No one likes seeing someone they love suffering. If you’re dating someone with depression, however, this is often unavoidable. While nothing you can do will prevent your partner from experiencing the symptoms of depression, there are things that you can do to make the process easier for both your partner and yourself.
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By better understanding your partner’s depression and maintaining realistic expectations regarding their moods and general outlook on life, you can enhance both your relationship and your partner’s life.
1. Avoid Blaming Yourself
If your partner suffers from depression, it’s not your fault. Seriously. It’s not. Despite this, it can be tempting to blame yourself – thinking that if you were just nicer after a long day’s work or more affectionate with them that they just wouldn’t be so glum. This is, obviously, far from the truth. People who suffer from clinical depression experience a chemical imbalance. Nothing you can do will change this.
2. Don’t Play Doctor
Particularly if you are new to the dating-someone-with-depression situation, it can be quite tempting to try to “fix” your partner. No matter how well-intentioned, attempts to find a cure for this complex mental illness will likely prove more frustrating than useful.
If you go to your partner repeatedly with suggestions that they try this juice cleanse or take part in this yoga program, you’re just going to anger them. They are working with a real doctor to reduce the symptoms of this illness – and, if they’re not, they should be – they don’t need your suggestions.
3. Conduct Research
It may seem counter-intuitive, but even though you don’t want to continually dispense unsolicited advice, it is helpful if you read up on depression. The more you understand about depression the better you can support your partner. Read up on contemporary findings and – if your partner wants – support them by visiting the doctor or going to therapy sessions with them.
Conversely, if your partner would rather tackle the battle alone, don’t try to insert yourself into their struggle against their will.
4. Don’t Expect Explanations
Your desire to understand how your partner feels is logical, but continually drilling them and asking them to explain their thoughts and emotions will just create underlying tension. Resist the urge to ask your partner to explain their feelings.
Even if they can verbalize the reason for their upset – which many depression sufferers can’t – having to rehash these issues may trigger a regression. Just observe and try to pick up, piece by piece, whatever you can so you can better understand where they are coming from.
5. Try Your Best To Be Patient
Individuals with depression can cycle through moods at an alarming rate or sluggishly move from one mood to the next. Unfortunately, there is nothing that they – or you – can do to expedite this process. Do your best to be patient with your partner. Rushing them to climb out of their particularly deep valleys of depression will probably only add more stress and worsen the situation.
6. Be Attentive To Cues
Anytime you’re in a relationship, it’s critical that you understand how your partner is feeling and respond appropriately. This is decidedly more difficult when your partner is depressed. While it can feel like you’re being asked to read your partner’s mind, it’s not always this difficult.
By being attentive to cues that they give, you can better anticipate their mood – and, by connection, plan your appropriate responses. Spend time learning how your partner acts when they’re happy, sad and angry. Making a mental note of these cues can help you both better support them and avoid getting your feelings hurt.
7. Expect Sexual Symptoms
Not all sufferers of depression experience symptoms that impact their sex drive, but many do. Whether it’s a lack of sexual interest triggered by the depression itself or by a change in medication, these situations commonly impact partners of individuals with depression as well as the depressed individuals themselves.
Instead of being caught off guard the first time one of these symptoms appears, anticipate it. If you expect this to happen and it never does, all the better, but mentally preparing for the possibility could make it easier to deal with if and when it does happen.
8. Ride The Wave Of Medication
If your partner takes medication for their depression, it’s quite likely that there will be periods of time when you have to ride the medication wave with them. Rarely does a doctor prescribe the perfect medication in the just-right dosage on the first try.
As your partner tries to find the right cocktail, or to modify their existing medication plan to avoid some of the less-than-favorable side effects, it’s probable that some medications and dosages will prove too strong and others too weak. Particularly when your partner is at the crest of one of these waves, your support is invaluable.
9. Resist The Urge To Feel Manipulated
As your relationship continues, it can become easy to feel as if you are being manipulated. You always go to the movie they want to see. You spend the bulk of your time doing things that make them happy. In the end, it feels like it’s all about your partner all the time.
While some people do use their depression as an excuse to manipulate others, this might not be the intention. If you start to feel that you’re being taken advantage of, select an appropriate time to speak to your partner and hash it out. Sorting through these feelings will strengthen your relationship and, ultimately, your resolve to help your partner.
10. Expect To Be Treated Appropriately
Even if your partner suffers from depression, they still don’t have license to treat you inappropriately. If your partner is physically or emotionally abusive, don’t tolerate it. There is no valid reason for this type of treatment, depressed or not.
If you are experiencing this ill-treatment and your partner says that they can’t help it because of their depression, don’t accept this excuse. If you are committed to making the relationship work, at the least, seek counseling. If this doesn’t resolve the issue, you need to end the relationship. Don’t expose yourself to this type of treatment.
11. It’s Okay To End The Relationship
You might fall deeply in love with your partner and never want to leave their side. Conversely, the relationship may run its course. If you tire of the relationship, it is entirely reasonable to end it. You do not owe it to your partner to stay with them forever just because they have depression.
As with any relationship, you don’t want to be too hasty and end things when it could work out, but you also don’t want to allow the presence of their depression to stop you from bringing the relationship to an end when it becomes necessary to do so.