Depression is among the most prevalent mental health conditions in our modern world and being with a depressed partner presents numerous challenges that put a strain on any relationship. Here are some do’s and don’ts in supporting a partner who has depression, while still nurturing the relationship.
Let Your Partner Know That You’re There for Them
Let Your Partner Know That You’re There for Them – No Matter What
The internal world of a depressed partner is often filled with feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness. If you feel that something is amiss with your partner, open the floor for discussion. Listen with love and consideration, especially if your partner decides to talk about their depression. Ask your partner what he or she needs from you in order to feel supported. Being present on a consistent basis is one of the greatest gifts you can give a depressed partner.
Get Educated on Their Symptoms
Strive to learn about the symptoms of depression, paying special attention to the depressive symptoms you see in your partner. Doing so provides more than just crucial contextual evidence to make sense of your partner’s actions – it also helps build a bridge of empathy toward your partner.
Plan Healthy, Enjoyable Activities – And Encourage Your Partner to Join
One of the cornerstone symptoms of depression is a loss of interest in activities that one typically enjoys. You know your partner from an intimate perspective, especially if you have been together for a period of time, and you know the activities you each enjoy. Be thoughtful when planning time with your partner. Is your partner an outdoor enthusiast who has had a tough couple weeks at work? Invite him or her on a walk through a park that you both enjoy – this allows for important bonding time, as well as an opportunity to get some healthy fresh air and exercise.
Talk About How Their Depression Makes You Feel
Be open about how your partner’s depression affects you. Not only is this important for your self-care, but it also helps you relate to each other in a more honest, intimate way.
It can be easy and tempting to step into the “savior” role when you see your partner battling mental illness – but assuming this level of responsibility for another person can easily create self-imposed pressure, not to mention resentment. If your partner’s day-to-day life is being negatively impacted by their depression, gently encourage that they seek treatment. From support groups to skilled therapists, there are a number of resources available to empower a depressed individual to improve their quality of life and find constructive solutions to their mental health issues.
Don’t Ignore Your Partner’s Depression
Depression is a serious medical condition – even though you may not be able to see it, the toll on your partner is very real and tangible. Dismissing a partner’s depression only creates disequilibrium and a lack of authenticity in your interactions.
Don’t Push Your Partner to Change
The idea of changing one’s negative emotions is unrealistic, even for a high-functioning person with depression. Forcing your partner to set aside depressive thoughts and engage when he or she feels unmotivated, not only invalidates your partner’s feelings, but also sparks feelings of failure.
Avoid Accusatory Statements
Those living with depression come from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, and many individuals who are successful by conventional standards still despair from their experience with depression. Suggesting that your partner lacks the authority to feel depressed is an insensitive and unloving way to treat your partner.
Don’t Ask If Your Partner Is Okay
The easiest way to understand what makes this question problematic is to gauge your own reaction when you have been asked this question on a bad day. As counterintuitive as it seems, asking your partner this disempowering question only creates feelings of discomfort and helplessness. Instead, aim to ask your partner if there is anything you can do to lend your support – this is an affirming way to acknowledge your partner’s distress and encourage their response.
Being in a relationship when a partner is struggling through depression feels overwhelming and unattainable, but it is possible to come out happy and fulfilled.
Strong support systems, such as those provided by trusted friends and family, are essential to making a depressed person feel secure and validated. As an intimate partner, your role in your loved one’s life is significant, even when he or she appears withdrawn.
Being patient, understanding, and consistent earn your partner’s trust tells your partner that the relationship is a safe space, and candid communication lays the foundation for the health and longevity of the relationship.