What is it they say? The three most stressful things in life are losing a loved one, divorce and moving?  That sounds about right and, having worked in the world of family law for many years now, I have seen that going through a divorce can indeed be stressful and sometimes this can lead to depression. 

But what about staying in a bad marriage?  Can this cause depression?  I’m not a medical professional (watching countless hours of Greys Anatomy doesn’t count apparently) but it seems possible, if not probable.  Bad marriages can, of course, come in all forms.  There may be incidents of emotional abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, or physical abuse taking place.  Couples can drift apart, leading to feelings of loneliness or low self-esteem.  These are all traumatic and stressful experiences.  It seems logical that such experiences could have an impact on mental health. 

If you are in a marriage that is making you unhappy, you have a number of options: do nothing; try to address the issues and make things better; or end the marriage.  Personally, I’m not a “do nothing” kind of person but a lot of people are and there are a lot of people in very long, very unhappy marriages.  This can create more issues if a separation finally happens and the lid is finally lifted on years of resentment.

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For those people who want things to be better, engaging with a Relationship Counsellor can provide invaluable support and guidance.  Both parties need to want to do the work.  For anyone unsure about what they want to do, I would always suggest counselling, but I appreciate it’s for not everyone. If you’re struggling with the decision as to whether to stay or go then you may find our top tips for making this decision helpful. It’s a downloadable PDF that helps talk you through things to consider.

The decision to end a marriage is never easy but if you are suffering from depression, making this decision may be even more difficult.  Getting the right medical advice and support from your GP is essential.

Mediation can offer couples going through a divorce an environment to have a conversation about the decisions they need to make about the future, whether that be arrangements for the children or around property and other financial matters.  The mediator will facilitate that conversation but will also provide both parties with support, understanding and compassion. Moving forwards is always a primary focus in mediation meetings but there is also an emphasis on proceeding at a pace that everyone feels comfortable with and that the clients feel in control of the process. 

None of us know what really goes on in anybody’s marriage – even those close to us.  However, as experienced professionals, mediators appreciate that the events leading up to the end of the marriage may well have had an effect on mental health and this will require sensitivity. 

Emma Ingham