Living with a partner with depression can be one of the biggest challenges any relationship can face. Often couples don’t realise that one partner is suffering from depression and put the behaviour down to the relationship and believe their partner is angry, irritable, hostile or is simply rejecting them and wonder why?
It may be that you saw signs of the depression early on, but they were mild and you disregarded them. As the relationship progresses, more warning bells go off but instead of thinking it may be an illness, you place the blame on your partner, or on yourself.
Finally realising that there is a real medical reason for this behaviour can be a relief for many people. So how do you know if it is the relationship or depression at the root of the problems?
A person suffering from depression can exhibit many different symptoms which are often dismissed as being their personality. Some of these symptoms of depression can be:
- They are tired and lethargic and don’t want to be involved with the family
- They refuse social invitations or need to be dragged along
- They sleep poorly
- They have appetite changes – maybe eating a lot more or losing their appetite
- They seem angry or hostile towards you for no apparent reason
- They don’t communicate much with you but exist in their own world
- They seem down or sad a lot of the time
- They stop seeing friends or stop hobbies and activities they used to enjoy
- Loss of sex drive
If you notice a few of these, then it is a good idea to either talk to your partner about it, or if that’s not possible, talk to a professional to determine if it could really be depression behind their behaviour.
Sometimes depression comes about as a result of an incident in life and it is natural that you will feel down and have trouble coping. Often though, this type of depression will go away, in time, on its own. At other times, it is a long standing illness that the person may not even be aware of and may just feel that it is who they are. It is this form of depression that can be so damaging both to the sufferer and those close to them.
Depression ultimately destroys relationships if it is not addressed. A healthy relationship needs two mentally healthy individuals and if one has depression, then it stands to reason that the relationship will suffer.
In a relationship, when you become aware that your partner has depression, the focus is usually on them and you are expected to support them and cope alone. How do you manage to do this and keep yourself mentally and emotionally healthy?
There are a few key things to do if you find yourself in this situation. Do some research yourself. There is plenty of information on the internet that can help you work out if depression may be playing a role in your partner’s behaviour, or seek the help of a professional to talk it through. Having a good idea of what depression is can be really helpful in maintaining a good outlook on life and what you are dealing with. So, read up and get educated.
If you do think that your partner is suffering from depression, then it is important to realise a few things up front. First, it is a real medical illness that, with help, people can and do recover from. Secondly, you can’t fix it. Many couples believe that with love, support and patience that they will be able to get their partner out of the depression. You can’t. Yes, they can fix it, but it is not your role. Take the pressure off yourself to be the healer because it generally leaves you feeling helpless when it doesn’t work.
Depression tends to have a ripple effect throughout families. The reality of living with this illness is that it slowly wears you down and ultimately, your self-esteem usually takes a battering and you no longer believe in yourself any more. Often it can also lead to you yourself suffering from depression. It sometimes leads people to start wondering what happened to the person they used to be or wondering what is wrong with them that their partner is like this. It is not you!
It is important that you get help for yourself as you need support too. There is a real tendency with this illness to hide it from friends and family. This is not helpful and you will find that you may be living two separate lives. You don’t need to announce it to the world, but have a few close friends that you can confide in and that will support you through this. You need to be able to talk about it and how it is affecting you. Be open about it. It is not shameful, it is an illness. Good friends will be supportive and they are happy to listen.
Often too, the entire focus is put on helping the person with depression and none on the person who is experiencing it alongside them. You have a right to be happy and this illness does affect those in a relationship with them. Make yourself a priority.
It is really important to have a support network so that when it gets tough you can talk it through and have people supporting you. Generally, it will be you providing the support to your partner and it can become exhausting, so look for help yourself. If you don’t have friends you can confide in, or feel that it is all too much, then seek help with a counsellor. It is perfectly valid to get help for yourself in this situation because it can be an incredibly difficult road that you are travelling.
Seeing a counsellor yourself won’t fix your partner but it will help you learn some coping strategies and help to ensure that you look after your own needs and stay healthy. Many people feel that it is a betrayal of their partner to do this. It is actually a really positive thing and can help both you and the relationship.
Your partner also needs help from a professional and they are often reluctant to admit that they need help, or indeed that anything is wrong with them. Educating yourself and then trying to gently educate them can sometimes help. If you are able to, then get them so see a therapist to help start recovering from this illness. If you need to make the appointment the first time and go with them, then that’s fine. Ultimately they are responsible but you can help to get it started and be supportive of the process.
It is also important to put some focus on yourself and make sure you are not being pulled into the illness. Make sure that you:
- Eat well
- See friends
- Have hobbies or activities that you enjoy
- Take a break and get away for a few days
- Look after yourself and your needs
People often give these things up and try and put all the focus on their partner.
You may find that your partner does not want to attend social events. Don’t use this as an excuse not to go. Discuss with your partner that it is important for you to continue to have a life. It is not taking away from them, it making sure that you stay mentally healthy. So ask them if they feel up to going and encourage them, but if they don’t then accept invitations on your own if need be.
Keeping a journal can often help too. Writing things down takes them out of our head and can give you some clarity. It is also good to track your progress and see if you are still doing alright or if you are starting to be affected in a fundamental way by the depression. Journaling is a great tool to help you identify where you are at, and can sometimes help you see solutions to small problems.
Remember, your partner’s depression is not about you. If they are angry with you, then it is usually themselves they are angry with but they direct it at you. Their mood swings may be erratic and you don’t know where you stand so you may start to try and behave in a way that will have the least repercussions. This is a big sign that it is time to get help for yourself, because it is now having an effect on both the relationship and on your own mental health.
The most important things to remember are:
- You are not the cause of this but you will be affected by it.
- You can’t fix it, but you can try and get your partner help and be supportive of them.
- You need to focus on you and your wellbeing or you won’t be able to help them either. Ask for help and if you don’t like the answers you get, try someone else.
Don’t give up on the idea of being happy. Depression can be cured. Sometimes it can be managed through counselling alone and sometimes with the added help of medication. Be aware of yourself and don’t allow the depression to affect you on a personal level. It is hard and can be a long road but if the relationship is worth it, then it can be worth travelling – just don’t do it alone.
If you’re need professional help to guide you or just want to talk about your opinion, feel free to call me on 0468 950 420 for a FREE 10-minute consultation and find out how I can help you or press BOOK NOW button to find my available appointment and schedule an online booking.