More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Marital satisfaction affected by both spouse's mental health
October 10, 2004
by Mark A. Whisman and Lauren M. Weinstock

Depression rather than anxiety appears to disrupt the relationship more

WASHINGTON — New research examines why a person’s mental health is important for maintaining a satisfying marriage and how either partner can influence the other’s marital happiness. These findings are reported on in the October issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

In a sample of 774 married couples from seven states in the U.S., researchers Mark A. Whisman, Ph.D., and Lauren M. Weinstock, M.S., of the University of Colorado in Boulder and Lisa A. Uebelacker, Ph.D., of Brown University Medical School assessed each partners’ level of depression and anxiety with the MMPI-2 scale along with their marital satisfaction to find out if one partners’ pathology was associated with his or her view of the relationship and/or the partner’s view of the relationship. Specifically, the researchers examined how much each person’s marital satisfaction was predicted by his or her own level of depression and anxiety and/or by his or her spouse’s level of depression and anxiety.

Results from the research show that each spouse’s level of anxiety and depression predicted not only their own marital satisfaction but their spouse’s as well. The more anxious and/or depressed either spouse was, the more dissatisfied he or she was with the marriage. Interestingly, depression was found to influence both husbands and wives more than anxiety in how satisfied they felt about the marriage. But only a spouse’s depression level affected the other spouse’s marital satisfaction. When a spouse suffers from anxiety, but not depression, the affect on the marital partner was less.

Evidence has shown that people living with a depressed person report feeling more burdened and upset by the person’s depressive symptoms, said the authors. “It may be that the scope or magnitude of these burdens are not as great for people living with an anxious person, thereby diminishing the connection between one person’s anxiety and his or her partner’s satisfaction,” said Dr. Whisman. Furthermore, a depressed partner may have a negative worldview that encompasses how he or she views his or her partner and relationship. In contrast, a partner with anxiety may view the world in terms of expecting harm or failure but may not view his or her relationship as seemingly negative compared with a partner suffering from depression, added Whisman.

The study also found no gender differences in the levels of marital satisfaction by either husbands or wives who had similar anxiety and depression symptoms. There were also no differences between the sexes in the degree to which a husband’s or wife’s psychopathology affecting the other spouse’s marital satisfaction. Furthermore, the authors found that marital dissatisfaction was the highest when both partners in a couple reported high levels of depression.

These findings show how important it is to evaluate both partners’ mental health when dissatisfaction occurs in a marriage, said Dr. Whisman. “Seeking help when trouble starts may prevent further declines in marital functioning and lead to improvements in treatments for married couples where one or both spouses are suffering from depression (and possibly other psychological problems). Dealing with each partners’ psychological well-being may help to prevent dissolution of the marriage.”

Article: Psychopathology and Marital Satisfaction: The Importance of Evaluating Both Partners, Mark A. Whisman, Ph.D., and Lauren M. Weinstock, M.S., University of Colorado at Boulder; Lisa A. Uebelacker, Ph.D., Brown University Medical School and Butler Hospital; Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 72, No. 5.

Full text of the article is available at Page Not Found
 

jubjub

Member
I can SO relate to this article!

It's Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, and I am going absolutely batty being alone with my husband for 3 days. He is anxious AND depressed, and probably a few other things as well. If I have to listen to any more tales of doom and gloom from him regarding the past, present and future......well, I would totally blow up if the thought of doing so didn't make ME so anxious! HE depresses ME, and I was depressed enough to begin with!

I've been thinking over the past few days how wrong I have been to stay with him over the years, through many of life's ups and downs, because coming from a broken home myself I thought it was important to remain with him so my two children would at least have a father figure of some type. How wrong I was.

I do not have the guts it would take to pick myself up and leave, and I often wonder what his life would have been like if I had never entered the picture. I feel responsible for him and what he has become, I guess.
 

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
But of course, neither you nor anyone else is responsible for how he feels, jubjub -- the only one who is responsible is him, and by the same token he is the only one who can do anything about it.

That's one of the things I tell depressed clients who are married and/or parents right at the start: You can choose not to do this for you, if you wish, but understand that as hard as it is for you to feel this way it is probably at least as difficult to live with you -- if you can't do it for you, do it for the people who care about you.
 

jubjub

Member
if you can't do it for you, do it for the people who care about you.

....well, you know where that one leads, very few actually do.

This will probably sound ridiculous, but I think because I am a twin I don't view myself as a whole person, but only PART of a person.

Wow, this is getting way too deep!
 

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
jubjub said:
well, you know where that one leads, very few actually do
Yes, but the ones who do are more likely to avoid losing their spouses and families.

I always wondered what it must be like to be one of twins... I can't even begin to imagine triplets, quadruplets, quintuplets, or litters...
 

jubjub

Member
What I really meant by the above is that very few people I know actually do CARE about me one way or the other.

Being a twin is not a blessing at all. I don't believe I will ever have a "sense of self" as an individual child would, even if they have lots of brothers and sisters. I was raised always thinking, acting, doing and even dressing in tandem......not a exactly a fertile field for cultivating individuality, self-evaluation and self-esteem. I always feel that I am "observing" life, not participating in it.
 

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Oh... I did misunderstand your comment previously. But then you might be surprised at how many people do actually care about you -- I have been more than once in my life. Sometimes, we inadvertently give off signals of independence and aloofness that suggest to people that we don't need or want their company, attention, support, etc. It can be a vicious circle because if we then feel people don't care, we'll withdraw even more, "confirming" the original mis-impression...
 

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