How to Support Your Partner Who Struggles with Depression

Do you have a partner struggling with depression? If so, the chances are, your partner isn’t the only one having a tough time. You are, too.

You’re trying hard to understand the illness of depression and how to help.

You also feel the pressure to keep up with an often-overwhelming workload because your partner just can’t do as much as someone who’s not depressed.

You Are Not the Only One with a Depressed Partner

You. Are. Not. Alone.

In 2016, the National Institute for Mental Health estimated that roughly 16.2 million American adults had a depressive episode in that year. It was also estimated that over 300 million people worldwide wrestled with depression in 2017 according to the World Health Organization.

Those numbers leave one important fact out, though. Every one of those individuals has a family and that family suffers along with the afflicted.

Depression is an isolating disease by nature. Depressed people tend to avoid others and push even those closest away. But as you already know, you’re a part of this loneliness as well.

Without proper support, you, like your partner, can feel like you’re on a deserted island. You can feel stigmatized and marginalized.

But the truth is there are many people who experientially understand a situation like yours--Boy, do they ever. There are people in your local schools, grocery stores, churches and community who struggle in this way. Who need you just like you need them.

You, more than others, need to find these kindred spirits to draw strength from and to be understood. Doing so will also help your partner to feel understood and to be able to adequately problem solve.

By knowing you’re not alone, you’ll have the confidence and inner strength to offer your partner the help that’s needed.

Things Can Get Better for You and Your Depressed Partner

The situation of you and your partner in relation to depression absolutely can improve. Never before has there been so many resources available to help.

Never before has depression been so well understood.

This is important to remember when things get really tough. You’ll be tempted to give up on your relationship if you can’t see any hope of progress or improvement.

Here are some common things that tend to help those who are depressed. You can be an integral part of helping your partner improve.

  • Daily physical exercise

  • A daily routine including meaningful work

  • A way to express oneself (this can be through painting, sculpturing, writing or woodworking just to name a few).

  • Something fun they look forward to each day

  • Deep friendships (understanding, non-judgmental people)

  • A more relaxed schedule and proper sleep

  • Time with a therapist

  • A healthy diet (mostly free of processed foods)

  • Meditation

It’s good to remember that the above things can sometimes be difficult to achieve even for those who aren’t depressed. That being understood, you can encourage your partner to take small steps towards these.

Over time, you’ll find what treatment strategies work best for your partner.

A Non-Judgmental Listening Ear for Your Depressed Partner

If you can get your partner to talk, this will help. But, remember, talking with a depressed person can sometimes be an emotional roller coaster.

Especially, if your partner is feeling really low, he or she may say things that upset you. Your partner may question the point of life or voice dissatisfaction with work or family. You may feel either directly or indirectly that your mate is dissatisfied with you or even feel attacked.

This can be difficult for you to not take personally. Remember, this often is the depression speaking, not your partner. Don’t base the quality of your relationship on the opinion of your partner while they’re in a depressive episode.

Rather, seek to nonjudgmentally understand them and to listen without becoming too emotionally involved. Just make a point to get your partner to talk and to actively listen.

You likely are the most important person in your depressed partner’s life when it comes to treatment. No one has the opportunity to make such a positive impact. You can build a stronger relationship by supporting your partner struggling with depression.

*Note: Only invite conversation about your partner's depression if you truly feel like you can be supportive. Make sure you have taken good care of yourself that day, and believe that you can support your partner with compassion and love. If not, no problem--really!-- but it might not be the right time to get them to open up to you.

Get Yourself Support

While helping your depressed partner, be sure to practice self-care. Unless you have adequate support, you could deplete your energy and ability to continue caring for him or her. To be your best and most present self, be sure to put on your “oxygen mask” first when your partner is struggling.

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