Jul 052008
 

Your partner’s depression may involve emotional distance, lack of interest in love and intimacy, and exhaustion. These tips for dealing with a partner who is depressed may ease the strain your marriage or relationship, and even strengthen your connection.

These tips for coping with a boyfriend, girlfriend, or marriage partner’s depression are from Dr Melvyn Lurie, author of Depression: Your Questions Answered.

Before his tips, a quip:

“In these 20 years of work among the people [in Calcutta], I have come to more and more realize it is being unwanted that is the worst disease any human being can ever experience.” – Mother Teresa.

Feeling unwanted and isolated is a huge factor in depression — and so are feelings of loneliness and fatigue. One of the best books on overcoming depression is The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness.

The more you know and understand about depression, the better you can see what to do and how to help a depressed partner.

And here’s what Dr Lurie says about coping with your spouse’s depression…

Dealing With Depression in a Love Relationship

Expect him or her to lose interest in physical intimacy

Losing interest in your love life is common in people with depression. “Whether from the inability to feel pleasure (anhedonia), inability to feel love, social withdrawal, or something more direct, interest in intimacy is frequently diminished in depression,” writes Dr Lurie. Further, losing interest in your love life can trigger other communication problems in relationships.

Has your partner lost interest in love or intimacy? Find other ways to express your physical intimacy, such as a massage or bubble baths together. And, remember that communication and intimacy problems can be triggered by depression.

If you’re wondering if your relationship is in trouble, you might find 10 Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship helpful.

Don’t be surprised if your depressed partner tries to make you feel bad

This happens more often than you’d think! When someone feels incompetent, worthless, and unenergetic – which people with depression often do – they may project their feelings onto their partners. That is, a depressed partner may consider his or her partner as incompetent, worthless, or unenergetic.

“This kind of defense doesn’t work very well because it drives people away,” says Dr Lurie.

To cope with your partner’s depression, be aware of how negative feelings are projected. It can help simply to know why people dealing with depression make others feel bad, and learn to shrug off those behaviors. Learning how to cope with your partner’s depression in a relation can involve developing a thicker skin.

If you’re confused about your relationship, read Is Your Marriage Good or Bad? 3 Myths About Being Married.

Be aware of how depression can lead to relationship breakups

People dealing with depression may feel isolated, misunderstood, attacked, and unloved. They may withdraw socially, want to be alone most of the time, and lose touch with the ability to feel love. This causes communication problems in relationships. Plus, people with depression may become critical and argumentative. These factors make it difficult for a relationship to survive.

And, knowing how depression and relationships can co-exist can help smooth things over. Deciding in advance how to handle the negative parts of the relationship will prepare you for most anything. Also, contacting a Distress Line, depression support group, or counselor is a great idea, especially if you feel like you’re not dealing with depression and your love relationship very well.

And, knowing how to overcome depression can help you understand your depressed partner, which can help you cope.

For Single People Dealing With Depression

Learn how depression affects your dating life

“Low self-esteem from depression can stop you from pursuing, let alone achieving, your goal of curing your loneliness,” writes in Dr Melvyn Lurie in Depression: Your Questions Answered. “This is a vicious cycle – your low self-esteem prevents you from curing your loneliness, and your loneliness worsens your depression and further erodes your self-esteem.”

Do things that increase your self-esteem, such as taking small risks and crossing things off your to-do list. If you’re dealing with depression, do little things every day to help you feel better about yourself.

Are you dealing with depression in a relationship? Sometimes it helps to write about your experience and feelings. I welcome your thoughts below — and I encourage you to consider calling a depression help line if you need support.

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  156 Responses to “How to Deal With Depression in a Love Relationship”

  1. Hi Lisa,

    Thank you for sharing a piece of your life here — I’m sorry to hear that your boyfriend is experiencing so many emotional issues, such as depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. That’s so difficult for both of you, and for your relationship.

    I want you to remember that breaking up with someone is NOT being heartless person. You cannot stay with your boyfriend out of guilt, a sense of responsibility, or a reluctance to hurt his feelings. You have to stay with him because you’re excited about your lives together, you’re fulfilled and happy, you’re yourself when you’re with him, you feel supported and loved, and you feel free to be your best self possible. Your love relationship should fill you up with life and potential and lightness!

