Depression is an illness. This simple fact can be challenging when one partner in a relationship is struggling with depression and the other is not. Because the symptoms can be subtle, and many are internal (hence, invisible) it can be very difficult to honestly empathize with your partner. Here are some suggestions to manage the difficulties.
The depressed partner is likely to feel some guilt and shame about their condition. Their lack of motivation, lowered or missing sexual energy and generally being a person it’s hard to be around are all things apparent to them. They know it’s hard to be with them and this can make them want to withdraw into a kind of protective shell.
Start by being honest about how the depression makes you feel. But then, make it clear that you are willing to stick with them, even though it’s tough for both of you right now. Be honest about wanting to help in any way you can. Admit it when you are exasperated or irritated by their condition, but also that you won’t give up.
As the non-depressed person, you can offer your partner a lifeline to the world beyond their black moods. Encouragement as a management tool means opening doors to those things that help with depression generally – getting out of the house, socializing, exercise and proper diet. The depressed person may not be able (or willing) to commit to anything beyond going to work and back. The role of positive encourager then falls to the well partner.
If their depression is making them irritable or angry, take care. There is a line between encouragement and nagging you don’t want to cross. However, simple things can mean a lot. Getting dressed to go out, meeting up for a meal, even a walk in the park… all of these will help.
Stick to It
One of the worst things about true depression is how long it can last. Don’t expect someone to just “snap out of it.” That rarely happens for real mood disorders. In fact, one of the diagnostic criteria for depression is how long it lasts. And this makes depression a real stress on relationships.
The trick here is to learn as much as you can about depression and their particular type. If there is a medication involved, see that your loved one takes it as prescribed. If there are appointments to keep, help them get there.
On a positive note, relationships that survive depression will be stronger for passing the test.