Tips For Dating Someone With Depression
Updated May 17, 2019
Reviewer Kristen Hardin
Loving someone with depression can be tough. Even if you understand what's going on with that person, you may wonder why your love isn't enough to bring them out of their funk. You may lose your patience with them and then feel bad about it afterward.
It's just as tough for people with depression to be in a relationship, too. You're constantly wondering why someone can love you when you feel you're not worthy of their love, or that you can't return their love in the way they deserve to be loved. You may not want to go out and do fun things with them because you just can't bring yourself to leave the house. Depression is a tough thing, but it doesn't have to ruin a relationship.
Here are some tips to help your relationship survive that dark challenge of depression.
Remember That Your Partner Has an Illness
As much as we may wish it were true, it's not possible for someone to just "shake off" depression. It is important that we remember to remind ourselves that depression is an illness. Your partner is not engaging in this behavior just to be difficult. It is a condition that he or she may have difficulty controlling, with or without therapy and medication.
Remind yourself of how difficult it is for you to function normally when you don't feel well. This is what your partner is going through. It is difficult to go about one's life like nothing is wrong when something is wrong. Showing your partner compassion is one of the most helpful things you can do for them.
Learn How to Support Your Partner
One of the least successful things you can do - and the most frustrating - is to try and "fix" your partner's illness. You can't fix depression any more than you can fix lactose intolerance. It is a condition that must be managed.
More helpful ways to support your partner include being compassionate, loving, and sympathetic to what he or she is going through. You can ask your partner what it is that he or she is feeling at the moment, and what he or she needs or wants to feel better. This can be as simple as a warm hug or understanding (and not taking it personally) that they need to be alone for the evening or cannot go to an event because they have an appointment with their doctor or counselor.
When we offer support to our partners, we're showing them that even though it pains us to watch them hurt, we've accepted the fact that we can't "fix" their pain. We are showing them that we have accepted the fact that we can instead be there for them in whatever ways they need us. If your partner is not getting any professional help for depression it is okay to ask them to do that.
Remain Flexible in Your Plans
You may make plans on Monday to go out on Saturday, but when Saturday rolls around, your partner has difficulty getting out of bed. This is not their desire to be difficult, but that their illness has made it more difficult for them to function. Don't get angry and try to shame them for "ruining" your plans. Instead, re-work your day so that you still get to do something nice without having to make your partner uncomfortable.
For example, if the plan was to go out with your partner and have a nice meal, instead you can make a nice meal for your partner right at home. Make it dinner in bed and pop in a movie. You may find that you can still have a great time not getting all decked out in nice clothes and driving somewhere, only to wait around for 30 minutes because there are no tables available. The occasional dinner at home can be much more relaxing and enjoyable, plus your partner will appreciate your understanding and flexibility. Equally important, if your partner wants to be alone, accept that and maybe call a friend to meet you for dinner.
Learn to Accept When It's Not About Depression
Over the course of your relationship, even if your partner does struggle with depression, he or she may develop legitimate grievances about where the future of your relationship is headed. Don't be quick to blame this on depression. While your partner does struggle with a condition, it is not responsible for every decision your partner makes.
Don't be quick to invalidate your partner's feelings. Listen to your partner's concerns before deciding whether they are coming from a place of real consideration, or whether it's a symptom of depression. Also, just because your partner has depression does not mean that they need to be handled with kid gloves. You still can, and should, express your own unhappiness or frustration with someone and set boundaries.
Acknowledge That Depression Can Affect Your Sex Life
Many couples have fought over the fact that they don't have enough sex. However, depression can also be to blame for that. It's not that your partner doesn't love you or find you attractive. Depression has been shown to have a legitimate effect on a person's libido. Be open to discussing problems in the bedroom, and show your partner understanding for what they're going through. Some antidepressants can also lower one's sex drive so it is important that you and your partner be able to talk about this openly and directly without blame and anger.
If the problems have become more frequent than occasional, you may want to discuss with your partner the options of different treatment and medication, if he or she is not already participating in these things. You both may find your relationship improves significantly if your partner seeks professional help for these concerns.
Seek Additional Support If You Need It
When you're dating someone with depression, your concerns may often seem small when compared to theirs. So, you had a bad day at the office…at least it's not depression. But this isn't fair to you either. Everyone has a bad day once in a while, and everyone deserves the chance to get that bad day off their chest.
If your partner is having a particularly bad day too, reach out to your support network for help. Call a friend or a family member who will allow you to vent and commiserate with you on your bad day.
On the same token, don't hold back from sharing your day with your partner. It may feel like you're dumping on them when they're already having a tough go of it, but let your partner know how you're feeling. Be honest and don't assume your partner can't handle it. That isn't fair to either of you. It's not healthy for you or your relationship to repress your stress for your partner's sake. And if you both communicate your feelings with each other, your partner will understand.
Don't Be Afraid to Get Involved
If your partner wants you to join them for treatment, then, by all means, take part. Your partner may feel more comfortable getting treatment with you by their side. You can even participate in family and couples therapy. While it may sound like such treatment is specifically for internal strife in familial and romantic relationships, such treatment can also be helpful for couples who are not struggling with each other but who are struggling with conditions like depression.
Remember The Don'ts
It's just as important to remember what you shouldn't do as it is to be proactive on the things you should do. When it comes to helping your partner handle his or her depression, remember the following "don'ts" to save you both a lot of frustration and heartache:
- Don't say dismissive things like "shake it off" or "get over it."
- Don't force them to talk about it if they're not up to it.
- Don't try to "fix" them, and don't feel bad if you can't.
- Don't be frustrated that simply being with you is not making them feel better.
- Don't offer solutions, like "you just need more exercise…or to eat better…or some fresh air."
- Don't let them treat you poorly just because they're having an off day. Even depression is no excuse for treating someone like an unfairly or without respect.
- Don't feel like you always have to fill the silence. Sometimes a warm hug and a shoulder to cry on is worth more than words.
Do you struggle with depression, or are you in a relationship with someone who is suffering from depression? Consider reaching out to one of our BetterHelp counselors who can give you more information and advice on what your next steps should be.