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In 2000, Karen and Bob Neas of Trexlertown, Pennsylvania, were convinced that their three-year marriage was falling apart. Karen, then 26, felt so overwhelmed working for a nursing agency and going to school that she had trouble sleeping, listening, and concentrating on everything from homework to housework. "Some days, Bob would come home and find me in bed, with the dishes stacked in the sink and nothing for dinner," said Karen. "Then if I shared how anxious I felt about work and school, he'd fly off the handle. From there, we'd fight about anything and everything."
Bob, then 27 and a foreman for a construction company, wanted Karen to snap out of her sadness: "I thought she was looking for attention. And I hated how she dumped her problems on me the minute I walked in the door." Karen's depression fueled Bob's temper, which was rooted in residual anger from the death of his father when he was a child. The more Karen moped, the angrier Bob got.
Finally Karen sought help from a psychiatrist who diagnosed her with depression, prescribed antidepressants, and recommended that she and Bob attend marriage counseling. Abby E. Murphy, a psychotherapist in nearby Allentown, helped Bob understand that depression is a legitimate illness, making him more sensitive to his wife's moodiness. Meanwhile, Karen's medication lifted her sadness, and she learned to give Bob the downtime he needed to de-stress after work. Karen, now 30, and Bob, now 31, just celebrated their seventh wedding anniversary. We checked in to see how they're doing.
Karen: Three years ago I completed my associate's degree and got a job as a registered nurse. After a year, I tapered off the medication because my mood had stabilized, and I wasn't feeling overwhelmed anymore.
Bob: Now, if Karen feels a bout of the blues coming on, she'll tell me how she's feeling. I'm so proud of her. She really is a new person.
Karen: And Bob is, too! In November 2002, he changed careers. He went into business for himself, installing concrete sidewalks, patios, and driveways. He's more fun to be around.
Bob: I'm also happier because Karen and I now resolve our differences quickly, rather than letting arguments drag on for days or weeks.
Karen: We're really enjoying each other's company. We go out to dinner every Friday night, we socialize with friends on the weekends, and we take a few trips every year. Right now, we're planning a vacation to the Caribbean. I feel like we're a new couple.