    I encourage you to talk to a counselor about your future with this man. I understand that he’s in a very sad and painful place in his life, and he may need your love and support. But, you may need to balance that with your own needs and plans for the future.

    Sometimes the most difficult thing to do in life is also the most right thing to do.

    I’m not saying that partners or spouses should leave their depressed loved ones. It’s a very complicated, personal, big decision to make — which is why I encourage you to talk to a counselor in person. You don’t want to walk down the same road as your parents, which means you need to take control of your life now.

    Will you call a counselor? Sometimes even just one session is all it takes to help us think clearly and objectively.

    I wish you all the best,
    Laurie

  2. I meant to say that I also think it is too simplistic to say that one should leave a depressed partner if that person is not reaching out, caring, or getting better. I think you have to look at how things usually are in the relationship, whether your partner is making healthy choices and trying, whether you have the strength yourself to hang in there even when your partner isn’t invested, whether the relationship is hurting more than it is helping both parties etc etc

  3. I’d like to thank you for your words of encouragement. The phone has been ringing. My partner contacted me quite a bit during the holiday and the days before and after. Seems he is getting better. When our crisis started this summer I figured things might return to normal around this time. Trusting that he will take care of himself and follow his good conscience (he doesn’t drink, cheat, or lash out), cultivating my life outside the relationship, journaling, and me seeing a therapist have all helped/paid off. I appreciate how my own fears and frustration threaten to complicate matters. If I assume the worst in my partner then I act in a way that is more reactive and less supportive. If I assume the best I am more motivated to see things in a way that is more hopeful and less reactive.

    Keeping a big picture perspective is also helpful. In other words, I may feel my treatment is unfair and some may think it doesn’t make sense to stay in a relationship like this but when I look at the big picture I know it isn’t always or usually like this. That has been very helpful to avoid my own despair, panic, anger, etc. I think a partner needs to patient until he or she decides that they have been patient long enough.

    In response to Lisa. I think this issue falls under the category of knowing when to stay or when to leave. That is a very personal decision and it is no doubt influenced by a variety of factors. A lot of people in their late teens and early twenties are still trying to establish an identity for themselves and that can make it harder to commit to someone else. I also think people need to ask themselves if their presence in the relationship is helping or hurting, or making a difference. Maybe a temporary stop out is needed? It is hard to say. Only you can figure that out but I think it is too simplistic to conclude that one is heartless because they need to leave a relationship for whatever reason just as it is too simplistic to say that one should stand by their partner no matter what. I am not surprised that writing helps. I think journaling and confiding in a trusted, wise, or experienced friend (hopefully more than one) or therapist is also helpful. For whatever its worth I hope that helps somewhat.

  4. hi everyone.

    In a desperate attempt to seek solace from what I’m experiencing right now, I managed to come across this page. I’ve read a few of comments in this page, and like some, it makes me feel so much better that there are others, who are experiencing more or less the same thing as me, whom I can share my story with and yet, not receive biased opinions as opposed to telling my friends.

    I’m 19 years old this year, and my boyfriend’s 26 years old. Yes, our ages are pretty far apart- 7 years in fact. We’ve been together for 3 years now, and way before he met me, he suffered from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from helping an accident victim, but after a year, he coped better. In the first 2 years with me, he rarely suffered any relapses, except for those on the anniversary date itself. but as I recall, they were never as bad as the relapses he’s been experiencing most recently.

    During his period of recovery, his psychiatrist had encouraged him to write a blog about the accident, and other major incidents he had in the past. This helped him greatly. However, recently, a few weeks before the anniversary date, he received a spam email, where in the subject, was the date of the accident, the time and a phrase “3 months on..” Ever since this spam email, he suffered a major relapse, panic attacks in the middle of the night or day and so on..He keeps thinking that his death is near, and every little thing that happens, he’ll link it as a sign of death.and this causes him to have a whole lot of anxiety attacks.. and it’s making him depressed, that he can’t stop worrying and that he really feels his death is coming soon..This has been going on for 3 to 4 months now..

