How to Love Someone with Depression: Sometimes It Ain’t Easy
Don’t know how to love someone with depression? Sometimes it can feel like everything you do or say is wrong, or that depression has somehow stolen your partner away. Relationships can be challenging at the best of times, and certain issues become more complicated when one of you has a mental illness. You will need to find new ways to communicate and support one another, which isn’t easy. Loving someone with depression means adapting to your partner's needs while making sure yours are also met. Here are some ideas to help you make it work.
How to Love Someone with Depression Without Sacrificing Yourself
Loving a depressed man or woman means knowing and understanding their unique struggles and doing your best to support them. If you’ve never experienced depression, however, this can be tricky. Learning how to deal with someone with depression can be frustrating because people with depression can seem extremely negative about themselves and the world. They may also present as angry or irritable. On top of this, depression can cause physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches and stomach issues, all of which can be difficult for the depressed person to handle.
When you love someone with depression, you want to do everything in your power to make your partner feel better. However, it can be hard to meet your partner’s needs without neglecting your own. So how do you love someone with depression? Here are some tips to help you love your partner while also loving yourself.
- Practice compassion toward yourself
Compassion is the key to helping someone with depression feel less alone in their struggle. As the adage goes, however, "You can't pour from an empty cup." This means you need to practice compassion within as well as toward your spouse. Be patient with yourself. Understand that there are certain problems you can't solve, and depression is one of them.
- Know that it will get better
Depression makes people think that they will never feel well again. It is easy to buy into this rhetoric when your partner is feeling particularly hopeless, but it is not the truth. Most people DO get better from depression. According to The National Institute of Health, 80% of people with depression that seek help say that it helps them feel better within 4-6 weeks.
Never give up hope that easier times are on the horizon, and your partner will draw strength from your optimism.
- Don’t offer advice
When thinking about how to love someone with depression, while it may help to encourage your partner to seek help, try to avoid giving any advice – that is a job for the medical professionals. Isa Nakielny, from The Elephant Journal, endorses modeling behavior rather than advising certain activities, as this can lead to feelings of inadequacy or hopelessness in your partner if they fail to take your advice. By all means, extend an invitation for your partner to join you in going to a yoga class or taking a walk, but allow them to decline without responding with disappointment or judgment.
Accepting that there is only so much you can do to help someone with depression can be a relief. Your job is to provide encouragement, compassion and support rather than come up with all the answers, so take the weight of trying to “fix” your partner off your shoulders and cut yourself some slack.
- Schedule in “you” time
People with depression are often dependent on their loved ones, especially when they’re going through a particularly rough patch. It’s important to try to retain your independence wherever possible, however, so try to schedule in some “you” time each week where you don’t have to think about anyone else.
If your partner is anxious about spending time alone, arrange for a close friend or family member to be there in your place. Explain to your partner that it’s important for you to keep up your own life and hobbies for your mental health, as well as for the benefit of the relationship.
- Talk openly
It can feel like you're treading on eggshells when talking to someone who's deep in depression, but clear and open communication is vital if you want your relationship to succeed. Hiding your true feelings and concerns from your partner will only cause a divide between you, so honesty is always the best policy. Always be respectful, courteous and caring when you talk to your spouse, but don't shy away from how you're feeling. You're in this together, so learning to hear and meet each other's concerns is crucial if you want your relationship to succeed.
Relationships are tough – and loving a depressed woman or man can be even tougher. However, learning to love yourself first is always key to a healthy relationship, and ignoring your own needs won’t benefit either of you. If someone you love is depressed and needs help, you can call the call the NAMI helpline (800-950-6264) for advice and support.
Smith, E. (2019, March 8). How to Love Someone with Depression: Sometimes It Ain’t Easy, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, June 5 from https://www.healthyplace.com/depression/relationships/how-to-love-someone-with-depression-sometimes-it-aint-easy