Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW
Dating Someone With Depression? 8 Ways To Support Your Partner
Published May 5th, 2021 & updated on May 5th, 2021
Dating someone with depression can mean a LOT of ups and downs in your relationship. One day you’re living out the perfect rom-com montage, chasing sunsets and laughing in slow-motion! Then the next day looks more like a black and white music video to the saddest song, ever. Cue the pouring rain as you gaze longingly out the car window…
It’s not easy to watch the person you love struggle with their mental health. You might try your best to lift them up — especially on days when their depression is hitting extra hard — but no matter how hard you try, at the end of the day, they’re still depressed. That shit can be super disheartening, we know.
You can’t ‘fix’ your partner’s mental health, but you can help them cope and find professional help (because this can be SUUUPER hard for someone in the midst of a depression). So, don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re obvs a super caring and thoughtful person! That’s why you’ve come here looking for answers, right? Right. So, here are some ways you can lovingly support your partner with depression.
1. Learn More About Depression
If you’ve never experienced depression then supporting someone through it might be totally new for you. Where TF do you even start?! Well, now’s the time to read up and learn alllll about it! Instead of asking your partner to walk you through it (because they might not even understand it), dive into some good ol’ fashion Googling. It never fails.
Once you’ve got some info under your belt (symptoms, causes, treatments and coping techniques) go ahead and ask your partner about their own experience with depression and how they cope. That way, you’ll notice when they’re having an off day and better understand what you can do to help them through it. Even if that means just giving them space, or letting them cry it out without being asked “what can I do” or “what’s wrong.”
2. Understand Your Goal Isn’t To ‘Fix’ Them
“Fix You” by Coldplay might still be one of the greatest songs ever written (we won’t be taking any criticism at this time) buuut don’t take the lyrics literally. By supporting your partner through their depression, your goal here isn’t to ‘fix’ them. Because they’re not broken. So, if that’s your endgame, the odds will never be in your favour.
Instead, simply accept them and their depression for what it is. That’s what unconditional love is all about, baby! Constantly shoving advice or solutions at them only shows how not okay you are with their condition. In the end, you’ll both become frustrated and resentful over what you can’t change. And, that brings us to the next point…
3. Encourage Them To Seek Treatment
Good news — depression IS treatable! If they’re not seeking treatment already, you can give your partner the confidence they need to ask for help. Right now, they might feel ashamed or be dealing with a ton of negative self-talk that’s holding them back. So, remind them they’re not alone on this journey and that you want what’s best for them, no matter what!
Another important note…we know you have your partner’s best interest at heart, but let’s leave the advice to the pros, okay? Encourage your partner to work through their depression in therapy, where a licensed professional can give them the tools they need to succeed. Heck, you can even ask your partner if they’d be comfortable with you sitting in on a session. (Don’t take it personally if they say no. It’s a VERY private, and different, experience for each person.)
4. Listen And Validate Their Feelings
Chances are, your partner doesn’t wanna drag you down in any way because they fucking love you so much. People with depression can often feel like their problems don’t matter, or they’re burdening others by unloading all of their shit. So, let them know that you’re always there to listen when they need a vent sesh! Validating their feelings will make them feel heard and confirm to them that their problems truly matter.
That being said, don’t ever forget that your personal boundaries are sooo important! You can still be there for your partner and have firm boundaries in place. Maybe you ask that they don’t call or text while you’re working (unless it’s an emergency, of course). You’ll be available later when you can give your full attention and don’t have a ton of other things on the go.
5. Be Flexible And Understanding
Try your best to be flexible with your time and show some understanding, even when it’s hard. Maybe your partner promised to be your plus-one to your corporate holiday party, but then the big day arrives and they can’t get out of bed. It sucks, but depression can be unpredictable. You might feel really disappointed, and even frustrated, at times when things don’t go as planned. Especially when you were reallyyy looking forward to those said plans (you found the perfect shoes and everything)!
Remember — your partner isn’t purposely trying to let you down. It’s just that managing their depression can be extra tough some days. And, that’s out of their control.
6. Don’t Take It Personally
It can be hard NOT to take it personally, but remember that your partner’s depression isn’t about you. So, when they snap at you out of nowhere or melt into a puddle of tears, be patient. Remind your partner that even when they try to push you away, you’re not going anywhere!
You’ll likely notice that your partner has certain triggers for their depression (that have nothing to do with you). If you’re not sure what they are, ask them! It can help you avoid triggering them — because we know all you want to do is help. And, it helps you both prepare for those unpredictable depressed days.
7. Remember That Not Everything Is About Their Depression
When your partner comes to you about a problem or wants to express something that’s been bothering them, don’t write off their feelings as ‘just a symptom’ of their depression. Gentle but firm reminder: people with mental illness still have regular feelings too!
Maybe they come to you with something like, “I feel like we don’t spend a lot of quality time together lately.” Quality time is probably something they really value, so you should defs validate their feelings and ask how you can work through any problems together.
8. Take Care Of Yourself
Anddd last but certainly not least, don’t forget to support yourself too! Your own mental health is important, so make sure you’re checking in with yourself on the reg. Are you feeling kinda down, drained or emotionally checked out? Supporting someone with a mental illness can be overwhelming sometimes, so don’t feel guilty for admitting that it’s hard.
Find a support system who YOU can turn to when you could use some help. It could be a friend you trust, a close family member, or even a support group. You might think that you don’t need therapy since you’re not the depressed one in the relationship…but guess what? Compassion fatigue is real, and talking to a therapist about alllll the things you’re going through is a valid option for you too!
And finally, if you’re sacrificing SO much of yourself and it’s becoming unhealthy then there is absolutely nothing wrong with honouring what is best for you — even if that means ending the relationship. As much as we all want to be able to help our partners, sometimes it just isn’t in our capabilities to do so. And that is okay.