It's no secret that it can be very difficult being an individual who struggles with depression and/or anxiety. But what about the impact on the person's relationship? I've seen a number of people in my couples counseling practice where depression or anxiety is wreaking havoc on the individual, their partner - and thus the relationship itself.
Depression or anxiety often aren't the presenting issues when a couple comes for counseling. They might see me to learn better communication tools, work through resentment, infidelity or any other number of issues. When it starts to become evident that one of them are depressed or highly anxious, my attention will usually shift to taking a look at how this might be intertwined with the presenting issues - and it usually is. After all, so much of the person's self concept is usually wrapped up in the depression or anxiety somehow - more clearly for some than others. I'll want to educate the couple a little if they need it then take a look at how we might address the depression/anxiety whether it be a referral out - or other options. Each situation is unique and I'm usually led by instinct with this. If there are a lot of unresolved family of origin issues potentially at the root, I'll sometimes work with the individual myself then bring them back together. However, I have to be mindful of balance and sometimes won't do this unless there are potential unresolved family of origin issues going on for the partner as well. Then I can split them apart with a "no secrets" policy then bring them back together to take a look at how they might be inadvertenly triggering each other. Again - it's very case-by-case.
Ideally, the person in the relationship struggling with depression/anxiety is willing to take a look at this. In some cases, there may be denial of this or minimization of the situation. This is where it can be really tricky for their partner - who might be really worried, feel stuck or not heard, or generally hopeless about getting their relationship back on track. The best case scenario is both partners acknowledging it's there, it's impact on everyone and a willingness to tackle it together in a highly supportive atmosphere.