Depression is a serious disorder that impacts over 17 million Americans every year, according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Like many other disorders and diseases, depression doesn’t just impact the afflicted individual. Those around them may also struggle. Dating someone with depression can bring a whole set of new challenges. Here we have a few tips for dating somebody who is struggling with depression.
First, we absolutely must insist that if you or somebody you know is struggling with depression, or at risk of harming themselves or others, you can reach out for help from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for free at (800) 273-8255.
1. Be Prepared for the Unprepared
Part of being around somebody with depression is that you just don’t know what is going to happen sometimes. You may make plans for the weekend, and your partner may not feel up to it when the time comes. For the depressed individual, it’s nearly impossible for them to know how they are going to feel in a few days.
Furthermore, one of the differences between sadness and depression is that formerly pleasurable activities may not bring the same joy they once did. This is because the neurotransmitters in the brain aren’t firing in the same way. This means that activities like sports, seeing friends, going out, etc. may not be as pleasurable to the individual, so they don’t have the same drive or wish to go out and do them.
2. Don’t Try to Fix Them
One of the hardest parts about dating someone who is depressed is having to watch them powerlessly. It’s a harsh truth, but we absolutely must come to the understanding that we just cannot fix the person. We can support them, say and do all of the right things, wish for them to be healthy, but we do not have the power to fix or cure their depression.
It is beneficial to let go of this idea altogether. Many depressed individuals report that they don’t want to feel like they need to be fixed. We will talk about the guilt in a bit, but the idea is that the depressed person wants your love and support, not your fixing.
3. Cultivate Some Stability
Stability, where we can create it, is a great help in dealing with depression. When we create some routine, regularity, and stability, we offer a bit of a path out of the depression. It doesn’t need to be something dramatic, but one of the problems with depression is that the individual may get stuck in an unhealthy routine that keeps them down.
For example, one way to help combat depression is to be active. Maybe you can create stability by going on a short walk every evening. You can also create a routine by eating lunch together, brushing your teeth together, or going to bed together. Find ways to create stability in a healthy way in both of your lives. You may also help them find a job for stability. You can read our post on great jobs for people with depression at https://shifts.coach/stress-management/jobs-for-people-with-depression/.
We discussed the practice of listening in our post about bringing mindfulness to relationships, and it’s a powerful practice. You may think you know all about depression and what your loved one is going through. However, we can’t ever truly know. One way to gain some insight is to ask and actually listen. You don’t need to push or prod, but when they’re talking about what they are going through, stop what you are doing and pay attention.
Just by deeply listening, you can get a lot more clarity on the situation. Listening can also help you have more compassion, and perhaps have a better idea of how you can respond to support your loved one.
5. Practice Compassion
Remember that depression is not something that we wish upon ourselves. It is something that happens to us, and is often outside of our control. Your loved one wants to be depressed even less than you want them to be depressed. It’s unpleasant, and they have to watch the impact it has on you. Just like you, this person is struggling with the depression that they never asked for.
Instead of harboring resentment or trying to fix things, try just practicing compassion. Really open your heart to the person and their pain. You could try a guided compassion meditation to really get it flowing.
6. Take Care of Yourself
You absolutely must take care of yourself in a relationship first and foremost. If you don’t take care of yourself, you have nothing to offer your partner. As much as you want to love and support your partner, you need to be healthy yourself. Make sure you’re sleeping well, getting the right food, exercising, and handling your own life.
You may want to find a relationship coach that specializes in dealing with issues like this. One of the many benefits of life coaching is that you can find support, expertise, and perspective that you just won’t find within yourself at times. A trained life coach can help you bring new understanding, compassion, and action to the relationship.
7. Don’t Blame It All on Depression
As you spend time with your partner who is struggling with depression, you may begin to see that it impacts them in many ways. However, you may also fall into falsley attributing things to their depression. You blame every argument, problem, or shortcoming on the depression, either out loud or in your head. This is a common occurrence, and one you should watch out for.
Depression is just one part of the individual. Yes, it is a big part that can have great power over them. But, they are also a person with thoughts, feelings, patterns, learned behaviors, preferences, etc. Not every issue is depression-related. Be sure to separate out the two.
8. Watch for Patterns
Like many other disorders, there are often patterns that arise before depression kicks in, or while it is in its early stages. It may vary from individual to individual, but things you may notice include:
- Change in sleep behavior
- Change in diet
- Less activity/exercise
- Feelings or thoughts of hopelessness
There are also many patterns of thought that feed depression. Not all patterns are visible and noticable by an outside party. But, you can educate yourself on the general patterns that may arise. You can also get to know your partner, and eventually you will be able to recognize the patterns when they come up.
9. Don’t Add to the Guilt
As we covered in our post 9 Unhealthy Ways of Coping with Stress, one of the ways we deal with difficulties is by lashing out at others. As frustrated as you may be at times, it’s important not to lash out at your partner who is struggling. One aspect of depression is that the person often feels guilty for how they impact others. This is natural and happening regardless of how you treat them.
If you add to the guilt, it can be quite harmful. It certainly is okay to let the person know that you care, and that you don’t like their depression. Just be careful in how you phrase it. You may also want to choose a wise time, perhaps not talking about it while they are in the midst of it. Remember that the person is already feeling guilty, and just be mindful of how you talk as to not add to the guilt.