The Balancing Act: ‘We Barely Communicate, And I Feel He Doesn’t Care’
Every other week, Sonali Gupta draws on more than 10 years of experience as a clinical psychologist to answer readers’ questions about parenting, family dynamics, relationships, mental health, and more.
Lost The Spark: My husband I have been married for eight years. However, we barely communicate to each other, and I feel he doesn’t care for me. Do you think therapy would work in a case like this?
Sonali: You sound hurt and concerned about your partner’s behaviour, and you’re wondering if there is a solution to your feelings. There is definitely scope for you to work on this in couples’ therapy sessions. Communication problems and the ability to handle conflict are two of the most common concerns couples face. The ability to communicate honestly and freely is an underlying basis for any relationship; when we feel loved, emotionally understood and connected with our partner, communication flows.
Generally, in marital or couples’ therapy, a psychologist would focus on understanding what has led to a communication breakdown and, in turn, help the couple again find their connection with each other. Marital therapy attempts to help couples understand each other’s needs, learn to respond, make time for communication and sometimes even understand the consequences of poor or no communication. It may be difficult to guarantee that therapy will work definitely in a case like yours, as I have little information about your life situation, personality and relationship as a couple. However, from my experience with couples, I can tell you that couples’ therapy can help people find a deep connection again and, in turn, learn to communicate and enjoy each other’s company.
Marriage is a lot of work, and it needs continuous effort from both partners. There are scientifically proven methods by which couples can strengthen their bond, manage conflict and also explore poor communication patterns, if they exist. Having said that, the success of marital therapy is dependent on the degree to which a couple is willing and ready to work on their relationship.
Back To Basics: Can you specify the difference between sadness and depression?
Sonali: As the Disney movie Inside Out illustrated, all of us experience sadness, happiness, anger and fear. Each of these emotions is normal and has a purpose. Sadness is triggered when we feel a sense of loss or disappointment about people, relationships and, sometimes, about ourselves. What separates depression from sadness is the intensity and pervasiveness of the bad mood. Generally, sadness is a short-lived feeling, triggered by specific situations. Positive events, social support, and learning to be kind to one’s self helps people deal with sadness on a day-to-day basis.
Depression, on the other hand, can consume an individual. Often, people who are depressed express feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, which are crippling and impact all areas of their functioning. According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the criteria for depression involves low mood and low, or no, interest in most activities that were previously enjoyable. This is true for most times during a day and this pattern lasts at least for two weeks. For a person to qualify as being depressed, these two symptoms need to be accompanied by at least five out of the following symptoms: changes in appetite, sleep patterns, weight loss or gain, diminished ability to concentrate, chronic fatigue, slowed or aggressive thinking and movement, excessive guilt, feeling negative about one’s self, and recurrent thoughts about death or suicidal ideation.
Unlike sadness, depression is not a mood that can be managed, and it can leave people feeling incapacitated. People suffering from depression find it difficult to sustain relationships and work commitments, or even enjoy the small pleasures of life. A variety of biological, psychological and psychosocial factors play a role in depression. That’s why it responds well to a combination of medication and psychotherapy. It is a good idea to seek an opinion from a mental health professional if you find yourself facing these symptoms. People can learn to manage their depression and develop healthy coping mechanisms.