    When he first had all his anxiety attacks, he used to call me, in the middle of the night while i was sleeping, or in the day, because he felt that talking to me could make him feel better. His family weren’t the understanding sort, whereas I could understand his situation much more as my father himself has some psychological disorders to, which i could relate.. However, as time goes on, and he starts to really give up on himself& everyone around him, I believe he’s fallen into depression and has been withdrawing from the rest, staying in his room everytime he’s at home.He doesn’t talk or find for me now too, and it’s really222 frustrating because firstly, I want to help but I can’t and secondly, as much as I hate to say it, my selfish thoughts start popping up and I’m starting to think- why can’t my relationship be normal like the rest of my friends?

    You see, I’m 19years old, and I’m not married. What I’m experiencing now is exactly what my mom experiences when my dad isn’t himself after he gets his fits (he has epilepsy and everytime he gets his epileptic fits, he won’t be himself and may even be aggressive at times) My mom is the sole breadwinner of the family, while my dad is unemployed. It’s really sad to see that my mother has to bear so much responsibility all alone, and I really would hate to become like her. But it seems like if my boyfriend doesn’t get any better, I will end up like her. And since I’m not married, it’s not too late and I can still leave now right? But, no, that would just really make me a heartless person, because I know that he isn’t doing this on purpose and that he can’t help it. It just makes me feel so stuck. He’s seeing a psychiatrist soon, but personally, I’m not keen on it because firstly, he’s still young and he can’t start relying on medicine to get better and secondly, I’m worried that these meds would make him so numb and make him less alert to things around him. Like my dad, he isn’t as fluent as he can be after being on medication all this while, and I don’t want my boyfriend to end up like that. He’s such a smart & witty young man. :(

    Although not many would read this,or perhaps, I don’t receive any reply, I feel so much better typing all this out. I really hope someone could suggest to me what to do, because I really am in a huge dilemma right now- stuck between thinking for myself and thinking for him, whom I love a whole lot.

  5. Thanks for your comment, Pat. I was fascinated that you said you “take up more space in our relationship” — that’s such a self-aware, insightful thing to know about yourself!

    I think it’s great that you wait for him to come to you, without pushing him to talk about depression or his feelings. It takes patience, but it’s probably the most loving thing you can do (after making sure he has resources for overcoming depression, of course).

    I hope your phone rings, that he reaches out and comes back to you…

    All the best,
    Laurie

  6. I find that getting a loved one to open up is risky. As I mentioned before we live apart so I am accustomed to talking on the phone regularly but since this episode started with him 5 months ago we now average phone contact (text usually) about once a week and I am grateful for that. Texting has been a way for us to use humor and to invite involvement without awkward silences or putting a foot in ones mouth. It forces us to be succinct and light in our interactions. I don’t think texting is a good way to get heavy or go deep. I can leave quick little message to just put my support out there and let my partner know that I am thinking about him. Sometimes I get a text back (or a call) and sometimes I don’t. Things have been improving but it seems to go up a bit and then down a bit. I get a sudden initiation for involvement to be followed by a few days of silence. I sometimes fear that this is the way my relationship will be from now on. I know I could reach out more but I am waiting a few more months before I do that. I think partners have to look at their own dynamics in a relationship. I already know that I tend to take up more space in our relationship and that I am rather extroverted. I am quick to express things and sometimes I talk before I think. My partner is more introverted and takes time to express himself. The depression only makes it harder for him. So the best solution is for me to focus on myself and to be available and wait for him to reach out (knowing that it might not happen for a very long time). This seems to work for us. If I keep calling or I try to get him to talk about difficult things it makes the dynamic feel like its more about me and what I need right now. It’s not that my needs are not important its just that now isn’t the time to push. I feel like if I take care of my self and give the space needed he will come around and so far he has in limited ways that tell me his trying. I also think it is important for a couple to see if they can enjoy a moment together without necessarily “talking about” things….especially difficult things. I tried doing that prematurely and he broke down sobbing and couldn’t explain anything to me. I felt frustrated and horrible. So I think good moments, light communication, and self care are in order until one’s partner is strong enough to “come back” so to speak. Sometimes it seems he is back to his old self but then he distances again. We have been together for almost 8 years so I figure I can give this at least a year to recover. I remain hopeful and I am glad that we can still have moments. Somedays I feel negative but I try to be strong and wait for a good situation between us to turn it around again. I have respect for those who are living under the same roof and being witness to the irritabiliy and distance on a regular basis. For me it doesn’t seem so bad if I don’t have to see it all the time. It’s just the phone that doesn’t ring….that is the part I struggle with the most.

