How can I help my wife? She’s depressed and obsessed with our daughter’s relationship with her boyfriend.

Good Monday afternoon:

I had a beautiful day at the beach Saturday with my girlfriend Barb. It does a woman good to spend some quality time with her female friends. We don’t take enough time to nurture our friendships do we? I want to encourage you to call a friend tonight. Bless her by thinking of her and letting her know.

Don’t forget, October 16th, Saturday morning’s event on , The Emotionally Destructive Relationship in Allentown, PA. If you are a person struggling in a difficult or destructive relationship or know someone who is and you want God’s answers and perspective, then please join us. You can register at or call 610 866-5715.

This week’s question: How do I support a spouse who will not listen and has thrown all her time, energy and finances into “supporting” our daughter’s relationship with a very needy young man who seems to constantly take. My wife is often very tearful, depressed and has gone from 9.6 stone to 7 stone in weight (a stone is = to 14 pounds), but she will not pull back. She believes she is needed and some family members have even accused her of being infatuated with this young man. What can I do to help her?

Answer: You have some multilayered issues here and I’d like to help you prioritize. First of all, your wife’s weight loss is significant and unless she is a very petite woman, she is underweight at only 98 pounds. Has this weight loss been intentional (in order to look more youthful or attractive), or rather due to her depression?

When working with someone who has multiple issues, I always start with the physical. If someone is losing weight, teary, can’t sleep, isn’t eating well, or other physical issues, you must address these areas before you can do much real work with the emotional, relational, or spiritual problems

Invite her to take a free on-line test to evaluate whether or not she’s depressed. You can find one on my website home at or at The National Mental Health Association at When she takes the test, don’t merely look for how many symptoms she’s checked, but how long she’s had those symptoms and how severe they are? If someone has depressed symptoms for over two weeks in a row without a break and it’s not a result of a medical condition, it’s called major depression.

If she tests positive for some of the indicators of depression then see if you can get her to go to her to a medical doctor for an evaluation as to whether or not antidepressant medication is needed. Untreated depression has a significant impact on a person’s overall long term functioning and can result in changes in one’s brain structure. Don’t misunderstand me, medication isn’t the entire answer, but it can do a wonderful job in alleviating or minimizing some of the crippling symptoms of depression that keeps someone unable to function properly. Once your wife’s body feels better, then her mind and emotions are more likely to be able to think more clearly and wisely.

Another thing you might want to try is to invite your wife to walk with you. Exercise has been shown to be very effective with depressed people and for some it can be just as effective as medication. Walking together will also give you some time alone to talk and perhaps help her to re- focus her relationship with you rather than on your daughter’s relationship with her new boyfriend.

Which brings me to the relationship question. You say that she will not listen to you or anyone else in the family when they share their concerns about her over involvement with your daughter’s boyfriend. Is this typical of her? Has she been unwilling to hear other people’s feedback in the past about concerns? In other words has she been unteachable, stubborn, unwilling to face reality or truth? Or is this a more recent behavior, perhaps due to her depression?

People are usually defensive and unable to hear when someone is accusing or attacking and so I want you to take a look at how you have tried to communicate your concerns to her. In my book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship I talk about speaking up and when you do speak up, you want the best chance at being heard.

Therefore, it’s important not to just react and say whatever comes to your mind in an emotional outburst of frustration but to prepare and pray about what you want to say.Here is a sample of what I’m talking about:

What not to say:

“You’re over involved and consumed with this relationship. You’re sick, You’re crazy, You’re obsessed! Don’t you have anything better to do than to focus on this young man? What’s wrong with you? I don’t understand you? I think you have a “thing” for him.”

These are just a few destructive ways one could communicate their concerns, which would result in the other person either yelling back or shutting down.

What you can say: Here’s a different way to speak up about what you’ve told me and you’d have a greater chance of being heard.

“Honey can we talk? I’m really concerned about you. You’re teary and sad so much and seem to have lost your spark. Is anything wrong? The only thing that seems to interest you right now is our daughter’s relationship with her boyfriend. I don’t understand why you see such potential there when all I see is a kid who takes without giving back. Please talk to me. What are you thinking and feeling?”

I’m concerned that in addition to depression, your wife may be a co-dependent person. What that means is that instead of working on herself, she focuses all her attention on the life of another person, often to her own peril. She may have always been this way but when she was doing this for her family, that may have felt more acceptable to you. Now that she’s giving her time and energy toward this young man, it doesn’t look so healthy.

Let me give you just a few of the characteristics of co-dependency or an unhealthy dependency on human approval.

Focusing one’s attention and energy on solving the problems of others, instead of solving one’s own problems.

Putting other people’s needs first, even when it is unhealthy and destructive to you.

Unable to create, maintain, or defend one’s boundaries.

The only time you feel positive about yourself is when other people need or affirm

Doing everything to meet the expectations of others.

Taking responsibility to make others happy, meet their needs, and/or fix their

Easily denies and avoids reality (truth). Lives in a fantasy of what she wishes
were true rather than what is really true.

The good news is that it has a name. The bad news is you can’t fix this for your wife anymore than she can fix your daughter’s relationship problems. However, you can invite and influence your wife toward healthy change if you can stay healthy enough not to lash out in anger, but to speak truthfully in love, with patience and grace.

Readers: What has helped you to wake up and stop the flow of people pleasing behaviors or taking care of everyone else’s needs at your own expense? How have you handled the guilt and emptiness when you begin to make this change?

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