Loving a Partner Who Has Depression
Relationships can be hard. Being in a relationship with someone who has depression can be harder.
In any relationship there will be ups and downs. Even the best partners will occasionally do things that will upset the other and make them sad. When that other person suffers from depression though, those sad times can look very different.
It’s common for people who have depression to seem “fine” or even just “a little down” most of the time and then experience a “low” or depressive episode. This often causes their partners to wonder if it was something they did or said. If your partner lives with depression, you may know what this feels like and be wondering what you can do to help make them “better”. So, here are a few simple things you can do:
- Learn about depression. Read articles, listen to podcasts, watch TED talks. Make a conscious effort to understand how depression works, not just from the outside (i.e. tiredness, change in appetite, lack of interest in things they once enjoyed, etc), but learn about how depression works on the inside (i.e. the way it makes you think, the way it makes you feel).
- Ask your partner questions about their experience. Everyone experiences depression differently, so it’s important to ask your partner what it’s like for them. Ask them what helps them feel better. Ask them specific questions about things you could do more or less of in order to be supportive (if you just ask if there’s anything you can do to help, chances are they will respond with “I don’t know” or “not really”).
- Encourage them. Encourage your partner to get out of bed, to eat a real meal, to go for a walk, to get out of the house. Encourage them to go to a doctor or a therapist if they haven’t already. Encourage them to talk to you, to see their friends or family, to spend time with their children or pets.
- Don’t blame yourself. Yes, there are going to be times when you may upset them or trigger a “low” for them the same way anyone can make their partner sad. It’s okay. The key is to not beat yourself up over it. Sure, it’s a crummy feeling, but you’re only human. Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can and be gentle with yourself. Even if you aren’t the cause of your partner’s depressive episode it can be hard not to feel like there’s something you did or should do to “fix” it. Don’t make it about you. If you’re busy focusing on what you did or did not do, or what you should or should not say, then you aren’t focused on supporting them and you risk creating more feelings of isolation within your relationship.
Loving someone who experiences depression can be a tricky thing to navigate. Don’t feel like you have to do it alone though. Seek individual therapy for yourself, go to couples counseling with your partner, reach out to friends and family, and remember to practice self care.
Emma Carpenter is a therapist practicing in Philadelphia, PA. Emma supports individuals and couples manage the challenges that they face to lead happier and healthier lives. To schedule a free phone consultation with Emma, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 267-838-0066. You can also schedule online 24/7 at abetterlifetherapy.fullslate.com.