  7. Hi Cindy,

    Is your fiance getting help for his depression? If his feelings are affecting his work and relationships, then he needs to seek treatment from a psychologist, doctor, or counselor.

    And, are there any depression support groups in your area? That can be helpful for both you and him. Making in-person connections with other people with depressed partners can help you cope with your fiance’s moods and thought patterns. And, if he joins a support group or meets other men who are depressed, he’ll see that he’s not alone or “wierd.”

    Regarding your relationship with him…I’m not sure you should try to get him to open up. I suggest you talk to a counselor, either as a couple or individually. If you go overboard in encouraging him to open up, he may run in the other direction (closed, uncommunicative, fearful of sharing emotions). So, I’d suggest telling him once that you’re there to talk whenever he wants, and let him come to you when he’s ready.

    Your fiance may want to keep his depression away from you because he might see it as a sign of weakness. It can be difficult for men to ask for help or admit frailty — as you mentioned. It can be especially difficult to for a man to ask a woman he loves for help and support. That said, if he keeps withholding his feelings, it will negatively affect your relationship and marriage.

    Different ways of approaching depression work for different couples — and that’s why an in-person counselor is so helpful. There are dynamics in your relationships and individual personalities that may affect how you “should” cope with his depression. So, I strongly suggest talking to a professional in person.

    I hope this helps a little — and I’m sorry I don’t have any easy answers! I think the trick is finding ways to help him without him feeling needy or weak. That could involve focusing his attention on the fact that it takes strength and courage for people to admit they need help.

    I wish you all the best, and hope you and he find the help you need.

    Laurie

  8. Hi Laurie,

    I am living with a depressed man, my fiance. He has communication issues when he is depressed, and he says he hates telling me bad news. For example, last week there was a death in the family and he did not tell me until he was so depressed he couldn’t work for a few days. It almost jeopardised his livelihood.

    I love my fiance very much and want him to have the quality of life that I enjoy. I feel he wants to keep his depression away from me.

    How do I show him that I support him and love him and will help him through difficult times? I can’t get him to open up. Am I right in thinking it might be just male ego and he doesn’t want to let people know that he needs help?

  9. Dear Laurie,

    Thanks for the advice. I am trying to set down the burden, but can’t help but feel enormous concern. I will do as you say, and leave him alone, as I don’t think I’m helping him by trying to force contact.

    I am so very impressed at how many people on this site are living with a partner with depression and doing it with such grace. It must be incredibly difficult to be married to / or living with someone who is depressed. I have only had a short experience with it and think depression is a silent robber of life. It is very hard to stand by and watch someone suffer, but I’m sure it’s even worse when you’re you’re the one with it.

    I send everyone my best wishes.

    Elle

  10. Hi Emma,

    That’s great that your boyfriend is seeing a psychologist — and that you’re setting different types of goals! You’re right: there are alot of challenges ahead…but sometimes the hardest part is getting help for depression. Once the ball is in motion (counseling, antidepressants, support groups, reading books about depression, etc) — then things often fall into place.

    I encourage you to talk to a counselor. You may just need one little “tune up” session, just to get some objective feedback on your boyfriend’s depression and how you’re managing it. And, the counselor might help you learn how to take care of yourself and set boundaries — very important when you’re living with someone with depression.

    Stay in touch — you’re always welcome to comment or ask questions…

    Laurie

  11. Hi Elle,

    I’m afraid I don’t have great news for you! I don’t think there’s much you can do to help your ex-boyfriend, who is depressed. It’s SO difficult to help our loved ones even when we’re living in the same home or married…but helping someone who doesn’t respond to letters or phone calls is very difficult.

