit before you begin and stick to it. Make this session last around 20 minutes-don’t overdo it. If you don’t finish in that allotted time, schedule another time the next day.

2. Decide how many “zaps” you’ll permit before you (or the other) walk out. A zap is a hurtful remark, an insult, a threat, a sarcastic dig and so on. Any attempt to threaten, shame or blame is another zap. When you get to the number agreed upon ahead of time, walk out.

3. Choose one problem per session and stick to the point. Have a session every day for awhile if you need it, but stick to one problem per session.

4. Stay in the present. Don’t bring up what happened 12 years or 12 days ago unless it very specifically relates to the present.

5. Own your own feelings. Avoid blaming your partner for your feelings- they are not anyone else’s.

6. Listen to the other person. You need both of your points of view to find an agreement for both of you.

7. Agree upon a solution that is good for both of you.

Creating a Peaceful Holiday for your Family

Aren’t holidays great?  There are presents, food, time off work (for those fortunate enough), and time with family.  However, the time with family can quickly turn into disagreements, which then lead to out right fighting.

Its all too often the times we all think should be enjoyed turn into episodes of family drama.

Before getting together with family this holiday season, think about the triggers that cause these family problems.  Maybe Uncle Bobby is the one who starts problems by drinking too much.  Possibly it is Aunt Mildred who starts on a rant because Uncle Bobby is drinking too much, which then sends him into a defensive rant.  Maybe there are past resentments that have not been dealt with since the previous year(s) and they are now resurfacing while everyone sits down to the table.  I think you get the point…there can be a multitude of problems that can cause a family to dinner to become a scene of dysfunction.

What can you do different this year?  Identify those triggers that have caused anger and/or arguments in the family and approach things differently this year.  Is there a need to hold family gatherings at a different location?  Would having an alcohol-free family get together likely make the day more pleasant?

If the problems during the holidays seem to hinge on one particular person, then I would recommend talking with this family member before the holiday season begins.  It would be ideal to meet with them in person, if possible (or at least over the phone).  This would allow you to express the concerns in a calm and caring manner.  For instance, you could discuss how you would be more comfortable if a particular topic (insert family feud issue here) were avoided, so that everyone can have a nice family gathering.  Be sure to use “I” and “we” language, instead of  “you.”  By discussing how “We would feel more comfortable if…” this will avoid making the family member with whom you are talking feel as if they are being accused.

I hope everyone has a very happy and enjoyable holiday season.  Please remember that in order for things to get better, there has to be change.  So, approach this season with the idea of  “What can we do different?”  When things are done differently, there is a chance things can get better.  Holidays are for enjoying family, not starting or perpetuating feuds!

Living Within Your Means

Keeping up with the Jones’, go big or go home, and livin’ large are all mantras of our society.  These mantras may very well sound appealing.  However, they seem to cause a great deal of pain for many.

In my office, I see people who are spending much more money than they are earning.  After the credit cards are maxed and the second or third mortgage has been taken out, people often find there is no place to turn and they are quite unhappy.

What you own is now owning you, as the old saying goes.  It is unfortunate how I see people who work excessive amounts of overtime just make the minimum payments on their credit cards and other debts.  When this happens, the excessive amount of work leaves little time to spend with family.  It often results in arguments with their partner regarding spending habits and sacrifices that may need to be made to pay for the material possessions. Sadly, when people buy these material things in hopes of improving their lives, it often causes the people so much mental anguish and long working hours that they cannot enjoy the possessions that they have.

