8 Tips On Dating Someone With Depression
By: Stephanie Kirby
Updated September 17, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Dawn Brown
Dating can be hard. Sometimes it's difficult to find the right person, and it can also be challenging to make a relationship last through the ups and downs of life. If your partner also struggles with depression, it can make things even harder.
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When you're dating someone with depression, you might feel at a loss. You might not know how to help your significant other, and you might also wonder if it's you. Most of all, you just want to know if your relationship will ever be "normal" again. In this article, we'll share tips to help you support your partner if they're struggling with depression, so you can improve your relationship.
Depression Makes Relationships Tough
Dating someone with depression can be a challenge. They may have good days and bad days, so you're never quite sure what to expect. They may also want to stay home when you want to go out, and they might have days where they're irritable and angry for no reason at all. This can be frustrating, but know that it's also frustrating for them.
They don't want to feel depressed, and they hate knowing that the way they feel impacts you. Although their depression is not about you, it does have an effect on you and your relationship. That said, it's possible to have a successful relationship with someone who is struggling with depression. It might take more effort and empathy on your part, but if you're with the right person, it's worth it.
Tips for Dating Someone with Depression
You don't need to avoid dating someone with depression, but it will most likely require you to invest a little extra effort into your relationship. The following tips can help you navigate this occasionally tricky terrain.
1. Don't Try To "Fix" Them
When you're dating someone with depression, the last thing you should do is try to "fix" them. They're not "broken." Instead, depression is a mental health challenge, so there's nothing you can do to make it better. Chances are the person you're dating knows this, and they aren't looking for you to solve their problems. Instead, they want you to love and support them. If you're constantly trying to fix things, they're likely to grow tired of that quickly because it suggests you don't accept them as they are.
2. Depression Is Like Riding a Roller Coaster
Depression can be as unpredictable as a huge rollercoaster. Sometimes you know when a big drop is coming, and sometimes it catches you off guard. When you're struggling with depression, some days are good, and others aren't. The person you're dating might know some of their triggers (and will hopefully share this information with you), but that's not always the case. There will be days when they simply wake up feeling bad.
This unpredictability makes it difficult to handle everyday life, not to mention be in a relationship. You might make plans a week in advance, but when the day rolls around, they might not be up to it, even though they may end up feeling better the following day. Sometimes it's predictable, and sometimes it's not. However, if you want to be in this relationship, you need to understand that your significant other can't always control when they're struggling.
3. You Need to Set Boundaries
When dating someone with depression, you'll need to set firm boundaries. Otherwise, you'll quickly exhaust yourself, and your own mental and physical health will suffer. It can be emotionally taxing to be involved with someone who has mental health challenges, so you'll have to decide which boundaries are important to you. For example, if you're determined to stick to plans and appointments, you might need to tell your partner that you'll go without them on days when they want to stay home. You can't force another person to do anything, but you also don't have to give up things that are important to you.
For some people, especially men, depression manifests as anger. When that happens, it doesn't mean you have to accept anger in your relationship. If your significant other is taking their depression and anger out on you, then you need to temporarily remove yourself from the situation, especially if it's become abusive. Even better, remove yourself from the relationship if you feel it's starting to become abusive. Mental health is a real challenge, and people with depression often have little control over how they're feeling, but that's never an excuse for abusive behavior.
4. Meet with the Therapist with Them
Therapy can be an important part of treating depression. If you're dating someone with depression, and they're not seeing a therapist, encourage them to try it. They might even be interested in working with an online therapist like those at BetterHelp. On the other hand, if they're already seeing a therapist, ask if you can attend a session with them. Generally, this isn't a great idea at the beginning of a relationship, but once you've established a connection, attending counseling together can help you both, giving you important insight into the other person and your role in the relationship.
5. Listen to Them
Sometimes, all you can do is listen. As mentioned previously, you can't "fix the problem." You also can't assume that you know what they're experiencing and how they're feeling. If they're willing to talk to you about their depression, listen without trying to correct them or give advice. Let them know that you care about them and want to be there for them. Also ask them how they're feeling and how you can support them.
When they start talking, don't try to interrupt or offer your thoughts about their feelings. Instead, passionately listen. If they say something that makes you want to defend yourself, resist the urge to get offended. Remember that they're struggling, but don't allow any verbal abuse. If they're simply venting without crossing the line, do your best to be there for them. Put down your phone, turn off the TV, and tune into what they're saying.
6. Focus on Their Strengths
This is really good advice for any relationship. You've probably heard of the "grass is greener" issue in relationships. All relationships are hard, and relationships with someone who is suffering from depression are even harder. When things are messy, it's easy to see another couple that appears happy and wonder if the effort you're making is even worth it.
There may even be periods of time when you feel like all you're doing is giving. When that happens, it's more important than ever to focus on what you like and love about your significant other. If you compare your everyday life with someone else's highlight reel (what they post on social media), the reality of your relationship will never compare. Remind yourself that every relationship has troubles. Then, think about why you've chosen to be with your partner. You may even want to make a list to help you focus on the good things, so you have a reminder when things are rough.
7. Look for Patterns
Sometimes (though not always), there can be triggers for depression. As you spend time with your partner, see if you can identify the situations or things that trigger their depressive symptoms. If you know what to watch for, you may be able to help prevent some situations or at least know when your partner might have a bad day.
8. They Feel Bad When You Feel Bad
Depression comes with a lot of guilt. No one wants to negatively affect the people they care about. Your significant other knows that their depression impacts you, and they hate it, but when depression kicks in, it's not possible to ignore it and pretend they feel fine. Don't try to make them feel guilty about it because they already feel bad enough, and additional guilt just adds to their depression. Let them know that you understand they're struggling, but they don't need to worry about you because you're okay.
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How Therapy Can Help
Dating someone with depression means that you'll need to accept them for who they are and that you're willing to be with them when they're struggling. If you're unable to do that, then it's best to walk away before your relationship becomes serious.
If you have questions about depression and how it impacts your relationship, you can reach out to a therapist. A licensed professional can help you understand what you'll need to do when you're dating someone with depression. Furthermore, couples therapy can be a helpful way for both of you to learn how to build a healthy relationship together.
If you're looking for a qualified therapist, BetterHelp provides online therapy, so you can meet with a therapist from the comfort of your home or wherever you have an internet connection. You won't have to go to an office across town, but you can still benefit from their experience and expertise. Read some of the reviews below to learn how BetterHelp therapists have helped people experiencing similar issues.
"Mark has been extremely attentive to everything that I disclose. He's not only provided me support but insight and encouragement to let me know I'm on a good path to self improvement and discovery. Furthermore, Mark has provided me valuable insight on my romantic relationship, specifically with learning more about the relationship dynamics and how to build a stronger, healthier relationship."
"I have been dealing with quite a slew of issues, but after working with Mackenzie, I feel significantly more able to go forward in my life with effective strategies that match my abilities and goals. Mackenzie guided me toward establishing healthier boundaries, being more self-reflective, relying on both emotions and logic when confronting issues, and finding concrete ways to alleviate stress and anger at issues outside of my control. She is an incredibly skilled and valuable resource."
Although dating someone with depression can make a relationship stressful, it doesn't mean your relationship is doomed. The tips in this article can help you support your partner. You may also want to speak with a licensed therapist who can support both of you. With the right tools, you can enjoy a fulfilling relationship.