    That said, there are a few things you can do. For instance, you could make sure he’s aware of the depression support groups or therapists in his area. And, you could send him a book on coping with depression — perhaps one written from a man’s point of view. In that book, you could stick a short note saying you’d be happy to support him in getting healthy again.

    Regarding your feelings of angst, pain, sadness…that’s totally understandable, after being with him and coming out of a past relationship. I suggest that you give yourself a few months reprieve to heal. Set down this burden of helping him. Focus on healing from your past relationship, and on finding your own closure with this relationship.

    I hope this helps a little, and welcome your further thoughts! Another thing to consider is seeing a counselor for a session or two, to make sure you’re dealing with everything properly. It can’t hurt…

    Best wishes,
    Laurie

  12. Hi Vicki,

    I have to admit that your comment about your partner’s not helping around the house made me smile! Is it depression on his part, or is it just being a man? :-) Seriously, many husbands or partners take housekeeping less seriously than women. My husband will do housework if I point it out — but he doesn’t seem to see that the things that need to be cleaned on his own.

    But, doing what your partner asks (eg, a load of laundry) is part of love and respect….and even depressed people need to take care of certain responsibilities!

    In my other article about depression, I discuss enabling and not taking over all the responsibilities at home. Here’s the link to that article:

    When Your Partner is Depressed

    Also, a friend of mine was depressed for three years — and she said it took over a year to “claw her way out.” I don’t mean to be negative, but just want to encourage you to remember that it takes T I M E … so much time…to heal. Especially if antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy are involved — it’s a huge change for body and mind!

    My, I’ve gone on too long…Elle and Emma, I’ve read your comments and will respond tomorrow. Hang in there!

    Laurie

  13. Hi, I haven’t read all of the posted comments, but I have gotten as far as Laurie encouraging readers to comment… so hear I go.

    My bf and I have been together for many years and live together. He suffers from depression and OCD. For the first few years of our relationship, he kept alot of his mental health issues to himself(i think b/c he didn’t want to “bother” me). In addition he also has physical ailments that effect his mental health. Although he has been able to get by without effectively addressing these issues, they have only gotten progressively worse. furthermore, the job market and economy has triggered a new peak in his depression.

    About a month ago, we had a small “intervention.” I don’t know why this day was different than any other days, but I couldn’t take it anymore, life felt like i was riding his rollercoaster. He was often sitting stone faced infront of the TV and growing more distant. That was a very hard week for me, but it was necessary and from that day on things have changed.

    My bf acknowledges that he is sick. Although he has been on medication for while he hadn’t followed it up with therapy. The first thing he did after our “intervention,” was meet with a psychologist. He has gone every week since.

    We have started to make short term goals and long term goals for ourselves, including career goals, financial planning, and the obvious marriage. However, we have alot of challenges ahead.

    This blog has been very insighful for me. I feel very alone in all of this, however after reading comments i see that i’m not. So thank you for that. I am considering going to therapy myself, i figure it can’t hurt. I want to be more understanding and less judgmental. Moreover, i want to make things better for both of us.

    Thank you.

  14. Hi All,

    I met a wonderful man 7 months ago, and we fell head over heels in a very short period of time. It wasn’t long before I discovered he suffers from anxiety and depression. His anxiety grew more intense every day he had to go to work. He would dread each morning coming and over the weekends,he would spend his time counting the weekend down.. only one more day and then I have to go back to work.. only 12 hours etc. His anxiety reached a fever pitch not long after we met and he decided to leave his job. He’s got healthy savings and could support himself for a year or more, without needing to work. That was in May and is still unemployed. He wants to break into the movie industry, but it’s incredibly difficult and he’s not even sure what he’d like to do on set. So he is lost at the moment and sensitive to people who keep asking him whether he has a job or not.

    He was on medication, but shortly came off it after he left work, as he then went into a period of euphoria after giving up his job. He was also in counseling, but left that as well, as he didn’t like his therapist and felt he wasn’t helping him.