Prevention is key.  What are you and your partner’s philosophies on money?  Do you have a budget?  Do you have a good understanding between wants and needs?  It is important to know the household income and the amount of money it takes to live for one month (utilities, rent/mortgage, food, car payment, etc.).  Once your have this amount figured, it is important to decide what you will do with the remainder of the money.  Remember to save for retirement too.  It is recommended that you see a financial advisor for detailed help in this area. Below are general spending guidelines:

Housing (rent or mortgage payment, utilities, repairs): Up to 35%

Food: Up to 25%

Transportation (car payments, mass transit, gas/oil, maintenance, insurance): Under 12%

Clothing: Under 10%

Medical (dental, prescriptions, health insurance, over the counter drugs): Up to 8%

Debt (school loans, credit cards, bank loans, etc.): Under 15%

Entertainment (movies, eating out, books, etc.): Under 5%

Emergency Fund: Minimum of 1%

Savings and Investments: At least 10%

Source: Reeta Wolfsohn, CMSW, 2004-2010  Center for Financial Social Work, Inc.  800.707.1002


When is financial social work counseling helpful?

  • The couple is not able to agree on a philosophy on money
  • The couple does not agree on what is a want vs. a need
  • A person feels that he or she has a poor or “complicated” relationship with money
  • There is a concern that there is too much emphasis placed on material possessions

Marriage Counseling

People often come to me for marriage counseling. Actually, I prefer to call it couples counseling because I see all types of couples- many who do not fit into that marriage category.

I come from the perspective that both people in the relationship have some responsibility for the good things in the relationship, as well as the bad stuff. Often I get a partner in the relationship or marriage who states that it is all the other person’s fault. As we talk more, it becomes more and more apparent to both people that there is responsibility on each side.

In a typical marriage counseling or couples therapy session, I help the pair find their strengths in the relationship, as well as what they need to work on. Often, there is a focus on communication skills. Once the communication improves, the rest of of the relationship often follows. I also help to facilitate communication between the couple. Maybe there is a topic that is so touchy that it cannot be discussed without a huge fight. I can help by acting as the moderator. We’ll all handle it in a therapeutic way.

I offer extended sessions for marriage counseling and couples therapy. Often, the standard 45 minutes session is not enough. I have the option of a two hour session to help you get down to business.

Trying Too Hard?

MANAGE your anger. CONTROL your anxiety. STOP having panic attacks. FIX the relationship.

All of these are great ideas and actually work for a large percentage of people. However, for some, the more they emphasize on attacking the problem, the worse it gets.

How can this be? You have to take the bull by the horns, right? Well, most of the time you do. But not always.

There really is such a thing as trying too hard. Yes, believe it or not! Sometimes, I urge people to accept the feelings they are having. There can be a lot said by admitting that you are really nervous, angry, sad, or upset. Giving yourself permission to feel these things can actually help these unpleasant feelings pass.

The next time you have an unwanted feeling, try to stay with it for a bit and see what happens.

Prescription Sex Enhancing Drugs

Drugs = better sex?? When we watch TV, we get this message. If we subscribe to much of the popular culture, we get this message. Is it true? Well, I don’t subscribe to this philosophy. Of course drugs can enhance sex, but it often does not work and certainly has its drawbacks.

I see many people in my office who are having some sort of sex problem…like lack of desire, impotence, or just boring sex. Often, they have turned to prescription sex enhancing drugs to help them. Usually, they are quite surprised when these drugs do not work as advertised. Other times, I get couples who use illegal drugs to enhance their sexual experiences. Again, they end up falling short. It might work fantastically at first and then quickly lose its effects. Many drugs, especially cocaine, end up having a negative effect on the sex life after time.

So you may be wondering why I say these drugs often do not work. If there is simply a physical problem, then these sex-enhancing drugs often do the trick. Here is the kicker—Many people rely on drugs to help their sex life because they have emotional and communication difficulties that make sex very difficult. No matter the issue, if a person relies on drugs to help them with a problem with communicating, thinking, or behavior, it will not work unless they also make changes in their attitude and lifestyle. People who rely on drugs alone often have little benefit.

I want everyone who is using a drug to enhance their sex life to really look at why they are choosing this as a “remedy.” Is it a result of difficulty talking about sex, feelings of guilt or nervousness during sex, maybe it is the fact that you are angry with your partner and this is making it difficult to perform. Would you believe that some people take sex-enhancing drugs because they have so much anger towards their partner that they are unable to become aroused without chemical help? I know this exists because I have talked with several who admit this problem.

