Depression can be tough on relationships
While depression can cause strain on a relationship, it can also strengthen the bond. We have gathered some ways in which you can help a depressed partner and yourself so that you can get through the tough times together.
Looking for the early signs may seem like a game of ‘Wheres Wally?’ -The subtle signs are there but hidden behind the daily noise and grind.
This is where proximity comes in. You see this person daily, so you have to be aware of the small changes that take place over time. They will be things that you’ll recognise, something that will make you pause, hmm over and question that seems out of character.
Signs of depression may include changes in:
Communication: Are they keeping their distance or pulling away? Do they seem more on edge?
Substance use: Has their use of alcohol increased? Are they hiding their consumption? Or are they experimenting with or using illicit substances.
Mood: Are they more irritable or snappy than usual? Are they crying more?
Sleep: Have their sleep habits changed? Are they sleeping more or less?
How to help a partner with depression
If you suspect your spouse is dealing with depression, we recommend these five actions:
- Encourage them to seek professional support
Depression is a treatable condition. Rather than ignoring or trying to solve the problem yourselves, enlist the help of a professional such as your GP or a therapist.
People can find depression hard to talk about. Using assertive terms such as “I” statements instead of blame will help open conversations. “I notice” or “I am worried” are far more open to discussion than “why are you in a mood?”
- Work as a team
Relationships are a team effort both during the good and bad times. Showing unconditional support during challenging times will not only help your partner but strengthen your bond. Phrases such as I am in this with you and I am not going to allow you to push me away are strong statements of support and teamwork.
If your partner decides to speak to a therapist, accompany them to the appointment for the first few sessions. Should your partner ask for you to sit in or participate do so, they trust you and are seeking support and comfort from your presence.
Being depressed can be scary, and by having their partner by their side can help them relax and open up.
- Practice Self-care
To maintain your health and wellbeing, you may also benefit from some therapy sessions. This is not you being selfish; this is making sure you have enough in your tank to support your partner and family. Create time and space for yourself and allow yourself not to feel guilty for doing so.
- Do Not Take It Personally
Depression is not anyone’s fault. Give your partner a sense of support and security, even when they are acting out. Try to remember to use assertive language with phrases such as “I see that you are angry/sad, but I am here you”. It will be hard at first, but with patience and commitment, your efforts will be rewarded.
- Educate Yourself
Your partner needs patience and unconditional love. Having a depressed partner and learning about the condition and treatments available will make it easier to speak from a place of knowledge.
Strengthening Your Relationship
Performing small activities together, such as cooking a meal, seeing a movie or tackling a DIY project can enhance the relationship and is something that does not directly involve depression.
Attending couples counselling can be a favourable decision as these sessions provide a safe and secure space to discuss thoughts and situations that may have triggered an adverse reaction outside the sanctuary of a therapy room.
Depression can be like a leaky basement. Work on repairing the cracks and strengthening the foundation to prevent irreparable damage.
It is possible to protect and strengthen your relationship in the face of mental ill-health.