Eight Tips For Dating Someone With Depression

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated June 14, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention substance use-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use, contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Support is available 24/7. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Dating can be a fulfilling, healthy, and enjoyable experience, allowing you to feel more confident, happy, and connected when you have a partner. However, just as with anything that brings happiness, dating can come with its own set of challenges. You and your partner may communicate differently or have trouble understanding each other's feelings, particularly when dealing with mental health challenges like depression.

When dating someone struggling with depression, you might not know the best ways to support your loved one if you don't experience depression yourself. You may be frustrated, wondering why they are acting a certain way or if their emotions have something to do with you.

This article features eight research-based tips, incorporating self-care and compassion, that you can consider to help develop a rewarding relationship with a partner experiencing a depressive episode. 

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Depression can create complex emotions in a relationship

Dating someone with depression 

If you’re dating someone who has been diagnosed with depression, it's often beneficial to remind yourself that a mental illness can affect people’s mood and behavior. Learning to recognize depression symptoms may help you provide better support to your partner when they need it most. 

Some helpful tips for dating a partner with depression include being patient, encouraging open communication, not taking their moods personally, and educating yourself about their needs. Remember that dating someone with depression requires empathy and a willingness to learn about how their mental illness impacts their daily life.

The effects of depression on relationships

Dating someone with depression may present unique challenges as they experience fluctuating moods or social withdrawal. Your partner may have days when they are happy and energetic and days when they are hopeless and disengaged, making it hard to know what to expect. They may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, struggle to complete care tasks, or have days where they're irritable.

Major depression is considered a common mental health condition. Temporary feelings of sadness or depression that everyone experiences at times differ from major depressive disorder, which involves persistent and intense symptoms that can affect an individual's ability to function. Major depression is classified as major depressive disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and is often linked to chemical imbalances in the brain. These imbalances may affect daily life, contributing to the wide range of symptoms and challenges faced by those with this mental illness. 

The symptoms of depression could affect relationships in different ways. For example, fatigue and a lack of interest in things they once enjoyed could lead to less affection or intimacy between you. 

The following are common symptoms of depression:

  • Sadness, apathy, and hopelessness

  • Irritability and mood swings

  • Loss of pleasure

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Fatigue

  • Excessive crying

  • Isolation

  • Social withdrawal

  • Tendency to feel rejected

  • Substance abuse

  • Slow movements and speech

  • Difference in libido

  • Urges to partake in self-harm

  • Suicidal thoughts

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, help is available. The free 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, an information service, can be reached by calling or sending a text message to 988 and is available 24/7.

Eight tips for dating someone with depression

Depression may be overwhelming and challenging for the person experiencing it, so as their partner, consider providing valuable support and understanding. Depression is not your partner’s fault and often has nothing to do with others. Research shows that depression is often a biological condition, and it is treatable.

With some effort, empathy, and the following tips, you may positively influence your partner’s life as you both work to build a healthy relationship.


1. Avoid trying to “fix” them

If you're not familiar with the pain of depression yourself, it may be tempting to try to help a partner with depression by giving them tips or advice. However, it's important to understand and respect that depression is a mental illness that often requires professional help, such as therapy and medication.

While you may be aware of specific strategies for managing symptoms of depression, your advice might not be well-received by your partner due to its sensitive nature. If you give your partner advice or suggest they can “cure” their depression through your tips, it may make them think you’re invalidating their experience. They may also think they’re inconveniencing you when they are depressed.

Many depressed people are already aware of standard techniques for managing their symptoms and haven't found them helpful. Instead of giving them advice, you may provide love, support, and emotional validation. Be present for your partner and use their love language to show them care when they struggle to maintain their mental health.

2. Remember that major depressive disorder can be unpredictable

It may be difficult to understand when you don't experience symptoms yourself, but depression can create drastic mood changes that aren't always predictable. Highs and lows often accompany symptoms of depression, which can make it hard to anticipate your partner's behavior or stick to plans.

At times, you may know when your partner is feeling down, but you may be caught off guard at other points. This unpredictability may make being in a relationship with adults experiencing depression challenging. For example, you might make plans weeks in advance that must be canceled when the day rolls around because your partner doesn't want to go anymore.

One of the most important things is understanding that they might have tough days that can affect their ability to complete tasks and interact with you. Try to stay as flexible as possible and accept that they may not always be able to participate in activities.

If you're experiencing stress or anxiety about your partner not spending time with you, you might consider seeking support from a friend, family member, or other people in your support network.  

