Depression is a low mood disorder that can last for weeks or months, causing low self-esteem and feelings of hopelessness. Depression can be caused by genetics, stress, pregnancy, and many other factors. When dating someone with depression, it’s understandably critical to know what depression is and how it can affect both your partner and your relationship.
Said simply, depression symptoms can add strain to romantic relationships in addition to relationships with friends and family. In a ‘social and personal relationships‘ study, couples discussed that depression could affect romantic relationships in terms of sexual intimacy, dependence on the relationship, and communication.
This post is meant to shed light on how you can maintain a healthy relationship while still supporting your partner with depression.
Dating Someone With Depression: Tips For A Healthy Relationship
A relationship should be a space of mutual support and love. When dating someone with depression, it is essential to maintain balance, so that you don’t find yourself supporting your partner to your detriment, neglecting your own needs for support.
It is also important to know what depression is, so you can recognize symptoms to soothe and support your partner. Take a look at some more helpful information to help those with depression and help others understand depression.
With that said, it is incumbent on your partner to take action to improve their mental health and combat their depression. That’s why your role as a partner is to support them.
Our guide is designed to help you set boundaries and provide support to your partner while they are suffering from depressive symptoms. Read these helpful tips to build and maintain a healthy relationship:
Tip 1 – Educate Yourself
Depression is a mental disorder that is predominantly felt internally. This means that there aren’t always visible signs from the outside. However, it is important to understand that your partner’s depression could lead to behaviors characteristic of depression, like being unable to go out, get out of bed, or meet some of their basic needs.
According to a study from The National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 1 in 12 American adults have had a major depressive episode in their life. Depression symptoms include a low mood, sense of worthlessness, feeling helpless, difficulty concentrating, irregular sleep patterns, and a loss of pleasure from activities that would otherwise be enjoyable.
A deeper understanding of the symptoms of depression can help you to recognize when your partner is having a bad day so that you don’t push them, and you can provide support and help them to manage depression. For more information, try reading people’s accounts of what it feels like to have mental health disorders.
Tip 2 – Set Boundaries
While being a supportive partner, it is important not to assume responsibility for your partner’s depression. You are not their therapist, and you may not have the emotional capacity to provide this level of support.
Setting boundaries is an integral part of avoiding a codependent relationship, where one partner needs and the other needs to be needed. This kind of over-reliance can be harmful to your relationship.
So, set boundaries. A balance of mutual support, where both partners’ needs are being met, is the key to a healthy relationship and an environment of emotional awareness.
Tip 3 – Find Your Own Support System
Your mental health matters. If you don’t practice self-care for yourself, you will not be able to care for others either. Having your support system – trusted friends you can talk to, hobbies and interests, healthy habits – will help you to find relief and take care of your mental health in a way that may inspire and encourage your partner.
Neglecting yourself will not do anyone any good. For more information, read up on mental health tips to soothe stress and promote mental wellbeing.
Tip 4 – Do Not Try to ‘Fix’ Your Partner
If you try to ‘fix’ depressed people, this can create tension as you may be placing undue pressure on them. There is no magic cure you can give a depressed person when they feel sad. If you constantly advise them to go outside and get out of the house, they may feel as though you don’t understand how their depression affects them, or worse yet, may begin to believe you are judging them.
It’s best to plan activities for you to do together when they feel sad, such as going for a walk and a coffee. If you invite them out, this will remove any air of judgment and take the pressure off. If they don’t want to come with you, they don’t have to.
Tip 5 – Maintain a Balance
Helping your partner at the expense of your personal and professional life is not healthy. Though they may need your support, and you are worried about them, learn to prioritize yourself.
Your relationship should not affect your work life, your own mental health, and your other relationships. Setting time aside for yourself and learning when to say no will be crucial to finding stability when dating someone with depression.
So, eat balanced meals, take a long-awaited vacation with your friends, and meet your physical and emotional needs.
Tip 6 – Accept and Acknowledge Their Feelings
Your partner may feel as though they are a burden to you, so when they talk about their feelings, it is essential to accept them and acknowledge them without judgment. If they can discuss how they feel with you, this can give you a more accurate understanding of their progress.
Encouraging your partner to talk about their feelings can make them feel supported. If they feel understood and accepted by you, they will not bottle up their feelings and suffer in silence.
Tip 7 – Be Flexible
Sometimes, your plans may change due to your partner’s depression. They may not feel up to going out to a family dinner or even see you while they are experiencing a low mood.
It is important to be flexible with your plans, and not to place too many expectations on your partner while they are experiencing depression. Instead, be prepared to make adjustments to your plans in case they don’t feel up to it.
Tip 8 – Practice Honest Communication
You need to practice new relational skills with your partner when expressing your own needs and feelings. If you are sad that they haven’t been feeling well enough to see you, rather than expressing this with anger or blaming them, simply tell them how you feel while acknowledging their feelings.
You can acknowledge their feelings by saying things like “I have missed you, and it makes me sad to know you are feeling so low,” rather than “I know you are feeling low, but you should see me more!” “Should” is a loaded word they are already struggling with, like “I should be able to get out of bed” or “I should want to see my friends”, so see how you can avoid using that type of language.
Always ask your partner what effect your feelings are having on them, saying “how do you feel about what I just said?” or “how does that sound to you?” This way, the conversation will not make you feel frustrated by negative thoughts and will leave you both feeling heard.
Couples therapy is a great way to learn tools for communicating healthily in a relationship, much like talk therapy can benefit the emotional wellbeing at the individual level. There are more resources available to help you talk to someone with depression.
Tip 9 – Acknowledge Your Own Needs
A relationship is reciprocal. Your needs should be met in your relationship too. Rather than accepting that your partner’s needs are more important than yours, speak up.
Your partner should want to offer support, so asking your partner for support should be received well. Your happiness is essential to a healthy relationship, so do not neglect yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask your partner for their support. Don’t punish yourself for arguments or for your own feelings. Your feelings matter, too, and you’re only human.
Tip 10 – Help Them Find Resources
Outside help is the key to ensuring people struggling with depression have their own resources for dealing with depression. If your partner has a therapist and is implementing steps towards recovery on their own, this removes any pressure on you and allows you to simply applaud their progress and encourage them while they access better support.
You could encourage your partner to find a therapist, reach out to support groups, and give them more information and online resources for self-help. Another tip is to seek therapy yourself, to both sets an example of what self-care involves as well as to give yourself the strength to support your own needs and your partner’s when needed.
Tip 11 – It’s Okay To Leave
There are some important red flags to look for when dating someone with depression:
- Aggressive behavior
- Using depression and threats of suicide to control your behavior
- Substance abuse
Even if your partner has depression, certain behaviors aren’t acceptable in any relationship. If your partner threatens you with suicide or abuses you emotionally, physically, or verbally, consider ending the relationship.
If they are threatening to take their life if you leave the relationship, it is important not to feel guilty for leaving. Your partner’s actions are their own, and you are not responsible. This is coercive control and is actually a form of emotional and psychological abuse. There are many resources to help you to respond to coercive threats and leave an abusive relationship.
If you want to leave a relationship, this decision is yours.
With that said, report any active threats to their own life to emergency and crisis resources.
When navigating dating someone with depression, it is important not to forget your own needs. You can support and love your partner while getting the support and love you need. Always look out for red flags and ensure your partner isn’t using depression to excuse the unkind or derogatory language.
If your partner is suffering from depression, they need to know that it is manageable and that they can recover from it. Prairie Health offers online psychiatry and medication management to help those suffering from depression.