4. Help, help and help some more.
Subtly suggest seeing someone with the intention to get them professional help if they aren’t getting it already.
By subtly, I mean saying something like, “I’ve noticed that you’ve seemed down a lot lately. Maybe we should go see someone. I found this really good recommendation.”
Using “we” makes it seem non-accusatory and gets your foot in the door— on the way to getting their buy-in. This little turn of phase from “you” to “we” lets them save face, and right now they need that. By saying “we,” do NOT imply you are going to go to couple’s therapy or even remotely suggest that. The idea is to help them save face. Going to counseling together with them will backfire, since if they are in fact clinically depressed, your relationship with them has to take a back seat right now to helping them get their health back. Couple’s therapy will most likely go badly. Don’t do it right now.
Next, do the work to get them there if they are at least half-way receptive. Don’t be like, “You need therapy!” ever. Remember that the goal is to get them help that will make it easier for them to climb out of the pit.
You can’t do the hard part for them, but you can do some legwork that will actually make a difference.
There are times in relationships where it’s time to knuckle down and be the strong one. A seriously depressed partner is one of those times. Accept that for the time being, you might be taking on more of the hard work and help them out. Even if they can’t show you their appreciation right now, most likely your effort is not going unnoticed. They are watching out of the corner of their eye.
5. Don’t patronize them.
They are depressed, they didn’t lose half their IQ.
Don’t ask them questions like “are you sure you want to do X,Y or Z?” Just go with the flow, help and accept that there will be good days and bad. They aren’t “moping,” so don’t make jokes about it, even when your intentions are good.
The depressed mind lies. Depression causes them to rake themselves over the coals all on their own. Any added insults from you in the form of pitying behavior or jokes will make them feel increasingly worse.
6. Do not share the private details of their illness with your friends or family.
The experience of clinical depression is extremely private and your partner’s business. Since there is such a huge stigma surrounding depression, the last thing they want right now is to have to explain to people, that “no, they aren’t crazy”.
Even though you might understand that your relationship might be going through their depression, you owe it to your partner to let them share about their illness when and if they want to.
Try to carefully get your partner professional help, but don’t mistake getting them professional help with telling everyone they know in hopes that someone has a magic wand. They don’t.