If your partner struggles with depression, it can sometimes be difficult to know what you can do to support help them and your relationship.
In fact, it can leave you feeling helpless and overwhelmed.
No one wants to see someone they love struggle with depression. It’s even harder when you feel like you’re standing on the outside looking in because you don’t know how to help them.
Thankfully, there are several things you can do to support your partner with depression.
Your support in the relationship is incredibly important. It can make a big difference for your partner. These essential ways of support can help them discover their ability to manage symptoms—and can keep your connection strong through the process.
1. Keep Yourself Healthy and Whole
One of the most important things to do for your relationship is to take good care of yourself. Self-care is essential for someone who wants to be a part of a support system for a loved one.
Of course, it’s understandable that you’ll want to do anything you possibly can to help your partner. But you also need to understand your own limits and keep your own cup full. Be realistic about what you can and can’t do.
When you start recognize when you are wearing down and how to restore, you are nurturing your own physical and mental health. As a result, you’re can be of much help to the person you love. You can also help to establish a focus on wellness for your partnership.
Therefore, make sure you’re taking some time to do things you love—things that make you feel alive and whole. Finding that balance will provide more grounded support for your partner.
2. Keep Your Focus on Potential, Not Problems
Think about how you saw your partner when you fell in love. Chances are, you saw their great potential—themselves and for your relationship—and you were eager to work together to further that potential.
Now, when dark clouds and stressors come in, it can be harder to remember that potential. But it has never left. It’s important to take some time to recall that sacred strength you saw.
You might have to change some of the expectations you originally had. But if you focus on potential, not problems, you won’t feel as weighed down by your partner’s depression. Your partner and your relationship can breathe in hope and let it move you forward.
3. Refrain from Criticism, Offer Vulnerability and Awareness
When one person in a relationship has a mental health issue it’s often very difficult to find a way out. Sometimes the solutions seem simple and obvious looking from the outside in. But it’s a different story when you are in the midst of it.
Try to avoid criticizing your partner when you don’t think they are handling things well. Instead let them know you are worried. You can even let them know how hard it is for you to understand what it’s like and what it takes to heal.
Avoid statements of blame or your perceived reasons for their depression. Instead, practice vulnerability and awareness. You can suggest that you miss them and feel lonely when they “go away.” Or tell them that you share their sadness when they’re in a dark place.
By being vulnerable about your own feelings, and offering awareness of theirs, your can approach their depression from a place of honesty, compassion and turn towards hope.
4. Let Your Partner Manage Their Own Self-Care
Though your partner is struggling, it’s important to understand that they want to be and are capable of their own self-care.
You can encourage your partner, especially when you see them doing something that makes them happy. You can also allow them to acknowledge and find solutions for their basic needs. Their solutions will likely involve you, but you’ll only know what to do if you let them tell you.
As unique humans, thrive on a secure, steady connection. In fact, we are wired for this and have needs for healthy interdependency. Yet we also have needs for autonomy. We can and need to know ourselves and manage our own self-care. We love encouragement, a sounding board, and compassionate reflection, but no one can really take on our healing process for us.
5. Be Emotionally Accessible, Responsive, and Engaged
As you heal and grow together you’ll learn to open up to one another. Appreciate the moments when you’re able to tell one another how you’re feeling and what you each need by staying accessible. When we know our partner is listening with an open heart, we’re more likely to share tender feelings. This type of connection is like a steroid of healing.
It’s important to really listen and be engaged with what your partner is saying and respond with compassion. Compassion will often be the natural, involuntary response anyway. But showing that compassion and empathy to your partner in words and actions can make a big difference in how they feel.
Being empathetic means you can see things from the other’s perspective without judgement. When we experience empathy, especially from our partner, we feel lighter and brighter. We can take the next step toward a wholeness and a new way together.
Supporting a partner with a mental health condition, such as depression, isn’t always easy. But the most important things to keep in mind are to be open, accessible, compassionate, and non-judgmental. Your care and support can make a big difference in their life and in your relationship.
If you’re still not sure how to support your partner with depression, please contact me. Together, we can go over some additional strategies for providing support.