Helpful Ways to Support Your Partner With Depression

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Depression is among the most prevalent mental health conditions in our modern world and being with a depressed spouse or partner presents numerous challenges that put a strain on any relationship. Here are some do’s and don’ts in supporting a partner with depression, while still nurturing the relationship.

How to help your partner when they are struggling mentally?

Let Your Partner Know That You’re There for Them

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 very depressed spouse or 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.

Questions to ask about symptoms

To gauge the extent of someone’s depression, it’s valuable to examine how the symptoms impact their daily life. Inquiring about these symptoms also demonstrates genuine interest in the person’s emotions and experiences of people with depression. Consider asking questions like:

  • Could you share with me how you’re currently feeling?
  • Are there specific activities that bring you joy at the moment?
  • Do you still enjoy socializing with others?
  • How would you describe your energy levels?
  • Have your sleep patterns changed, with more or less sleep than usual?
  • Have your eating habits shifted, with increased or decreased appetite?
  • Are you finding it difficult to focus on tasks?
  • Have you had any thoughts related to death or suicide?

Asking these questions sensitively can help you better understand the individual’s emotional state and provide valuable support.

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’s not only crucial for your very own well being and self-care but also for fostering greater intimacy and understanding between you both. By sharing your feelings and experiences, you create a space for honest communication. You might express that you sometimes feel helpless or concerned when you see your partner struggling. It’s okay to admit that their depression can sometimes be emotionally challenging for you.

By addressing these feelings, you can work together to find ways to support each other and strengthen your connection, ultimately promoting a more empathetic and resilient partnership.

Encourage Treatment

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’s depression 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 them to seek treatment. From support groups to skilled therapists, there are a number of resources available to empower depressed individuals to improve their quality of life and find constructive solutions to their mental health issues.

How and when to get professional support

Professional support and therapy plays a crucial role in the recovery from depression. When you or a loved one is struggling with depression, it’s essential to seek help.

The first step typically involves consulting a medical or mental health professional, who can assess the condition and recommend appropriate treatment, which may include medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.

In cases of particularly severe depressive symptoms or when life-threatening situations arise, don’t hesitate to call 911 or visit the nearest emergency department for immediate assistance.

Additionally, online counseling services like BetterHelp and Faithful Counseling can provide accessible and effective therapeutic support, allowing individuals to connect with licensed professionals for guidance and treatment from the comfort of their own homes. These services can be a valuable resource in addressing depression.

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 severe depression not only creates disequilibrium and a lack of authenticity in your interactions.

Recognizing and acknowledging your partner’s depression is vital for a healthy and compassionate relationship. Even though for someone with depression isn’t always visible, its impact is profound. Dismissing it can lead to a lack of authenticity in your interactions and create emotional distance. Instead, offer your understanding, support, and encouragement. By showing that you’re there for them, you can make a significant difference in their journey towards recovery and strengthen the bond between you.

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.

It’s essential to understand that pushing your partner to change or “snap out” of depression is counterproductive. Depression is a complex condition, and expecting immediate change can be unrealistic and even harmful. Instead, focus on offering support, patience, and a listening ear.

Validating your partner’s feelings and being there for them without judgment can be far more helpful in their journey to recovery and maintaining a healthy and understanding relationship.

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 or family 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.

Can a relationship work if one person is depressed?

Yes, a relationship can work if one person is dealing with depression. It requires open communication, empathy, and support from both partners. Understanding that depression is a medical condition, and not a choice, is crucial. The non-depressed partner can provide encouragement, assist in seeking professional help, and learn about depression to better support their loved one.

With patience and a willingness to adapt, many couples successfully navigate the challenges of depression together, ultimately strengthening their bond.

Concluding Thoughts

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.

John S. - Editor in Chief

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