3. Set healthy boundaries

When dating someone with depression, setting firm boundaries may help you care for your mental health. You might want to provide support as often as possible. However, giving support 24/7 might not be healthy for you. Consider giving yourself space to care for your well-being when needed.

Additionally, if you’re determined to stick to specific plans and appointments, you might need to tell your partner that you’ll go without them on some days when they want to stay home. You can’t force another person to do anything, but you also may not have to give up things that are important to you.

Depression can create complex emotions in a relationship

For some people, depression manifests as anger. If your partner is to the point of directing negative emotions toward you, you can let them know in an empathetic way that you won’t tolerate that behavior. 

You might need to remove yourself from the situation or even let your partner know you need some time apart. Setting and enforcing a boundary can be hard, but it can help with your mental well-being. If you're often experiencing conflict with a partner, you might also try couples therapy or relationship coaching.

4. Try therapy together 

Therapy can be a valuable part of treating depression. If your partner sees a mental health professional, ask whether you can attend a session with them. Speaking to a therapist together may allow you to educate yourself more about your partner’s depression and how you can best support them. 

This action might not be appropriate at the beginning of a relationship, but if you’ve been dating for a while, attending therapy can give you insight into the other person and your role in the relationship.

5. Actively listen 

At times, listening may be more beneficial than talking. Studies show that active listening improves relationship satisfaction. Although it may not be your responsibility to manage the symptoms of your partner’s depression, listen to what they’re saying without giving them advice or judging. 

Ask them clarifying questions if you need to. Let them know that you care about them and are there for them. It can be hard to understand what your partner is thinking or feeling, but listening to them carefully may provide valuable insights for supporting them.

6. Focus on their strengths

While your partner may live with depression, it does not define who they are. Avoid thinking about them only in terms of their depression. Instead, focus on attributes you admire about them, what they bring to your relationship, and how they improve your life. Concentrating on your partner’s strengths can help you avoid potential conflict when depression affects your relationship.

7. Look for patterns

Specific triggers may prompt or worsen depression symptoms in those who experience it. Depression can be brought on by high-stress situations, substance use, particular physical health concerns, or various other scenarios and catalysts. 

As you spend time with your partner, see if you can identify common factors that may lead to depressive symptoms. If you know what to watch for, you may be able to note these things to your partner to help them partake in coping skills when a trigger comes along. 

8. Tend to your own mental health

Your partner’s depression may affect their mental well-being as well as yours. Although this is not your or their fault, you may experience complicated emotions while dating them. In addition to any mental health-related concerns you might live with, these emotions may be overwhelming.  

Consider taking time to care for yourself. There are many ways that you can tend to your mental health, including:

  • Self-soothing practices, such as mindfulness 

  • Expressive writing through journaling

  • Meditation 

  • Alone time 

  • Therapy

  • Physical activity, such as exercise

  • Spending time in nature

When you prioritize your mental well-being, you may be able to provide better support as needed.

Finding support for depression

Studies show that online therapy can improve relationship functioning, in addition to symptoms of mental health conditions. In a wide-ranging survey, researchers found that online couples therapy provides several advantages over in-person treatment. 

In some cases, couples said online therapy was more productive because they could focus on their problems more intently. They also reported feeling less judged than they would have with in-person treatment. The study also indicated that online therapy is effective when treating the symptoms of mental illnesses, such as depression, that may be affecting one or both partners.

If you have questions about relationships, depression, or similar mental health-related concerns, know that help is available. If you’re ready to seek help, you might consider an online therapy platform like BetterHelp for individuals or Regain for couples. For example, you can talk to a mental health professional through video, voice, or in-app messaging. A couples therapist may give you support and guidance as you address complicated relationship challenges.

A therapist may also be able to provide additional resources, such as links to support groups or other organizations that can help you feel heard. Many groups are available to provide additional support for navigating a relationship affected by depression.

Counselor reviews

Michelle Wright, NCS

I would like to say a big thank you to Michelle as she has helped me through a difficult time in my relationship with my partner. She was able to help me see how my partner views the problems in our relationship and how to rectify our issues. She was a great support in helping me through rough days/weeks. Ultimately I'm in a better place in my relationship, and I have the tools to be able to face future situations if they arise.”

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Although dating someone with depression may present unique challenges, love can be a rewarding, fun, and healthy part of your life. The tips in this article may help you support your partner as they work through their complex mental health condition. 

If you’d like further guidance when it comes to your relationship, symptoms of depression, or other concerns, know that online therapy is available. With the right help, you can enjoy a long and fulfilling relationship.

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