Living with a depressed partner can often feel like fighting a losing battle.
If you, yourself have never suffered from depression before it can be far too easy to blame yourself, or question why you aren’t enough to make them happy.
These overwhelming thoughts can run rampant and influence the dynamic of the relationship down to the core.
If you live with a depressed partner, chances are, your relationship is struggling.
However, take heart knowing that depression isn’t an end all be all, and there are proven ways in which you can support your partner, mend your relationship, and take care of your own wellbeing.
Let’s look at a few ways in which you can take care of your depressed partner, while leaving room to care for yourself.
What Causes Depression?
One of the biggest reasons relationships can take such a massive hit when a partner suffers from depression, is because depression as a mental illness is immensely misunderstood.
Depression is a biological disorder and can often appear far before a diagnosis is reached.
Once a diagnosis is confirmed, you may look back at recent events trying to understand what you did wrong as a spouse to ‘cause’ their depression.
This is not only unproductive but incredibly harmful to your mental wellbeing. Depression doesn’t simply show up one day after a big fight. It’s typically laying just beneath the surface manifesting in many other ways before a diagnosis is reached.
Many behaviors associated with depression aren’t able to be controlled or influenced by the sufferer. As a spouse, you may feel frustrated often that your partner can’t simply “snap out of it”, or “cheer up”.
But understand, this is simply not how depression works.
Symptoms Of Depression:
Maybe your partner isn’t clinically diagnosed yet, or cannot afford the financial burden of seeing a mental health professional. So, how can you tell if your partner is depressed? By being able to spot the signs and symptoms of depression, you can better understand that they aren’t simply ‘bored’ or ‘unsatisfied’ with the relationship. It’s much deeper than that.
Physical Signs Of Depression:
- Body aches and pains
- Headaches often
- Noticeable weight gain or loss
- Sleep changes (whether it’s insomnia, or oversleeping)
- Lack of concentration
- Lack of self-care
- Sexual dysfunction
- Drinking alcohol more often
- Decreased facial expressions
- Reduced energy
Emotional Signs Of Depression:
- Little interest in social activities
- Things that used to bring pleasure, no longer do
- May cry more often
- Lower self esteem
- Aggressiveness (more common in men)
As you can see, depression can manifest in a wide variety of ways. It’s important to remember these symptoms as signs of depression if they vary from your partner’s normal baseline. These symptoms must be consistently present for at least 2 weeks to receive a formal diagnosis.
How To Help Your Depressed Partner:
Watching a person you love battle with depression can make you feel incredibly helpless. There are a few ways in which you can support your depressed partner, while still caring for your own emotional needs.
Approach Them About Their Depression:
One of the first basic steps when tackling a mental illness such as depression is to bring it to light. In a relationship, depression can often be swept under the rug so as to avoid any sensitive subjects, emotional outbursts, or difficult conversations.
However, communication is a non-negotiable aspect of any healthy relationship.
When depression becomes the elephant in the room, both partners may begin to feel resentful.
The partner suffering from depression may feel bitter towards the other for not caring or doing enough to support them.
The second partner may begin to hold a grudge against the depressed partner for their lack of effort in the relationship, or around the house.
Openly communicating with your partner can shed light on these heavy topics and start the process of repairing any strain that has been caused.
Be careful with this step so as to not come off accusatory. Remember, depression is an exhausting mental illness to deal with, and often the partner suffering from depression feels even worse knowing they are hurting the person they love.
Don’t Try To ‘Fix Them’ – Support Them:
As a partner, you may feel it’s your own responsibility to fix their mental state. This is not only impossible, but can often cause more harm than good.
When it comes to depression, only a trained professional should work with your partner in healing from this mental illness.
What you can do, though, is simply be there.
You don’t have to have all the answers. Many times, especially in male partners with depression, talking about their struggles is the last thing they want to do. There are ways to support them without talking.
- Wrap them in a warm blanket and hold them
- Take the initiative to cook their favorite meal
- Rent their favorite movie and watch it with them
- Run them a bubble bath
- Do a chore they may not have the energy to do
There are many simple actions to take as a partner that can make someone with depression feel loved, and less alone.
When the topic of depression does come up, ask your partner what they want from you during extra hard days. Their answer may surprise you.
Encourage – But Don’t Force Treatment:
For many people, symptoms of depression can cause significant impairment in many of life’s daily activities.
‘Normal’ everyday tasks such as showering, going to the grocery store, or cleaning their room, may seem impossible. Treatment and support from a mental health professional can greatly improve their quality of life.
However, your partner has to want to go to treatment for themselves, and nobody else.
Attempting to force someone into treatment when they may not be ready can cause symptoms of depression to worsen.
If your partner does agree to go, be as supportive as possible in their recovery. Simply driving to a session and waiting in the lobby can help encourage your partner to stick with it.
Remember, Your Partner’s Depression Is Not Your Fault:
Depression can affect your relationship in every aspect from spending time together, to sexual intimacy.
While depression can feel like an uphill battle, remember it’s much harder for your partner. Feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and questions of self-worth are common emotions when trying to understand why your partner feels and acts the way they do.
It’s incredibly vital to understand that their depression is in no way a reflection of yourself as a partner. Depression can often come along for no apparent reason and trying to squeeze an answer out of your spouse can lead to unnecessary fights.
The best thing you can do when living with a partner suffering from depression is to simply be there. Show up, show support, and love on them in ways that don’t always involve talking.
Don’t make their depression your entire life, though. Make sure you set aside time every day to practice self care and engage in activities you enjoy.
You matter, too.