What to know about dating a depressed person
When your partner suffers from depression, their symptoms can become key factors in your relationship equation.
Perhaps you recognize depression as part of their complex identity and focus on other traits: their artistry, sense of humor, intelligence, or integrity.
This is great because it means that you are able to see them as a whole person instead of defining them by their sanity.
Yet, your relationship can still involve unique challenges that you might not face in other relationships. Watching your partner struggle with the brunt of their distress isn’t easy, and it’s okay to want to help them find relief.
Before you can offer support, you have to come to terms with one essential fact: it is not possible to completely eradicate or “improve” their depression, and trying can leave you both exhausted and miserable.
There are many ways you can still offer compassion and healthy support. You’ll find seven to get started below.
You’ve probably come across quite a few myths about depression. Learning to distinguish myth from reality can make a big difference in the way you present yourself to your partner.
Some people describe depression as a thick fog or blanket of nothingness. Others say it’s like drowning. Many people feel so overwhelmed by boredom, apathy, and hopelessness that they have a hard time remembering more positive states.
Good vibrations and happy thoughts will not chase away those feelings, just as imagining yourself free from congestion will not get rid of a cold.
You can offer better support when you have a better understanding of how depression affects your partner. Doing research is a great way to expand your knowledge without placing the burden of education on your partner. (Start with this guide.)
Since depression affects people in different ways, ask about their experience once you understand the basic facts.
Try: “Can you tell me more about how you feel today?” »Actively listen to what they have to say, offering empathy and validation rather than advice.
Don’t be afraid to ask them if they are thinking about suicide. Some people are afraid to share suicidal thoughts with their loved ones. By asking them, you let them know that they can be honest. If they’re not thinking about suicide, they won’t suddenly start just because you mentioned the topic.
Treatment helps improve symptoms of depression in many people, so you might think it’s best to urge them to see a therapist. But saying things like “You should be in therapy” or “You need help” may only make them feel worse.
Here’s the problem with depression: It can make even simple tasks overwhelming. A quick internet search may seem easy, but someone in a fog of depression may feel overwhelmed at the very thought of it.
Instead, try: “Have you considered talking to someone?” If he seems open to the idea, make the process less intimidating by offering to help him find a therapist, make an appointment, and accompany him to his first (or first) sessions.
If they are already in therapy, remember that treatment can take time and not all approaches work for everyone. It’s always good to ask how things are going, but avoid forcing them to try other approaches.
Pushing lifestyle changes usually doesn’t help either. Avoid saying:
- “You should exercise more.”
- “Going out to enjoy the sun will make you feel better. “
- “If you ate healthier foods, your mood would improve.”
Sunlight and physical activity can help, but they’re not magic cures. Your advice, no matter how well-intentioned, can make your partner feel like you really don’t understand what they’re going through.
Instead, encourage them to do something with you:
- “I feel a little restless. Let’s go for a walk together.
- ” Such a beautiful weather today ! Why don’t we have lunch outside? ”
Depression can make it difficult to do even the things you really want to do, and your partner may not always feel up to their plans.
It’s understandable to feel disappointed when they spend your long-awaited vacation scrolling through their phones while you see the sights. You might feel hurt when they spend your birthday sleeping or can’t go to dinner with your parents, again.
Maybe you’ve even noticed that they’ve lost interest in the things you usually do together: discussing your day, cooking meals, or having sex. You might feel rejected and start to believe that they don’t care about you.
This disinterest, known as anhedonia, commonly occurs with depression. Treatment can help renew their interest and energy, but in the meantime, offer compassion rather than criticism by validating their feelings.
- Instead of: “You don’t want to spend time with me anymore.”
- Try: “I’m sorry you can’t go to the movies tonight. I understand that you don’t have the energy when you feel so low. How about ordering take out and watching a movie at home? “
Even if you wonder what your friends think when you regularly show up on your own at outings, avoid saying something your partner hasn’t allowed you to share. A simple “They couldn’t do it” may not satisfy anyone’s curiosity, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is honoring the trust they have placed in you.
Also, remember that you don’t have to stay home unless you want to keep them company when they need support. Otherwise, sticking to your original plans can help you avoid frustration and resentment, so it’s often a better choice for your own sanity.
Depression is often fueled by
Your partner might say things like:
- “I can’t do anything right.”
- “I could disappear now and no one would care.”
- “I must be so boring. I can’t imagine why you want to spend time with me.
- “I will never improve myself.”
It’s understandable enough that you immediately want to reassure them that these beliefs are completely wrong. But you can’t get someone out of depression, so it can backfire on you quite explosively at times. Maybe they insist that you are just trying to make them feel better, or that you stop telling you how they feel.
Instead of trying to refute their negative thoughts, try to validate their feelings. without Okay. Then gently draw their attention to their strengths and positive traits.
- “I know you feel disheartened because the therapy didn’t help immediately. However, you go to great lengths to make yourself feel better and I really admire your determination.
- “I understand that depression makes you feel pretty lonely, but I’m here to keep you company.”
- “I understand that you haven’t felt like yourself lately, but you are still yourself and I’m here to support you through it. ”
It’s only natural to want to help them and do whatever you can to make things a little easier for them. However, you won’t have much to offer if you neglect your own basic needs.
Everyone needs time to take care of themselves, but taking care of your well-being becomes even more essential when you are supporting a loved one. If you prioritize their needs over yours, you’ll end up feeling overwhelmed and resentful.
Burnout and stress can eventually lead to burnout. You might even start to experience symptoms of depression yourself.
To maintain emotional health, good self-care practices are essential.
Find more tips on creating a personalized self-care plan here.
An added benefit of taking care of your physical and mental health? This can encourage your partner to do the same.
Healthy boundaries create healthier relationships.
Setting limits means setting limits around specific behaviors that aren’t working for you. Boundaries help protect physical and emotional needs, so it’s healthy to honor them. It doesn’t make you selfish or indifferent.
Maybe your partner regularly cancels their plans when they’re feeling bad, which you fully understand. The challenge is that they want you to pass too. You set a limit by telling them that unless it is an emergency, you will move forward with the plans you have made.
As you go for a hike with friends, they text you and say, “Sorry, I can’t come. Can you come instead? You stick to your limits by replying, “I need to move for a while!” Maybe tomorrow?”
People with depression sometimes lash out and say hurtful things. You know they don’t mean it, but you can always choose to protect yourself by setting a limit around mean or derogatory language.
The next time they have a tantrum, you say, “Looks like you’re pretty angry right now. I asked you not to yell at me, so I’m going to go. We can talk when you feel more calm.
A partner who is trying to manage depression may not have the emotional capacity to support you as they usually would.
Everyone needs social support, but friendships outside of your romantic relationship become even more valuable when your partner is suffering from depression.
Suppressing emotions can isolate you and leave you struggling to cope with emotional turmoil, but trusted friends and family can listen and offer support. Their compassion and validation may respond to some of your Needs and have a positive impact on your well-being.
Support groups can also be a good option if you don’t feel comfortable sharing details of your partner’s mental health with someone you know.
It’s also worth considering talking to a therapist on your own. Dating someone who is depressed isn’t always easy, and it never hurts to strengthen your coping skills and practice new ways of communicating.
Most people would agree that loving someone means accepting them for who they are. This acceptance becomes even more important when your partner is living with depression.
Showing your acceptance is sometimes as easy as listening and acknowledging your distress, but it’s okay to need a little extra support to keep your relationship going. A relationship counselor can help you build your partnership so that you can be stronger together.
Crystal Raypole previously worked as a copywriter and writer for GoodTherapy. His areas of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sexual positivity, and mental health. In particular, she is committed to helping reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues.