Deal with a partner’s depression. Being in a relationship with a partner suffering from depression can be highly challenging as it can make both partners feel distant, isolated and neglected. Feelings like anger, hopelessness, sadness run high in the relationship as either one or both partners close down emotionally and mentally. However, it doesn’t mean that your relationship is about to end.
If your partner is suffering with depression and it is impacting you negatively, then there are certain ways you can help your partner and make your relationship better.
“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Knowing how to deal with your spouse’s depression may just save your marriage.
There’s no question that depression is a beast — both for the person suffering from it, and for spouses and partners. Depression rocks even the healthiest of relationships. It’s like a sieve that filters the information a person processes.
The negatives infiltrate the person’s mind while they weed out the positives. Depressed people view themselves, their relationships, and the world through a lens that is bleak, discouraging and hopeless.
When a spouse is living with or trying to learn how to deal with depression, things are quite trying. Here are some specific ways that depression is affecting your relationship:
- Your spouse views marital interactions through a negative lens. For example, if there’s a disagreement, your spouse might jump to the conclusion that the marriage will end in divorce or that you were being hurtful on purpose.
- Your spouse doesn’t feel like engaging in enjoyable activities that you used to look forward to doing as a couple, such as going out to dinner, seeing friends, or going on walks.
- Your spouse no longer feels like having sex.
- Your spouse has difficulty following through with his or her responsibilities in running the household: doing chores, paying the bills, or driving the children to and from activities.
- Your spouse frequently vents his or her frustrations or excessively seeks reassurance about small matters.
- Your spouse engages in unhealthy behaviors to escape despair: drinking, using drugs, gambling, or overspending.
- You might feel as if you’re “walking on eggshells” and feel concerned that you might say or do the wrong thing, which will just make your spouse’s depression worse.
What often follows is marital conflict and a sense of disconnect. You may begin to feel resentful, perceiving that you must take on the lion’s share of the household responsibilities, and become frustrated that depression is occupying so much space in the marriage.
You may begin to feel lonely, missing the company of your partner and wanting things in your relationship to go back to the way they were. You may even start to view the future through the same sort of bleak, hopeless lens, wondering if things will ever change.
Fortunately, there are many ways to support your spouse through depression, which has the potential to decrease the strength and duration of his or her episode. Research shows that social support or provision of care to another can buffer against depression.
Social support comes in many forms — nurturance, companionship, and practical advice.
“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” – Stephen Fry
The following are ways to put yourself in the best position to provide social support for your depressed spouse while, at the same time, taking care of yourself.
3 Tips To Help Deal with Your Partner’s Depression
1. Don’t take their behavior personally.
Depression skews the manner in which people view themselves, their relationships, and the world. It’s easy to become angry when you perceive that your spouse is unfairly accusing you of something, that he or she is rejecting you, or that he or she is generally being negative.
However, anger will close you off from your spouse, decreasing the social support that you’re able to provide to him or her and creating a sense of distance. When your spouse says something that seems off-putting or negative, try not to personalize it, even if it’s directed at you. Attribute it to the depression.
2. Don’t buy into his or her hopelessness.
It’s easy to be lured by your spouse’s hopelessness about the future when you continually hear how bad things are. Imagine the moments of your life as being on a pendulum: Even if the pendulum is off to the far right or left, it will swing back.
Depression and negative life circumstances usually don’t last indefinitely. There are effective treatments, like cognitive behavioral therapy, which have demonstrated in countless research studies to lessen the severity of depressive symptoms, as well as provide strategies to prevent relapse.
On the other hand, they also refrain from acting like Pollyanna. Although there’s power in positive thinking, the person struggling with depression must believe you. Excessive optimism is just as inaccurate and unhelpful as excessive pessimism; it can also inadvertently invalidate the depressed person’s subjective experience.
3. Refrain from making statements like “Buck up,” “Just do it,” and “Get over it.”
If your spouse could buck up, just do it, or get over it, he or she would’ve likely done so already. Instead, ask your spouse what type of support would be the most helpful to receive. If you have suggestions for things your spouse could be doing differently, ask permission to share it, rather than giving unsolicited advice.
There’s no question that this is a difficult time for both you and your spouse. You can weather this storm with compassion and centeredness. Ultimately, your relationship may even strengthen because of it.
“If depression is creeping up and must be faced, learn something about the nature of the beast: You may escape without a mauling.” – Dr. R. W. Shepherd
Here’s an interesting video to help you deal with your partner’s depression:
When your partner is going through depression, it is important that you help and support them so that they can get through it and improve their mental health. However, it is not your sole responsibility to heal them. They need to face their depression on their own, otherwise they will never get out of it. Having said that, you should always be by their side like a rock providing them the stability and security they need. But it’s also important to take care of yourself and talk about your emotions with your partner. As always, communication is the key to a happy and healthy relationship.
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What Not To Say (And What You Should Say) To A Person With Depression