Considering 10 to 25 percent of the population experiences depression at some point, it's not surprising that this disorder takes a toll on marriage. In fact, research suggests that one spouse in 50 percent of all distressed couples is clinically depressed. Don't worry, however; if you or your spouse is suffering from depression, it doesn't mean you're doomed to divorce.

The first step in preventing marital distress is to seek medical attention from a qualified mental health professional who can refer you to the right person. Depression is treatable.

If you are the spouse of a depressed individual, realize that depression is a mental illness, not a character flaw or weakness. Be supportive and don't treat your spouse as if you were a parent. Encourage your spouse to seek treatment and stay involved in his or her treatment.

Of course, being married to someone who is depressed can be frustrating. A supportive partner has to cope with the depressed person's symptoms and sometimes must take on more family responsibility.

Depression is one of the most significant predictors of difficulty in a relationship. Half of depressed individuals report marriage problems, and depression frequently precedes marital problems. It's a vicious cycle. During interactions between a depressed person and his or her spouse, both experience their partner as more negative, hostile, mistrusting and detached, and less agreeable and nurturing.

Mental health experts believe it's important to address marital issues when treating depressed individuals who are experiencing marital distress. Marital satisfaction is one of the strongest predictors of life satisfaction. The opposite is also true. Divorce is strongly associated with an increase in depression.

Preliminary studies of couples psychotherapy report are encouraging and seem to be effective in reducing marital distress. While there are a number of types of marital psychotherapy, Cognitive Marital Therapy shows the most promise because it addresses more aspects of marriage that are linked to depression. Cognitive Marital Therapy uses direct interventions that actively deal with marital distress and considers how specific thoughts are related to feelings and mood, and how moods affect behaviors. It is similar to individual Cognitive Behavioral therapy.

The goal of any marital intervention that involves depression is to alleviate stress, encourage mutual support, facilitate renegotiation of marital roles and reassure the depressed person of his or her self worth by setting realistic expectations.