How to Help a Depressed Partner
Updated: Sep 13
Depression can pose a serious risk to relationships. A person who is depressed tends to isolate him- or herself, which can be disheartening for loved ones who want to help. It's impossible to know how someone is feeling unless they tell you. So, if a partner is struggling with depression it's important to know what you can and can't do to support them. It's important for partners of people with depression to know about the illness and what help is available. It's also really helpful for partners if friends and family have some understanding of what being in a relationship with someone who suffers from depression is like.
Here are some ways to support a partner dealing with depression:
Learn About Depression
Depression is a mood disorder characterized by feelings of sadness and hopelessness, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, fatigue, anger, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, and suicidal thoughts. Depression can be caused by abuse, death of a loved one, genetics, major life events, substance abuse, and other illnesses. Learning about these factors can help you recognize the symptoms and support your partner through difficult times.
Be There And Show Them Unconditional Love
When your partner is experiencing a difficult emotional time, be more intentional about expressing your love. This could mean cooking their favorite dinner, watching their favorite movie, or spending quality time together. Do whatever it is that will make them feel happy and loved. Reassure them that although the disorder may be hard on you, you know it is much harder for them and that you are here to help.
Don’t Take It Personally
For many people with depression, the signs of depression may not be obvious to them, and they could be reluctant to seek outside help. However, depression rarely improves without treatment. You can help your partner by expressing your concerns and helping make appointments with a mental health professional.
Encourage your partner to engage in activities that promote self-care, such as exercise, healthy eating, socialization with friends and family, and spending time doing what they love. While you can offer support, it is ultimately their responsibility to keep up these good habits.
Know When To Stay Close And When To Give Them Space
When people are going through depressive episodes, they often tell others to leave them alone. Sometimes they need space, but other times they need people around them who love them, even if it is just to sit in silence. If your partner tells you they need space, ask them to clarify whether this is truly what they want. If they seem unsure or hesitant, stay close until they tell you otherwise.
Know The Warning Signs And Let Them Know When You See Them
Your partner may have warning signs before they sink into a depressive episode. These can be things like abnormal sleep patterns, negative self-talk, no longer enjoying activities they used to love, or increased anxiety and stress. If you notice these tell-tale signs, let your partner know so that they can be aware of them and try to prevent them from becoming more severe.
Never Use Their Illness Against Them
During your partner's depressive episodes, it is important not to use past incidents as a weapon against them. Discussing what happened is encouraged, but never use those incidents maliciously or as a way to make them feel guilty about what their disorder is doing to you. This will not be beneficial for their recovery process or for your relationship.
Be Prepared To Pick Up Some Of The Slack
Your partner is going through a difficult time, so don’t expect them to be their usual self when it comes to household chores, errands, and paying the bills. Take some of the burden off of them during this time by doing some extra work around the house. Remember that this is only temporary, and do your best not to feel resentful about doing extra work.
Allow Yourself To Feel Frustrated And Tired
It can be draining and emotionally difficult to be in the supportive role when someone you love is going through a difficult time. Your feelings are valid, and you need to take care of yourself before jumping into a supportive role. Seek support from someone who you trust to talk about your struggles. Don’t ignore, avoid, or cover up your partner's depression and don't push yourself beyond what you can handle. Most of all, it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. Give what you can in a healthy way and don’t overdo it.
It won’t be easy, but it can be done. You have to remember that you’re not alone. There are resources and support available, so take advantage of them as much as possible. But as long as you keep your love for each other growing, your relationship at the forefront of your minds and always maintain open communication, you will be able to get through it together.