8 Things Your Depressed Partner Wishes You Knew
Depression is hard enough to deal with without adding the overwhelming guilt that comes along with thinking you’re potentially damaging your relationship.
Depression can be all but impossible to comprehend if you haven’t experienced it yourself. It can lead to all kinds of relationship distress, with damaging behaviors coming both from the person who is experiencing depression and from their partner who may be trying to help but just can’t seem to do or say the right thing.
What can you do to help if your partner’s mood seems to be spiraling downward?
1. Recognize the signs of depression:
* feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
* persistent sad, anxious or ’empty’ mood
*feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
* loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies, activities
* decreased energy, fatigue, being ‘slowed’ down
*difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
*difficulty sleeping, early morning awakening or oversleeping
*appetite and/or weight changes
*thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
2. Don’t be accusatory.
It’s important that you understand that depression is not a choice, a moral flaw or a personal affront your partner is using toward you.
Depression is also not a ploy for attention. It’s an under-addressed, serious illness that affects every area of someone’s life. Unfortunately, society seems to think it’s some type of moral weakness, as if someone with depression should just ‘be able to snap out of it’ or ‘buck up and move past it’ and all would be solved.
Because of this mindset, it’s extremely difficult for depression sufferers to even admit there’s a problem. If you suspect your partner is depressed, don’t try to force them into anything. Depression isn’t just having a case of the ‘blues.’ It can be brutal for those experiencing it. Take it seriously.
3. Don’t try to reason them out of it.
If logical thinking was an anti-depressant, no one would be depressed. Avoid offering reasons why they shouldn’t be depressed. Your solutions will only serve to depress them further and cause them to feel disconnected from your relationship. It’s more helpful to offer your care and support rather than trying to ‘fix it’. Trust me, your partner wishes it was as simple as implementing whatever solutions you can come up with. They do not want to ‘brainstorm’ideas to ‘fix it’ either.
4. Help Geuinely and Gently.
Subtlety and gently say something like ‘I’ve noticed you’ve seemed down a lot lately. Maybe we should go see someone. I found a good recommendation.’
By using ‘we’ it seems less accusatory and gets your foot in the door. Just this simple use of ‘we’ instead of ‘you’ lets them save face and they need to feel that right now. Never say, ‘You need therapy.’ Ever. The goal is to get them help so they can climb out of the darkness. You can’t do it for them but you can do what you can to get them going in the right direction.
5. Don’t be patronizing.
Your partner is depressed, they haven’t lost their intelligence. Avoid questions like, ‘Are you sure you want to do X, Y or Z?’ Just go with the flow. Accept that there will be good days and bad. They aren’t just moping. Don’t make jokes or tease them, even when your intentions are good.
6. Do not share the private details of their depression with family or friends without their consent.
This is your partner’s business and an extremely private one. Since there can be a stigma surrounding depression, the last thing they want is to have to explain to people what is going on with them. You owe it to your partner to let them share when and if they want to. If you need support for yourself because this can take a toll on you too, talk to a professional or someone far removed from the situation who can maintain confidentiality.
7. Enjoy good times.
When things are good or their mood lifts, enjoy it. Don’t ask questions or ask why they aren’t like this all the time. Again, it’s not a choice for them and there can still be good times. Appreciate them when they come.
8. Take care of yourself.
Moods in relationships can be contagious. It’s easy to let yourself slide into the pit with them. It’s also easy to start feeling resentful. Having a depressed partner can make you feel like you’re in a one-sided relationship and in a way you are because depression can creep in and take everything over. It’s impornt to continue to do activities you enjoy and that restore your own emotional health and balance.