    I have suffered periods of depression, but mostly in my teens, so I do understand what it’s like to be in a really dark place, but it’s an old memory rather than a recent feeling. So I have a level of empathy, but I also have my own needs and insecurities, which seemed to surface really quickly in this relationship. It resulted in us fighting a lot. He would shut down and retreat, and wouldn’t speak to me for days, I would be desperately trying to make contact and get him to talk to me so we could discuss what had happened. This avoidant behaviour was the most frustrating and difficult aspect for me to handle. Being shut out is worrying and frustrating and it made me angry. Unfortunately, he would retreat and go silent, if he was in the wrong, and the same would be true if I was in the wrong. So there was a lot of silence in this relationship.

    Also he wouldn’t like calling on the phone. He was happy to text but not to talk. This would also lead to more arguments as written messages would be misconstrued. It was really quite exhausting.

    After another silly spat two weeks ago, he cancelled the entire night’s plans, and told me not to call him. I was so upset and angry that yet another evening had resulted in him going into silent retreat. The following day, we ended up having another fight (via text!) and it resulted in us breaking up. I ultimately ended it. I was just upset and angry at having my needs, i.e. meeting up to talk were ignored.

    That was two weeks ago. There has been no contact from him, other than to respond in anger to a text I sent him. I have tried calling him, but he won’t answer the phone.

    My friends and family, said it was a lucky escape, but I don’t feel lucky at all. I feel nothing but sadness and guilt. I am completely in love with this man, and he has a very poor social network and he doesn’t speak to his family (for the past 4 years). So he is very much alone. He has said he’s so worried about his depression, that he doesn’t know where it’s going to end and that terrifies me. Now that I am his ‘ex’, I don’t know how to help him – I didn’t know how to help him when I was his girlfriend either. I have written long letters to him, but he hasn’t responded to any of them. And I am very worried.

    Part of my need to reconnect with him, is for my own selfish needs if I’m honest. I have come out of a relationship, I didn’t want to come out of, and I did it in anger. But I also just feel his pain and I know how lonely he is. Coupled to that he drinks heavily and it just makes him worse.

    I’m so grateful that this site is here and I just wanted to ask some advice on how to handle this situation. I want him to know that I am here for him, and that he isn’t alone, but now that I have hurt him and am his ‘ex’ I know I’m probably the last person he’d lean on. The only thing I have thought of, is keeping my Instant Messenger open and showing him I’m online (he blocked me for a few days, but has now unblocked me so I can see when he’s online). I thought at least if he could see i was there, but not contacting him, I could give him space, but at the same time let him know I’m around.

    I am turning myself inside out and feel like everything I do is wrong. So if anyone has any advice on how I could handle this situation, I would be eternally grateful.

    Thanks

    Elle

  15. Hi All

    My partner is coping at the moment, is still on the meds and is going back to his doctor for more councelling. He went back to work in October but has been signed off again as he doesn’t feel right. I think I’m coping pretty well, and he seems to be more like he used to be, but is still getting his down days. All I am finding hard at the moment is that as we live together, he seems to do nothing around the house to help me out. This sounds selfish, but when I reminded him that life continues around him he had a go at me… Is it just me feeling put out? I ask him to do some housework during the day (bear in mind I am working Monday-Friday 9-5) and I get home at 6pm to find he’s done nothing… When I ask him about this he then accuses me of not being supportive!
    Anyone else get this?

    Vix x

  16. This was helpful to read about your partner’s depression. My wife has been depressed for about 3 years now, and some days are better than others. It takes a long time to overcome depression for some people even if you do have the right help. Good to know there’s articles like this out there, thank you.

  17. Hi Laurie, thanks for your reply. Yes I do think it’s best that I put off making any major decisions until he goes to the counsellor as I can see that he really isn’t himself at the moment. He says he is definitely going to go but seems to be dragging his heels a bit about making the appointment and this is causing me a lot of frustration. I’m really trying to be patient but it’s so hard to see him like this, his thought processes are quite irrational and can be extremely negative but he just can’t see this at the moment.

    Also he seems to be only able to do one thing at a time and can’t even make a phone call until that one thing gets done. I know depression can really affect concentration and this is very obvious with him. I don’t want to be nagging him but his memory has really been affected as well and he’s actually asked me to remind him about things including the counseling appointment. I just think the sooner someone objective like a counsellor can challenge his way of thinking the better he may get.

