A depressed partner struggling with mental health problems is not always easy to support and love. It requires a lot of strength and is not infrequently a great burden for the unaffected partner. But is supporting and dating someone with depression possible?
The situation of both partners during a depression
Both the affected and the healthy partner have moments when the burden seems too heavy to bear. Above all, the burden is great if you want to support your depressed partner at all costs and take the pain away from him. The sobber partner then reaches his limits and does not know how to deal with the depression of the loved one.
During the depression, those affected tend to feel isolated, humiliated, fearful, and reproach themselves. In times of depression, people withdraw because they are afraid of being a burden to others, because they feel guilty, or because they fear rejection.
It is precisely at these moments that it is important to give the depressed partner support and appreciation. Often the depressed partner helps the thought that someone is there to comfort, listen, calm down, and give strength.
7 tips to help support if you are dating a depressed partner.
Find out about the disease
Finding out about a loved one’s illness can be a good basis for support. A lack of understanding of the symptoms of depression can even prevent effective support or lead to misunderstandings.
For example, it’s important to realize that the symptoms of depression have nothing to do with you. Your partner’s thoughts and actions are not aimed at harming you – rather, they are part of the clinical picture of depression. Especially at the onset of depression, those affected feel overwhelmed by the symptoms and perceive them as uncontrollable. Only through dealing with the disease will your partner understand the disease, regain control and learn to control behavior.
Activate your depressed partner’s support system
In some cases, the partner suffers so much from the depression that it is difficult for them to activate and seek help for themselves. In this case, you can actively support your partner. The so-called “resources” that can help a person in a crisis situation are, for example, the social network, doctors, or financial reserves to make use of the private services of doctors.
Make sure that you ask for help and support in consultation with your partner, because acting independently can even cause displeasure without his or her consent. Also, accept if your partner does not want the support. And very important: don’t forget yourself.
Ask your partner and speak openly about the possibilities of help, e.g. psychotherapy, self-help group or online courses, if you want quick help and anonymity. If the partner agrees, you can actively help them find a place in psychotherapy or provide support. You can make suggestions to your partner and let them make the final decision.
Give the person affected space
Many people who suffer from depression feel that they have little control over their lives. Loss of self-esteem, stigmatization, loss of control, or a feeling of weakness, in addition to the symptoms of depression, are often among the stresses that those affected feels.
No matter how severe the symptoms of the depressed partner are, don’t lose respect for your loved one. As you now know, the symptoms belong to the clinical picture, but not to the personality of your partner.
What decisions can be left for your partner?
It is important, for example, to still leave decisions to the partner, to give him the feeling of being able to maintain control in life. Small things like food, clothing, or TV programs can give the partner a sense of autonomy. Give your partner as much room for decision as possible. If your partner has difficulties, your little help can help. Try to avoid patronizing.
With larger decisions, such as going out in the evening or everyday work, you should leave the decision to your partner and see if he can cope with it. Even if you suspect that a decision is beyond the capabilities of the depressed partner, it is important not to get in the partner’s way. The partner will determine on his own whether the project is successful or whether it was too much in retrospect.
You can also encourage your partner to do certain activities. You may know very well what activities your partner enjoyed prior to the depression. Suggest a few things you can do together or your partner can do it alone. Perhaps the partner even notices how much fun he is having and is more motivated the next time. Don’t put pressure on him, however.
Set appropriate boundaries
As mentioned, it can happen that you do not always understand the behavior, expressions, or emotions of your depressed partner. Sometimes the person concerned has no explanation for this.
However, this does not mean that you have to tolerate aggressive, derogatory, or unreasonable behavior, for example. Make sure you set limits to protect yourself. Nobody is helped if the supporting partner is also doing badly.
Talk to your partner about certain intolerable behaviors and try to find a solution together. Ask family members for advice or turn to a help center, such as telephone counseling. If the depressed partner already has a psychotherapist, couple sessions can be of great help.
Even the healthy partner can have doubts
The supportive partner is sometimes tormented by self-doubts: Is what I’m doing right? How can I help? Is my support sufficient? How do I protect myself? How does it all still make sense? Am I at the end of my tether myself?
These thoughts are normal, don’t worry too much, and try not to feel too bad about yourself. You are allowed to allow the negative thoughts. It is important to talk to your partner about your feelings and thoughts. It’s okay if you too reach your limits. This is something you should convey to your depressed partner so as not to create the impression that you are deliberately turning away. Nobody is helped if you too are at the end of your tether.