10 Tips For Loving Someone With Depression
Updated November 15, 2019
Reviewer Laura Angers
Depression is a cruel, difficult, and emotionally taxing disease that can make relationships hard. Learning the best ways to handle a relationship in which one party suffers from depression can be central to succeeding. When you love someone with depression, several actions can help the situation. While seeking help should always be a top priority with depression and other mental illnesses, there are some actions that you might consider as someone that loves an individual with depression. If you are looking for something to make your relationship better, the following ten tips can do just that.
1. Listen Actively
Sometimes the best thing for someone with depression is to have someone to listen to them. It is especially important to lend a listening ear to the person that you love, and that loves you in return. Listening involves simply opening your ears, not preparing for a response or offering up advice. Allowing your partner to get their thoughts off their chest is the goal.
Listen closely, hear what is being said, and only speak when repeating back what you're being told as a way to show that you're listening. Use clear body language that indicates your complete attention, such as looking at the person as they speak and nodding your head when you understand what they are saying. You might be surprised at the improvements you experience in your relationship when listening becomes a priority. Couples therapy is a great tool to help you learn how to listen effectively.
2. Positive Comments And Encouragement
It can be a hard job to lift people when they are feeling down. In fact, a person suffering from depression is likely unable to be pulled from a slump with a few nice comments. However, reminding your partner (and yourself) of the things that you love about them can be a small light in the darkness.
Not only will an honest compliment allow some positivity into your loved one's depressive state, but it can make the relationship easier for you as well. Sometimes when an illness like depression is the focus of the relationship, it can be good to change the focus to something a bit more positive. Positivity can become easier to find by seeking help if needed.
3. Patience Is Crucial
Having patience is a necessity when loving someone with depression. If patience is not your strong suit, your relationship can give you plenty of practice. Sometimes finding your patience requires truly thinking about depression as a disease. It is not something that can be turned off with the desire to get better.
Healing is a process: there will be ups and downs. During those "down" moments, your partner may prefer to be alone or not want to leave the house. Remembering the fact that he or she would probably love to spend time with you or go out but are simply unable with their disease can help you to consider patience as the best response.
4. Tough Love Is Not A Good Approach
Sometimes it can feel as though you just want your significant other to just snap out of it, which leads to some tough love. While tough love might work on teaching a teenager a lesson about life, it is not the way to approach depression. By offering up direct statements meant to get your partner out of his or her mind, you are likely only making the situation harder.
A person that has this mental illness can easily fall into an even deeper depression by being reminded of the things that you feel they should be able to do. Avoid tough love and seek help in both handling your partner's disease and getting them the help they need.
5. Ask How You Can Help
Most people with mental illness do not expect their partners to ignore it. However, many individuals experience a significant other that tries to help in the wrong way. Because of this, those with depression find it helpful when their partners simply ask what can be done to help. This opens the line of communication in the relationship and makes both needs and desires more apparent.
Asking your partner what you can do for them also means that you must listen to the answer. If he or she wants to be left alone, give them time. If date night gets canceled, try for a later date. Ask, listen, and seek help yourself if necessary.
6. Give Your Time
During the times when your loved one wants to stay home but doesn't necessarily want to be alone, offer your time. Maybe he or she wants to sit mindlessly in front of the television - sit with them. Sometimes your time and attention can work wonders on depression. Encourage, but don't force, activities together.
Make plans, even if they are unable to be kept. Go on walks, play a board game, or shoot hoops. Allowing your significant other to have your time reminds them of their importance in your life. This reminder is important in the varied thoughts of a depressed individual.
7. Prompt A Discussion About Their Feelings
Many people that find themselves loving someone with depression learn to pick up on subtle cues that indicate when their loved one is heading into a depressive state. While it can be important to recognize these cues, it is also important to simply ask your significant other how they are doing. Even if the question is just a way to check-in, asking your partner to open up about what is going on in their mind can reveal a lot about their mental state.
A starting question is a good way to help in untangling their thoughts as it can often lead to other questions. Discussion of what is bothering your loved one can be crucial to your relationship, but perhaps more importantly, their mental health.
8. Do Not Compare Yourselves
It can be a challenge to hear what someone is experiencing and not offer up a similar experience that you have had. However, comparing your own story to your loved one's current woes can make it seem like his or her feelings are being dismissed.
Remember that it isn't all about you or what you have gone through in the past, no matter how relatable it might make you seem. Rather, save your story for another time. Allow your significant other's thoughts to be the topic of conversation and not something that you went through prior. While you might be able to relate to the situation, it is best to focus on the present. The present should take precedence.
9. You Are Not The Cause
At times it might feel as though you are causing your loved one to be depressed. This is not the case. Feeling like the problem is a common issue in relationships where one partner has depression.
Just as a single person is unable to cure their loved one's depression, you are also unable to be the cause of it. Call it ego, call it hubris, or even call it guilt. Whatever name you put to it is irrelevant: you are not the cause of your loved one's depression. Knowing that truth can take a weight off your shoulders and simultaneously make the relationship easier.
10. You Are Not Less Important
A relationship requires a lot of giving and take. Sometimes it can feel as though you give far more than you take because of your loved one's mental illness. Even if this is true, it is good to know that you are not the less important party in the relationship. You must take care of yourself first before you can help someone else. Loving someone with depression can be confusing and difficult.
It can be challenging to think rationally when you feel forgotten or lonely. However, finding the balance that works for both parties in the relationship is crucial to having a successful relationship. Your feelings of frustration are just as valid as your partner's feelings. A good relationship fosters a level of communication that can help both people. Learning how to reach this level of communication can often be learned in counseling.
So, You Love Someone With Depression
There is no weakness in depression nor in loving someone with depression. In truth, both sides of a relationship that involves mental illness require a lot of strength. Strength is necessary to get through a depression and to be there for someone that suffers from it. Being a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on in times of hardship is the role of someone who loves a suffering individual.
If you are struggling with loving someone with depression, there is help available to you. Don't wait it out or assume that the depression will get better on its own. Encourage your loved one to seek help and offer to speak with a professional to best learn how to help. Depression does not have to be the end of the relationship. With strength, perseverance, and professional help, love can thrive.