Depression – Don’t Let it Destroy Your Relationship!
Depression is an insidious illness that afflicts millions of people. It can significantly disrupt a person’s life, and can even be disabling. Sadly, the majority of people with depression are never diagnosed and never receive treatment.
Depression does not only affect the person who has it, it also impacts those closest to him or her. If you are in a relationship with a person who has depression, it affects you as well.
What is it Like Being in a Relationship Affected by Depression?
It can cause a plethora of problems in your relationship.
It disrupts intimacy – both sexual and emotional, can cause one or both of you to withdraw or isolate, and can lead to very negative feelings such as anger, resentment, and hopelessness.
These negative emotions can further erode the relationship.
For the person with depression, it often leaves them feeling ashamed and frustrated.
That is in addition to some of the regular symptoms of depression, which may include irritability, guilt, worthlessness, sadness, and in the worst-case scenario, suicidal thoughts.
Other symptoms of depression include lack of energy, low self-esteem, poor concentration, feeling restless or empty, difficulties making decisions, changes in appetite and sleep.
For the partner of someone with depression, it can feel overwhelming and draining as you pick up the slack. You may end up being the sole financial provider, while doing the bulk of child-rearing and tending to household responsibilities.
It can be extremely difficult living with someone who is depressed, especially if you have never experienced depression.
You may find yourself wondering why your partner can’t or won’t just “get his or her act together” or pull him- or herself out of it. If only it were that easy…
It is even more challenging and exasperating if your partner is blaming you for his or her depression. Perhaps you did something that hurt his or her feelings or left her or his feeling inadequate.
If this is occurring in your relationship, you must remember that you are not the “cause” of your partner’s depression. Period. This doesn’t mean you have the right to be hurtful, unkind, inconsiderate or abusive no matter how hard it gets.
However, you are not responsible for your partner’s happiness. And if they try to pin that on you, don’t take it on. And let your partner know that you will not accept any blame.
How Can You Manage a Relationship Affected by Depression?
Keep the lines of communication open.
Do not expect to understand how your partner is feeling, but have frequent open conversation in which you both discuss your feelings.
Brainstorm about the best ways to handle this together.
Set clear boundaries with your partner. If he or she goes into “this is your fault” mode, make it clear that you will end the conversation at the point. Encourage your partner to get professional help. Many people respond very favorably to psychotherapy and/or medication for depression.
If your partner is unwilling to get help, then you need to decide if this is a relationship in which you want to stay.
Don’t give an ultimatum per se, but do discuss your feelings openly with your partner and let him or her know what you are thinking.
He or she may not realize just how much you are being affected.
If you stay, you increase your risk for depression significantly. This does not mean your partner is to blame for your depression, so do not ever go there. Surround yourself with supportive friends and family.
It is especially important during this time that you get support for yourself. The encouragement you receive from others can help you through this very challenging situation.
Depression is an ugly illness. But it can be successfully treated. Help your partner, help themselves by acknowledging his or her depression. Continue to function as a team, and be as supportive as you can.