It can be a struggle dating someone who struggles with depression, but by understanding a few key things, it’s possible to have a healthy and loving relationship.
Although you need to understand you can’t solve your partner’s depression, and that it’s not about you, you need to accept that their feelings are real and they are working to navigate their depression and how your relationship fits in. There is absolutely no reason you can’t have a meaningful and positive relationship.
1. It’s all about balance
In any relationship, it’s about balancing the needs of your partner, your own needs, and the needs of the relationship. When one half of the relationship has an illness, it can be hard to maintain that balance because you want to help your partner. You can end up always putting their needs first and forgetting about yourself. This only works well for a while, though. That’s why it’s important to learn how to be supportive while also taking care of yourself and your own needs. If you ignore them for too long they will grow in scale and you may end up feeling lonely or even resentful. Try to see how much you’re putting your partner first and when you might be able to put yourself first, and be aware of when you need to promote balance in the relationship.
2. Support their journey
Because you can’t fix your partner’s depression, it’s important to think about what being supportive and helpful means to them and to change how you care for them. This means being emphatic, compassionate and accepting without trying to change the way they’re feeling. This might be a more positive feeling of support for your loved one rather than having them feel like you’re trying to change their mood or fix them.
Laura Hilden, a health writer at Ukwritings and Essayroo suggests that you “think about simple ways to support them, like reminding them that you care for them even on their bad days, or being curious about what they’re feeling and needing”. Don’t assume that you know what they need. Ask them what they find supportive at that moment.
If your partner decides to pursue depression treatment, it’s important to be their biggest cheerleader. Recognise what they’re doing and tell them you’re proud of them. Be aware of their limits if they don’t want to discuss what they’re doing in therapy – some people prefer to keep that information private. If your partner is okay with it, you can get involved in their treatment. There are therapy sessions that help you navigate your relationship in a healthy way and being supportive while maintaining important boundaries.
3. Be flexible
If your partner suffers from depression, they may not always be able to participate in regular activities. You may have made plans the night before to spend the day together, but when they wake up their mood has dropped and they can’t get out of bed. It’s important to understand this has nothing to do with you, and it’s not from lack of trying or flakiness. They are actually experiencing a difficult psychological illness which makes it difficult for them to function sometimes. In these moments it’s critical that you don’t blame them or make them feel ashamed for this. Be flexible and consider alternate activities that they would be more comfortable with, like staying in and watching and movie or cooking dinner. Also, be open to the possibility that they won’t even be up for that and need to be alone – don’t take it personally.
4. Stop trying to fix them
Although it’s heartbreaking to see someone you love struggling, and your instinct is to think that love and kindness and happiness will make them okay, you have to fight these impulses. Suggesting ways to “fix” them, like spending time outdoors or changing their diet or listening to an inspirational speech won’t automatically heal them from this disease and may, in fact, do more harm than good. It may help instead to ask them what their triggers are, what they’re doing to cope, and how they want you to support them. has individual needs and just because something worked for one of your friends it doesn’t mean it’ll be the same for your partner.
5. It can affect your sex life
Heather Morris, a lifestyle editor at Revieweal and Academized warns couples that “depression and their treatments can have a serious impact on someone’s sex drive and ability or willingness to have sex”. This can be embarrassing or even frustrating for your partner so it’s important that you’re open and understanding of this issue so they’re reassured you won’t cut off the relationship as a result.
6. Learn a new way of communicating
Along with your partner, learn a new way to communicate which promotes closeness and makes you both feel heard. This way of communication should be accessible even when your partner isn’t feeling well. This can be as simple as accepting each other’s feelings and experiences without becoming defensive. After explaining how something is making you feel, check in with your partner to ask if they’ve understood. The moments when both parties feel safe in their feelings and sharing them without having to defend them are the moments that true connection and communication can occur.
If you want to have a healthy and meaningful relationship regardless of your partner’s well-being, both parties need to be open and willing to work on things. You both need to accept and balance your needs, support each other, and communicate clearly. Relationships are complicated no matter what and people always enter them with some sort of baggage, traumas, past struggles, and unique quirks. It can be scary or hard to work through challenges together but it’s important to learn how to accept differences and pain that we may be experiencing, ours and our partner’s because these things exist in each and every relationship.
Ellie Coverdale, a psychology blogger at Paper fellows and Ox Essays, helps people realise their strengths and weaknesses by taking part in psychological researches, and sharing her stories at State of Writing service blog.