Helping Your Depressed Partner: How to Promote a Healthy Relationship
Depression is a complex mental illness that can be extremely difficult to live with. For those in a relationship with someone suffering from depression, knowing how to cope with it in a healthy mannercan be trying and oftentimes the things that you think are helping are hurting them instead. With the right knowledge, you can learn to deal with your partner’s depression in a positive way and maintain a healthy bond with them that paves the way to a long-lasting relationship.
Being in a relationship with someone suffering from depression is a difficult experience. Matchmaker Cassie Moffit, who has used her expertise to match individuals with mental illness, describes depression as a “third person in the relationship.” Given the way that depression can change brain chemistry, this is a more than fitting description. Suffering from this mental illness can change a person’s thoughts, mood, sex drive, and energy levels, among other things. Without the proper knowledge of how to deal with a partner with depression, these change can place strain on your relationship and it might quickly fall into shambles.
Understanding how to help your partner deal with their depression requires knowledge of the things that will help them retain control over their thoughts and emotions and prevent depression from taking over their life. In addition, it also requires you to know how to take care of your own mental health to ensure that you don’t fall victim to the same emotions and thoughts as your partner. Without this knowledge, you might be making your partner’s depression worse and ultimately placing strain on your relationship. Everyone dating someone with depression will make the same mistakes at some point, which is fine—all that matters is that you learn from them and use your experiences to better understand your partner’s illness and how you can help them manage it.
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Trying to ‘Fix’ Their Partner
Depression is an illness, and something that your partner will be dealing with for the rest of their life. Although there are numerous treatment options for depression including antidepressants, cognitive therapy, and acupuncture, there is no cure for it, and maintaining control over it requires a great deal of determination and patience. Attempting to “fix” your partner’s depression will only give them the impression that you feel like something is wrong with them, and can increase the feelings of hopelessness and despair that they are feeling. Instead, address it with compassion, understanding, and support to help them see the positive that exists in their life.
Not Providing Enough Personal Space
The heavy weight of despair that comes with depression can make you feel smothered by negative emotions day in and day out. Seeing someone you love going through this can be tough and oftentimes, your instinct is to reach out to this person and constantly check on them. However, depression is a tricky illness—letting your partner know that you’re there for them and still care about them is crucial, but being too pushy and overbearing can make them pull away even more due to you overwhelming them with emotions when they are already in the midst of dealing with their own. Give your loved one time to themselves to deal with their emotions, while at the same time showing them that you care. Communicate with them and make sure that they know you are always open to talk, but don’t force them to—wait until they’re ready to do so on their own terms so they don’t feel smothered. It’s a delicate balance, but one that must be achieved in order to help them cope with their illness as best as they can.
Letting Their Depression Drag You Down
Being in a relationship with someone that you love can be an intense experience. When you care about someone enough, you develop feelings of empathy for them, meaning that all of the emotions that they feel, be they positive or negative, will have an impact on your own. When dating someone with depression, it’s easy for the stress of the relationship to push you into a pattern of depression just like them, ultimately creating a cycle of negative emotions between the both of you.
“Any stress is detrimental to how we function and interact with others,” said clinical psychiatrist Dale Archer. “The more severe the stress, the greater the effect on our relationships. Marriages and relationships have a higher break-up rate when one partner is depressed.”
To avoid falling into this cycle, focus on providing love and support to your partner. However, if you ever feel that your partner’s illness is beginning to take its toll on your mental state, take a step back and make some time for yourself. Individual therapy is a great way to focus on your own feelings and ensure that you’re not ignoring your own mental health in the midst of caring for your partner’s. Caring for yourself will put you in a more positive, healthy state of mind and ultimately help you care for your partner more effectively.
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Codependent relationships are those in which one person—the codependent—is extremely psychologically or emotionally reliant on their partner, often denying their own needs in favor of their partners’. Depression has been linked to codependency, and if you’re involved in a relationship with someone with depression, it’s important that you don’t fall into this pattern of behavior, otherwise you may end up sacrificing everything you have to meet their needs.
Depression is also a symptom of codependency, meaning that this pattern of behavior can cause you to become depressed and create a cycle of negative emotions similar to the ones described above. Codependents are also known to enable their partners’ addictions. For a relationship where your partner is both depressed and suffering from a substance abuse disorder, which is not uncommon, this can cause your partner’s addictions and mental illness to get even worse and prevent them from getting the treatment that they need.
Maintaining a Healthy Bond
Relationships are never easy, but when mental illness is thrown into the fold, things can become extremely complex. As a mental illness that has numerous effects on emotions and behavior, depression can have a huge impact on the nature and dynamics of a relationship, and without the proper knowledge, these dynamics can turn dysfunctional very fast.
Residential treatment can provide a comprehensive program to help both depressed individuals and their partners learn how to deal with the illness in a positive manner that promotes a healthy, stable relationship. With the right coping strategies, you and your partner can deal with the negativity that depression creates in a healthy manner and realize that a strong, successful relationship is possible, even in the face of the challenges that mental illness creates.
Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive residential treatment for individuals suffering from depression, as well as other co-occurring mental health disorders, substance abuse, or process addictions. Contact us to learn how you and your partner can learn to properly cope with depression and promote a healthy relationship that thrives even in the face of adversity.
Lead Image Source: Unsplash user Asaf R