Every winter my wife becomes extremely emotional and depressed. The only reason I can figure is that she's affected by the lack of sun and the dreary days and weather. Could that be true?
A. It sounds as though your wife is suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder Syndrome (SADS). For several years now SADS has been identified by the American Psychiatric Association as a cause of clinical depression. What your wife is experiencing is real.
An estimated 5 million Americans deal with SADS. It often begins in October/November and lasts for about five months, ending in March/April. One study showed that 83 percent of those who suffer from SADS are women, and the onset of the illness typically occurs in their thirties. Some of the symptoms include moodiness, sadness, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, feelings of guilt, self-blame, and helplessness.
Given the nature of SADS, it should be no surprise that the farther north you go the more common it is. For example, SADS affects about 1.9 percent of the population in Florida and 9.7 percent of the population of New Hampshire.
Although the causes aren't totally understood, we do know that it's related to light deprivation.
The good news is that SADS is treatable. In most cases the most effective treatment is light. But it's important for you and your wife to seek professional help for a definite diagnosis and specific treatment suggestions.
His endless projects never get done!
Q. My husband keeps starting home improvement projects—then doesn't finish them! Right now there's no plumbing, ceiling, or flooring in our kitchen, tools are strewn everywhere, and the dust is settling in the rest of the house. But when he comes home from work, he sits in front of the computer or the TV and makes excuses about why he can't complete the job. This has been going on for seven months. I can't take it anymore!
A. Wow, this must be extremely frustrating. Congratulations for lasting seven months. In these situations the first step is to make sure you've communicated clearly your concerns. While many spouses express their concerns, often they don't do it in ways that guarantee their mate will "get it" and make a change.
When we communicate a message that involves frustration on our part and has the potential to lead to conflict, it's critical that we consider what we want to say, how we want to say it, and when is the best time to talk.
Start by making a specific list of your concerns. When you talk with him, be sure to share how it's a problem for you and the family, the inconvenience it involves, and the embarrassment when friends come over, as well as what you feel as a result of the constant chaos. If it were me (Carrie), I'd feel dishonored, disrespected, and discouraged. Help him see what this looks like through the eyes of you and the kids. Don't allow your frustration to overwhelm you and cause the conversation to come off as an attack. Ask God to help you "speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15). Also, make sure you talk with him at a time when he's more likely to be rested and open.
You could also try writing your concerns to him in a note or e-mail. Many men find it easier to discuss something after they've had a chance to process it.
Ask him for solutions to the problem that will acknowledge and respect the needs of the entire family. You might also ask him if there are things you or others in the family could do to help him finish the projects, or to free up some time for him to complete them.
We heard of a couple with a similar problem, but the "project person" was the wife—and she wouldn't sit at the computer or watch TV, she'd start new projects. With the help of their pastor, they decided they'd discuss projects that would affect the living space of others in the family. Any project involving mutual living space would have a completion date. Part of the deal included no trips to the hair stylist or manicurist until the project was completed. That may sound silly, but it worked for them.
Q. My soldier husband has been stationed in Iraq for two years, and he's set to come home soon. While I'm excited to see him, I've gotten used to handling decisions and our house on my own. What can I do to make the readjustment easier?
A. This is a common problem for military spouses.
Before your husband arrives home, discuss each other's thoughts, expectations, and concerns for your reunion. Let him know your desire to honor him while maintaining stability in the home. See what suggestions he has.
Even though you aren't together, it's not too early to pray about your reentry as a couple. Suggest that the two of you begin praying specifically about the readjustment period, that it would be a smooth transition.
We've seen some healthy couples turn this potential problem into an opportunity to redefine some of the roles in their relationship.
When the husband of one military couple came home from overseas and resumed paying the bills, he realized that he didn't like it and wasn't good at it. By talking to his wife, he discovered that she not only enjoyed handling their finances, she excelled at it. He'd previously believed that managing the money was something a man "should" do rather than something that a couple is free to negotiate based on skills and interests. They restructured some of their responsibilities, and what could have become a major problem actually strengthened their relationship.
Another military couple made appointments with their pastor just to have an objective third party to talk to, pray with, and provide wise and biblically-consistent counsel.
Ask God to prepare you and give you realistic expectations. Pray for extra doses of patience and grace. Enlist two or three other couples to pray for you at least once a day for the next three months.
Remember, there are always bumps during a reentry period. Two years is a long time to be apart, so don't panic or overreact. Instead, look for the growth opportunity that's always there.
Carrie Oliver is a marriage and family counselor. Gary J. Oliver Ph.D., co-author of A Woman's Forbidden Emotion (Regal), is executive director of The Center for Marriage & Family Studies at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Visit Carrie and Gary at www.liferelationships.com.
Copyright © 2005 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.