Dating someone with depression can be demanding, not to mention emotionally taxing and exhausting. Watching your significant other suffer from negativity, self-defeat, and destructive behaviors hurts. The truth is, it can be challenging to navigate a relationship with someone who’s depressed. As they battle the highs and lows of their daily life, you may find it increasingly difficult to manage the relationship — especially if you lack support or don’t know much about this common mental health condition.
If you’re dating a person with depression, it’s important to seek out information and resources so you can help your partner deal with their depression. When you know more about depression, you’ll have the tools you need to strengthen your relationship.
Keep reading for advice on what to expect when you’re dating someone with depression. You’ll learn 5 practical tips that can help you support your partner as you navigate the common, but treatable, mental health condition known as depression.
What to Expect When Dating Someone with Depression
Depression can be a dominating force, causing the minds of people living with it to form strong, often erroneous beliefs about themselves and others. In many cases, they feel unaccomplished and undeserving of respect. They may feel that they have nothing to live for. They may struggle to even just get out of bed in the morning.
All of this can leave partners confused and wondering how they can help their loved ones cope, especially during a depressive episode. Maintaining a healthy, functioning relationship can prove difficult. As hard as it may be, we’re here to reassure you: there is hope.
“Dating someone with depression can be hard. We can expect lower energy levels, a tendency to isolate, a heightened sense of irritability, potential overeating or under-eating, oversleeping or under-sleeping, difficulty concentrating, and an all-encompassing feeling of sadness.”Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice PsyD., LPC
5 Ways to Support Your Partner if They Have Depression
1. Love yourself first
Of course, when you’re dating someone with depression, you want to help your romantic partner find happiness. It’s normal (and a sign of a healthy relationship!) to want the person you’re with to be as happy in life as possible. However, it’s critical that you remember to take care of yourself, too. If you fail to take care of your own needs and desires in any relationship, you’ll be less effective at helping others, even if that person is your significant other who might be struggling.
Self-care needs to be a priority for everyone, especially if you’re supporting a romantic partner who’s living with depression. If you place your partner’s needs above your own, you’ll likely end up overwhelmed and maybe even feeling resentful. Helping your partner deal with their depression without meeting your own needs can cause you stress
, and, eventually, burnout. You might even end up developing depression yourself.
To take care of yourself in your relationship, be sure to:
- Get enough sleep
- Eat a healthy diet
- Drink plenty of water
- Stay physically active
- Be mindful of your thoughts
- Take time for yourself
- Spend time outside the relationship
- Talk to a therapist if you need guidance or advice
It can be tough, but remember you should never feel guilty for taking the time to do whatever you need to make yourself happy, especially when you’re trying to help your significant other deal with their depression.
2. Learn more about depression
Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions for adults in the United States. In fact, recent research shows that roughly 21 million adults experienced one or more major depressive episodes in the last year. Despite its commonality, depression is also complex and can manifest in anyone at any time. Understanding depression’s complexities can help you be more supportive and satisfied in your relationship.
You can educate yourself about the nuances of depression by:
- Reading authoritative articles
- Viewing educational videos
- Seeking professional help
- Speaking to others who’ve successfully worked through depression with their partners — support groups can be a great place to find help, guidance, and encouragement
It can be tough for people with depression to talk about their depression symptoms. They may seem distant and reluctant to speak about a relationship. They can appear lazy, distracted, or generally uninterested in you, the relationship, and life.
Their behavior during a depressive episode can be difficult to understand and accept, particularly if they’re not aware of what their causes of depression are. The better you and your significant other understand depression, though, the greater chance you’ll have at developing a long-lasting, successful relationship.
3. Set mutually healthy boundaries
Well-defined, mutually beneficial boundaries cultivate more rewarding relationships. This is true whether one partner in the relationship is living with depression or not. Establishing healthy boundaries is always important, and it involves defining limits about the behaviors that will not be tolerated.
Setting boundaries helps ensure that both people in a relationship have their emotional and physical needs met. Remember that it doesn’t make you selfish to expect — and require — that your needs are being acknowledged. It goes back to self-love and how important it is for all of us to take care of our own needs. This is even more true if you’re dating someone with depression.
Of course, well-defined boundaries mean nothing unless they’re enforced. So, you must determine ahead of time how a crossed boundary will be dealt with. Then, you must stick to the consequences you’ve established.
For instance, maybe you have a boundary about not shouting at one another. Let’s say your stated consequence is you’ll leave a situation if your partner can’t remain calm. If they continue to yell, you can say something like: “We have spoken about not yelling. You are quite angry right now, so I’m going out for a while. We can talk later after you calm down and feel better.”
4. Prioritize communication
Although someone with depression may find it difficult to express themself or talk about feelings, triggers, and symptoms, communication in your relationship is vital.
Talk with your partner about coping strategies that can help you both navigate the symptoms of their depression. Ask them what they need from you to feel more supported and cared for. Most importantly, understand that there’s no instant or magical cure for depression.
If the relationship is going to last, communication must be a priority. If communication is suffering, consider therapy for depression. Making an appointment with a therapist who can teach you and your partner how to talk to each other more effectively.
5. Accept your partner and their feelings
When you’re in a serious relationship, accepting your partner’s feelings is essential. This rings true even more so when you’re in a relationship with somebody who’s living with depression. It’s common for someone who’s depressed to try and hide their feelings. This is largely due to the fact that they might feel inadequate, unworthy of love, and self-conscious about being a burden to others.
Rather than trying to force them into sharing their feelings, show that you care and love them by asking how they’re feeling. Ask if they need anything from you. By taking that first step, you can deepen your connection while making sure they feel safe and accepted.
Let your partner know you’re there for them and that you want to know how they’re feeling, but that you also understand the fact that they may not be able to share their feelings, emotions, and needs easily. Make it abundantly clear that you understand how difficult it is for them
, and that you’re there in any capacity they need.
Finding Support as You Navigate the Relationship
If dating a depressed person is leaving you feeling overwhelmed, confused, or stressed out, it might be time to think about seeking help from a licensed mental health professional. It’s possible that your partner lacks the emotional capacity to give you the support you need, especially if their depression symptoms are peaking. Making the choice to get professional help can not only benefit you, it can be a strong way to lead by example. Talkspace offers online therapy in the form of couples therapy or individualized therapy to help you get started.
You can also talk with trusted family and friends, so you’re not suppressing your emotions and isolating yourself as you try to cope with depression in your relationship. If you’re uncomfortable talking about your partner’s depression with people in your life who know the both of you, joining a local support group can be a wonderful way to find support.
“It can be challenging to find the balance between being supportive and also challenging our partners to be the best versions of themselves. Find lower key social interactions that you can do together or a physical activity outside. Helping them link up with others who are going through similar experiences or finding professionals who specialize in depression can also be helpful.”Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice PsyD., LPC
Depression and relationships are not always easy to combine. All hope is not lost, though — by educating yourself about depression, loving yourself first, setting healthy boundaries, learning to communicate better, and accepting your partner’s feelings, you’ll be much better equipped to stand strong with the one you love.