I am urging everyone who uses these sexual enhancing drugs to think about the emotional side of sex and ask themselves if this is impacting the actual mechanics of sex. Of course, if there is a physical or hormonal problem causing sexual difficulty, then sex-enhancing drugs are often beneficial.

Talk Sex?

Sexuality is often one of those things people have great difficulty discussing. So much of the time, people have sex, but they do not have discussions about sex. I wonder how many of you do not really discuss sex with your partner(s).

I see many people in my office and on the phone who are very sexually active and are quite open minded. However, it is very interesting to see that so many of them do not have solid adult to adult conversations about sex. The lack of these conversations seems to result in misunderstandings. I think of the classic story about the woman who fakes her orgasm because she is afraid to tell her partner what feels good. Maybe she thinks her partner will be offended if she asks him/her to do a little less of that or a little more of this. Once the pattern has been established, she has been “faking” for years! How do you get out of that one?  You start by taking the tough step of acknowledging it and then focusing on needs.

I also see many couples who end up with diseases or feeling let down by their sexual experiences. This is all because there is not honest face to face discussion before the sexual activities begin. Remember, your partner(s) is not going to know what feels good to you unless you tell him or her! This is very important. Sometimes, the lack of communication causes one to be lax about safer sex…and disease(s) happen.

I want you to look at how comfortable you are TALKING about sex, not having it. Chances are, if you are able to increase your comfort level with discussing this, then you will have a much better and safer sex life.

Marriage Counseling as a Last Resort?

I see a lot of couples in my office who are striving to better their relationships and, often, save their relationships. The disturbing trend I see is couples therapy or marriage counseling being used as a last resort.

Many couples will tell me that they have tried psychiatric medication (often antidepressants) and different forms of arguing, as well as separations, threats of lawsuits, and who knows what else. Of course…this is all before trying couples therapy.

The problem I see is that many couples do not look for finding ways to better their communication, appreciate one another, or develop ways to settle differences. Instead, they are often caught up on who is right or how to get revenge. When all else has failed and they are on the brink of ending it forever, the couple calls me.

Marriage counseling and couples therapy works best when it is one of the first resorts–not last. When therapy is the last resort, there is an incredible amount of pressure put on each partner, as well as me! It is much more difficult for therapy to help a couple reverse years of bad habits, compared to helping the couple address these issues early on.

I urge couples to think about therapy as the second resort, instead of the last one on the list. If you have waited to use therapy as a last resort, there is plenty of hope. However, it will be more difficult and probably require more sessions compared to that couple who used therapy early on.

Many people view couples counseling as too expensive. However, I can assure you that your visit with me will be just a very small fraction of the cost of a divorce…and think about the heartache you may save.

Couples Therapy as a First Resort

Couples often hurt…they have arguments that seem to last forever…maybe each argument reverts back to those old hurts that occurred months or even years ago. Many couples can relate to these arguments that never end and never resolve anything. Actually, these types of arguments usually just make the couple grow further and further apart.

Should you only change the oil in your car when the engine is about to lock up? Should you only go to the dentist when you fear you are about to get dentures? Why is it that couples often wait until they are on the brink of divorce to come to couples counseling? Don’t get me wrong, its great that there are many couples out there seeking help. It makes life so much harder on the couple (as well as the therapist) when the couple wants to address years of arguing and fighting in just a few sessions.

Couples really need to think about entering counseling as more of a preventative measure or “tune up,” instead of using it as a last resort. The cost of couples therapy is not cheap and it continues to get more and more expensive when it is used as the very last resort. My motivation to write this article is to help couples save time, money, and most importantly, heartache. Actually, if couples came to therapy sooner, I would have less business because visits would be much shorter, but my job would be much easier! 🙂