Chronic depression is a mental illness that is still highly misunderstood by many. It could range from situational depression to more severe forms, but whatever the case may be, depression often takes a toll on its sufferers and those that care about them.
When it comes to a relationship, depression can be quite a sensitive topic for both partners. If your partner has been brave enough to open up about his or her depressive state to you then here are some ways you can help make things easier for him or her.
Avoid Being The Fixer
There is a tendency for people who are trying to help depressed loved ones to proffer advice based on what they think is logical. This puts them in the “fixer” position and could make them come across as being too pushy. Telling your depressed partner things like “you just need to loosen up a little bit” or “try to be more optimistic about life” could just be rubbing salt in an open wound.
This may not help because depression is a mental disorder and it is not something people just get over. Statements like this may only end up making the depressed person feel more helpless and reluctant to even lend you a listening ear.
As a supportive partner looking to help your depressed loved one, you should rather come from an angle of encouragement. Instead, say words like “I believe in you”, “I’m always here to support you” or “I may not understand what you are going through but I know you can beat this”. Whatever you do, endeavour to offer your depressed partner words of encouragement and avoid being the fixer.
Don’t Make Assumptions
There may be situations where your partner may be trying to communicate their feelings to you and hint on what depression feels like. In such situations, it is always important that you listen carefully to them in order to avoid jumping into conclusions.
Statements like “I understand what you mean” or “I have been there before” could come off the wrong way especially if your partner thinks your assumptions have nothing to do with what they are trying to say. Don’t be too hasty to compare your experiences with theirs but instead try to listen attentively to what they are saying in order to give them sound advice.
Give Them Space
It is highly probable that a depressed partner may not want to overburden you with his or her problems. At such times, they may appear to be pushing you away or just plainly avoiding you. When this happens, give them some space and reassure them that you are always there for them.
Check on them regularly and keep giving them your support. If you find out that your partner is avoiding you, try not to take it personally. They may just be overwhelmed and may need some space.
Avoid Tough Love
With a partner suffering from depression, you may understandably reach a breaking point and that is fine. But don’t show them tough love by threatening to leave them if they don’t get over their depression. This will only end up making the depressed person feel worse than before and can hardly guarantee any substantial change on their part.
If your relationship with your depressed partner is becoming too burdensome for you then you can opt out. You are not obligated to stay in a relationship you can’t handle anymore. Don’t try, however, to give them an ultimatum demanding that they change.