If you’re in a relationship and your partner is depressed, it’s bound to affect you.
There are times you feel you’re walking on eggshells. Times when you have to do all the heavy lifting, taking care of yourself and your partner. Times when you need support and just can’t get it.
If your partner suffers from depression, you’ll find it puts stress on your relationship. But you can meet this challenge a number of ways: become educated about depression; learn how best to encourage and support your partner. One way is to attend therapy together. Here are some more ideas:
- Make a plan together. Even if you don’t go to a therapist with your partner, you can help him find a good therapist that is right for him. You can talk together about the goals you’re trying to reach together and separately, and what a reasonable timeline is to achieve those goals. You can help him track those goals. But remember, your partner has to be invested in the plan—it has to be something he wants to do. Because you can’t make him do anything, nor should you try. You are there to provide support, not to coerce.
- Try not to feel hurt. Depressed people often withdraw from life. Your partner may withdraw from you and find it hard to go out to dinner, or have sex or even have a conversation. It may feel like he’s just not into you, when, in fact, he’s suffering and he needs you more than ever. Try to put your feelings on hold for a while and remember that depression is an illness. If your partner had the flu you wouldn’t expect him to engage in conversation, let alone a romantic evening. And here’s the silver lining: if he acts depressed around you it means he trusts you enough to let you see him at his most vulnerable.
- Remember, it’s not about you. If your partner seems to find no joy in life, that doesn’t mean you have to feel the same. You will certainly be concerned about him, but you don’t want to let his depression get you down. If he’s unhappy, it isn’t your fault. And it doesn’t mean your relationship is a disaster. Difficult as it is, try to separate yourself emotionally from your depressed partner and look at the situation objectively.
- Let your partner feel how he feels. There will be days when he won’t want to get out of bed. When he feels hopeless. You can support him, but you can’t make him feel any differently. You can give him all the love you have, but that won’t cure him. Just like it won’t cure the flu. Bad days do happen. Recovery usually takes time, and it’s typically not a linear path. There will be backsliding. Sometimes all you can do is be by his side.
One of the most difficult things is that you will feel pretty helpless watching your partner suffer. Especially if he refuses to get help, which really puts stress on a relationship. Only you can decide how much you can handle, and may find therapy is good for you as well.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.