    I wish he would read a book about depression with me but he still won’t acknowledge that he has it. It’s really strange, his way of talking about it is to talk about other people with depression and then he’ll throw something about himself into the conversation. I just let him talk and listen to him now when he wants to because previously when I mentioned that I thought he had depression he got extremely defensive. It’s a really tricky situation but my own counselor has helped me a lot in dealing with this. I’m really trying to educate myself about it though so that I can be more understanding and supportive. I’ve read a lot of books and online sites about the subject and this website and others have been really useful to see that I’m not alone in the situation. It’s so valuable to have this resource when friends and family just don’t understand. I don’t think people really can unless they’ve been closely touched by it themselves, I suppose that can be said about of lot of things. Until this happened I really didn’t have a clue about the effects of depression on relationships, I think this is particularly true when the depressed partner/spouse is in denial about the illness. I think the sooner more people become aware of the signs and symptoms the better, it could prevent a lot of anguish and heartache.

    Best wishes,
    Paula

  18. Hi Paula,

    What a shock, that your partner suddenly had his change of heart about your relationship! So sorry — that must be confusing and heartbreaking. Depression affects so many people, not just the person who is depressed.

    I’m glad you’re in counseling and going to a support group.

    Maybe you could put off making a decision about moving out until he’s had a few sessions with his counselor? I totally understand about wanting to give him space — and you need to distance yourself from becoming too needed, too overwhelmed with his depression and life.

    What a tough situation — I can see how he’d be reluctant to take antidepressants or seek therapy for depression, because of his family’s experience. It might be helpful to read books about depression together, the two of you, and learn that it’s not a reflection of who you are as a man or woman. It’s often a chemical imbalance — something you have no control over, like any illness.

    The more both of you learn about the causes and treatments of depression, the less stigma it’ll have. So, I suggest learning together, and seeing a counselor together a few times.

    I hope this helps a little, and I welcome you back to share updates! I hope your partner’s sessions with the counselor go well…..and I encourage you to learn about depression with him.

    Best wishes,
    Laurie

  19. Hi,

    I just found this site today and am in a very similar situation to Vicki & Julie. Wondering how things are going now for you both? Hope things have improved. I’ve been living with my partner for over 5 years, we had a very trusting and loving relationship until a few months ago (very suddenly) he said he thought we should split up. At the time he became extremely distraught, said he felt suicidal, that he loved me more than anyone but that he was making my life a misery (not true at all), that all relationships end up bad anyway and he felt so guilty for dragging me down with him. I now know that he was going through some kind of nervous breakdown but at the time I didn’t know what was going on. I’ve also learnt since that the same thing happened with him in his late teens ever before we met. He had a very troubled childhood and has no contact with either parent so it’s been very hard for me to try and get any extra support for him. I told his sister how worried I was but I think she’s so caught up in her own problems that she’s not really capable of acknowledging what’s going on with my partner. Also, I only found out since this happened that a number of his immediate family members have been diagnosed with depression down through the years.

    In spite of (or perhaps because of) all this he’s been extremely reluctant to admit that he has depression. This has made the situation so much worse but I don’t blame him for it either although it caused me to take things very personally. I’ve been going to a counsellor and support group and this has really helped me to get things clear in my own head. My family and friends have no understanding of depression, it seems to be a real stigma where I’m from, as a result of this I’ve felt very isolated, you’re very lucky to have someone around you who understands.

    My partner never received any outside help or treatment the last time this happened. I can see now that he’s probably been struggling with depression for a long time but because he does shift work and this interferes with his sleeping habits I was putting a lot of his behaviour down to lack of sleep. I think he felt ashamed or something to talk to me about what he’d been through before.

    I’ve really been stuggling to get my head around everything but I love him and want him to feel better. I suggested moving out to give him space but this seemed to really panic him and he begged me not to saying he knows he would feel much worse if I wasn’t around. On the one hand I wonder if I’m doing the right thing by staying but on the other hand he seems to need and be comforted by my support and just being here. He’s going to start going to a counsellor this week, so far he’s been reluctant to see a GP, I think it’s because he’s seen family members on & off medication and it seems to have affected him negatively.

