Even When Your Partner Is Depressed, You Still Come First
When your partner is suffering from depression, this can have a huge impact on your relationship. Some people choose to leave before the going gets tough – and that’s totally OK. They are looking out for themselves, which is absolutely what you need to do.
If you want to stay, that’s OK too. Just remember one thing: you matter more than anyone, even your partner. If you don’t keep this in mind, you risk spiralling down with them – and then there’ll be no support for either of you.
You Are Not The Cause
It’s particularly hard if you’ve been with your partner a while, and they’ve been happy. A sudden bout of depression can hit out of nowhere, for zero reason – and it might be the first time they’ve experienced it, too.
If the mood in your relationship suddenly changes with a diagnosis of depression, remember that It. Is. Not. Your. Fault.
You are not suddenly unloveable. You are not incapable of being attractive. You did not do something to cause this. You are not responsible. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain: it. Is. Not. You.
This can be so hard to remember when your partner gets moody with you, starts snapping for no reason, or finds the smallest thing to criticise.
It’s still not you.
Depression Makes People Hurt The Ones They Love The Most
Depression is a really selfish disease. It takes over a person and turns them into something else. Minor tasks such as brushing your teeth, having a shower, or even getting out of bed, become mountains to climb.
Depression can also dull emotion, or cut someone off from their emotion altogether. Someone who used to laugh a lot now has no interest in their favourite comedy show. Another person might have given up their favourite sport because they can’t find the energy to be interested in it.
All of this just shows how much depression can affect a person on every level. The worst part is that depression makes people selfish. Everything becomes about them because their thought patterns cannot extend beyond their own sphere.
For example, your partner always used to give you a kiss when you came home from work and ask how your day went. Now, they don’t even look up from the TV when you walk in.
This isn’t because they aren’t interested in you anymore. It’s because they’re having a tough time processing their own thoughts at the moment. Asking how someone is can, to a depressed person, open up a conversation they just don’t want to have – because it means interaction with other people. Social interchanges are incredibly difficult for people with depression.
More than that, depressed people will often feel huge amounts of guilt. They feel guilty that they cannot do the things they used to anymore – usually without being able to find a good reason for their sudden disinterest. This guilt can turn into something else: anger. They are angry at themselves for not being the person they used to be, and for not being capable of having the same interactions and relationship they used to have with you. This anger can come out in so many different ways: constant criticism, the silent treatment, or sudden bouts of rage.
It’s still not your fault.
They are angry at themselves. They are critical of themselves. They are displacing how they feel onto you because they know that you, of all people, will love them anyway. That’s anger-inducing in itself for some, who don’t believe they deserve love.
People with depression will try to push you away. They’ll be rude, or ignore you, or shout at you for no reason. They want to create an emotion just so they can feel an emotion – even if it means hurting you in the process.
It’s not you they want to hurt. I promise.
Depression is a selfish beast that claws its way into a person’s mind. The person who tells you that you’ve chopped the onions the wrong way which is why you’re a terrible cook is actually not the person you fell in love with. It’s the third person in your relationship, who has jostled in and taken hold. You need to show your partner that it’s OK and entirely possible to get this beast to uncurl its claws and go sit in the naughty corner.
Give Them A Break
There are things you can do to help your depressed partner: go with them to see the doctor, help them to arrange an appointment with a counsellor, or look at their prescription options if they choose to take a medicated route to recovery.
You’ll also need to cut them some slack. This is really hard, especially when it comes to daily chores such as doing the laundry or washing up after dinner. If you normally split the chores, you’ll find that you are doing more than your fair share when your partner slumps into depression.
It’s OK to let them know that they aren’t pulling their weight – just don’t nag them about it. Tell them that you’re helping out because you know they would if the situation was reversed, but also find ways to encourage them to get back into their daily routine.
This might be as simple as loading the washer yourself, then asking them to switch it on while you’re at work.
That’s it. Pressing a button.
Depression comes and goes, for most people, and one of the steps to take to prevent it from taking too strong a hold is to re-establish a routine. One baby step at a time. Today, push the button. Tomorrow, load the washing powder and push the button. Next week, load the washing powder, push the button, and take out the laundry when it’s done. It’s OK if it comes out in a shabby pile that you have to sort out later: that’s still several steps ahead of where they were only last week.
Give Yourself Time
It’s exhausting living with and loving someone with depression. It’s also incredibly upsetting when you love them and try to show them but you feel rejected at every turn.
That’s why you need to find your own support network. A few friends that you can talk to, or strangers in an online forum, or your own therapist. However, you find your support, use it. Without it, you risk becoming depressed yourself.
You need to allow time for yourself every week, too. Depression eats away at your routine, at your time, and at your relationship. It’s so important to step back every week and do the things you love, without your partner being involved. Make arrangements to see a friend, or block out time to read a good book while you soak in a long bubble bath.
Without this space from your partner, you’ll end up resenting them. In fact, what you resent is their depression, but it’ll come to a point where you cannot separate the two. That’s when you reach the hardest point: do you leave now, after all the effort you’ve invested? But you love them, so you want to stay. This thought cycle is detrimental to your mental health AND your relationship – so always, ALWAYS, find time for yourself.
Remember: Your Partner’s Depression Is Not Something You Can Fix
It’s so tempting to want to ‘fix’ someone with depression. Don’t. Don’t even go there.
Depression cannot be ‘fixed’. For most people, it’ll always loom in the distance even on the happiest of days, the threat of a storm above a sunny valley.
If you fall into the mindset of wanting to fix your partner, it’s time to walk away. This is a dangerous and tragic route that’ll end in a lot of tears and heartache.
The only thing you can do for your partner with depression is to wait it out. Find ways to help them, and remind them that it’s OK to feel the way they do, but that they deserve to feel better. Showering someone in love and affection may be what you think you need to do because it’s what you feel you need right now too. Someone with depression may feel this is suffocating and try to push you away further.
Let them lead the march. Be their drummer, keeping time. Just let them lead. You’re the one who can help them find the happy path again, but it won’t happen if you try dragging them by the hand. Just keep pace beside them.
They won’t tell you how much they appreciate it until they’re better. Even then, they might not ever tell you.
But I promise you this: if you don’t try to ‘fix’ your partner, and instead just keep on doing your thing, they’ll love you until the end of their days.
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