Dating someone with depression can be challenging. Watching someone you care about suffer through thoughts of extreme negativity, self-criticism, and defeat is painful. Your partner may hold strong, false beliefs about themselves or feel that they have never accomplished anything or have nothing to live for. These all-or-nothing thought patterns can leave you feeling helpless and confused as to how to help your partner. Depression can be loud and convincing, dominating the minds of individuals who suffer with the mental health issue. Discover our seven tips for dating someone with depression and learn how you can support your significant other as they battle the highs and lows of everyday life.
1. Educate Yourself About Depression
Depression is not the same as bereavement or grief. There are various causes of depression and no one is perfect. Understanding the complexities of depression is a critical step to being a supportive partner and participating in your significant other’s healing. Some describe depression as a heavy fog or say they feel dull, apathetic, and hopeless. Good vibes and happy thoughts will not chase away these feelings. Educate yourself about depression by reading articles, watching educational videos, and talking to individuals who have experienced similar relationships.
“Some people tend to have trouble discussing their mental health and depression,” says Heather Faulkner, Supervisor of Clinical Programs at Diversus Health. “The symptoms of depression can come off as being lazy, uninterested, distant, or distracted. This can be hard for a significant other to understand and accept if they are unaware of the underlying depression symptoms that are causing these actions.”
Gaining a deeper understanding of what your partner is going through can help you get a better sense of what they are experiencing. Depression affects each individual differently. Consider speaking to one of our professional mental health providers at Diversus Health to talk about how you can be sensitive and non-judgmental in your communication when helping your partner navigate depression. When you have a more accurate understanding of what depression is and how it affects your partner, you will be able to offer them better support.
2. Accept Their Feelings
Loving someone with depression means allowing them to express their feelings. Individuals with depression have a tendency to hide their emotions because they are often self-conscious and do not want to be a burden. “Don’t make assumptions about your significant other and their mental health,” says Faulkner. “Asking questions and showing concern is a great way to stay connected and decrease tension.”
Accept your partner as they are. It is important to acknowledge when your partner feels depressed and allow them to express their feelings. Sometimes, they may feel unsure of why they feel sad or hopeless. When you are dating someone with depression, encourage them to talk about their feelings and let them know that you support them.
3. Consider Your Approach to Communication
Your instinct may be to try to “fix” your partner and it can be heartbreaking to see someone you love suffering. You might try to make them smile with jokes or funny movies, but there is no magic cure for depression. Be open to learning your partner’s triggers and ask what they need to feel loved and supported. Discuss coping mechanisms and strategies to help them manage their depression. If you need additional support, request an appointment with one of our mental health providers at Diversus Health.
“I like to compare depression symptoms to tone of voice,” says Faulkner. “With the over abundant use of texting, have you ever read a text message and thought that the person was being rude? Maybe the words they used or their boldness or even the font came across negatively in your mind. Later you may speak to that person and there was no negative meaning behind the message – it was sincere. Sometimes we do this with people. We read them wrong and interpret their actions one way, until we have a conversation to understand what is going on in their life.”
4. Stay Flexible with Your Plans
Recognize that depression can make it difficult for individuals to follow through on plans. Your partner may spend your long-awaited vacation scrolling through their phone while you spend the day seeing sights. Perhaps you notice your significant other has lost interest in participating in things you usually do together. Offer them compassion and validate their feelings. Depression is a complex mental illness. Staying flexible with your plans allows you and your partner the opportunity to do something within their comfort zone.
It is worth remembering that you do not have to stay home yourself, unless you want to keep your partner company when they need support. Sticking to your original plans can help you avoid frustration and resentment, especially if your plans are beneficial for your own mental health and well-being.
5. Set Boundaries
Healthy boundaries cultivate healthier relationships. Establishing boundaries means setting limits for behaviors that do not work for you or your partnership. It is important to safeguard your physical and emotional needs, and that does not make you selfish or uncaring. “Setting boundaries in any relationship should be a priority, however, compromise is very important as well,” says Faulkner.
It is healthy to honor your personal boundaries. If you have talked to your partner about setting boundaries around unkind or derogatory language, maintain that boundary if they lash out and say something hurtful. During an outburst, you can say, “It seems like you are pretty angry right now. I’ve asked you not to shout at me, so I am going to leave. We can talk when you feel calmer.”
6. Take Time for Yourself
It is natural to want to help do whatever you can to make things easier for your partner when you are dating someone with depression. Remember to support yourself, too. If you neglect your own basic needs, you will not have much to offer others, especially your partner. We all need to take time for self-care and maintaining our own well-being becomes even more essential when supporting a loved one. Avoid prioritizing your partner’s needs at the expense of your own or you may end up feeling overwhelmed and resentful. Over time, exhaustion and stress can lead to burnout. You may risk experiencing symptoms of depression yourself, if you do not take good care of your mental, physical, and emotional health.
Here is a brief list of key self-care practices to keep in mind:
- Set an alert to wind down before bed – wash your face and have a bedtime routine
- Set aside enough time to get a good night’s sleep
- Eat regular, balanced meals
- Include time in your schedule for physical activity – take a walk, jog, or ride a bike
- Make time to be alone to recharge when you need it
- Indulge in your hobbies – invite your partner to share in some of your favorite pastimes
- Meditate, journal, or create art to build your emotional awareness
- Take time to relax with your family and friends
7. Seek Support from Others
If you are feeling overwhelmed, consider seeking support for yourself from others. Your partner may not have the emotional capacity to support you when they are trying to manage depression. Choosing to seek support is a great way to lead by example. We all need social support and friendships outside of your romantic relationship can be invaluable. It is unhealthy to suppress our emotions and doing so can leave us feeling isolated. Trusted friends and family can support you by offering to listen and validate your needs.
Support groups are another good option for seeking support if you are uncomfortable sharing your partner’s mental health issues with people you know. Consider talking to a therapist alone or with your partner, if they are open to therapy. Dating someone with depression is not always easy. It can be beneficial to strengthen your coping skills and practice new ways of communicating so you can stand strong with your partner.
*Symptoms of depression are treatable. If you are dating someone with depression, encourage them to seek help and support them with their boundaries. Whether your partner’s healing process involves therapy, medication, or lifestyle changes, help is available. At Diversus Health, our professional providers are trained to support individuals, couples, and families managing depression. Contact us to request an appointment to get started today.