    I’m so glad to have found this website and welcome any advice.

    Thanks,
    Paula

  20. Super-Duper site! I am loving it!! Will come back again – signing up for your RSS feed also.

    Thanks.

  21. Trying to figure out how to be supportive when it seems your partner doesn’t even want to interact with you is probably the most difficult part of this situation. When my partner said he felt distant from me and almost split up with me it tapped into one of my worst fears. I’ve been coping by looking at the big picture and assuming this will pass. I know I could easily make it worse by being defensive, rejecting, or threatening to leave. The problem is further complicated by the fact that nobody can really tell a couple how much time they should be interacting with one another. It is different for everyone. But I know that this isn’t our norm. We used to talk every night and now it is once a week. I am trying very hard to give space and let him be the one to initiate contact only because in the past I tended to be the partner that wanted to cling more or demand more. So depression aside I think each couple has to look at their own dynamics. Interestingly enough I found that after we took a time out for 2 weeks things were really good for a while and then he started to sink again. I am finding that letting him sort through his stuff while I learn how to take care of myself and enjoy my solitude is helping. Of course I get insecure from time and time and say “this is NOT a relationship” and “I don’t deserve this” but I try to steer away from such thinking because relationships and people change over time so again I look at the big picture and I know this isn’t the norm and as long as that is the case I assume we will be back on track. I am just grateful to see him trying.

  22. Hi Amanda,

    What a tough situation, especially since you’re in a long distance relationship. It’s great that you’re learning about depression and relationships — the more information you have, the better equipped you’ll be!

    I have a few suggestions. One is to ask your boyfriend the exact question you’ve asked here: how can you be supportive of him and leave him alone at the same time? He might be able to help you help him. Be specific: should you wait for him to contact you? Should you text him three times a day? Should you contact him when you feel like it?

    Also, you could ask your boyfriend what his therapist thinks about him being in a relationship right now. I don’t know what he needs; maybe he himself doesn’t know what he needs. His therapist may not have any answers, but it might be worth exploring.

    Finally, I suggest talking to a counselor who specializes in depression, or find a support group for people whose loved ones are depressed. You’ll learn more than you think from people who are in that particular battlefield!

    I hope this helps a little — and I welcome you back anytime! I’d love to hear how things are going.

    Take care,
    Laurie

  23. Hi All,

    I’v been reading your posts and find the information useful, but I’m a bit more detail oriented and have a concern/question. My boyfriend told me a week ago he’s been seeing a therapist and has been diagnosed with depression; when I asked what’s being done, he stated therapy and meds (I didn’t want to get too questioning about the specifics). Either way, we have only been together about 2 months, but I have known him for over 15 years, and we reconnected as friends about 3 1/2 years ago. I state all of this because while the relationship is short, he’s not a stranger. Anyway, I don’t know how long he’s been in therapy for the depression, but he said it started when he was in Iraq (to which he’s been back in the states for about 3 months). However, his personality has taken a complete nose dive in the past 3 weeks. He went from being extremely lively and communicative, to very distant and absent…his exact description of how he feels is ‘empty’ ‘hopeless & alone’ and he wishes everybody would leave him alone. Fair enough, as this appears to be very common. However, for me, the problem with this is we are in a long distance relationship to where phone calls and texts are our life-line. I’ve been through enough myself to understand that sometimes people go through periods where they want to be left alone. However, I’m not sure how to be supportive of him and leave him alone at the same time. I understand the long-distance nature of this is complicated in itself and this definately is not making it easier. But as I’ve said, I’ve known him for a long time, and he was there for me during a low part in my life and I want to do the same for him, I’m just not quite sure how, and I find I’m becoming more angry and frustrated with him shutting me out. I don’t know much about depression and am trying to learn as much as I can to understand it, I just thought I would throw this out there for any thoughts or ideas or experiences anybody reading this page might have. Thanks!

  24. Hi Pat,

    Thanks for talking about your experience with your partner’s depression. It’s helpful to know what works and what doesn’t — and it’s important to recognize that what works for one couple won’t work for another. I’m glad you’re talking to a therapist; that might help with things like not taking his behavior personally and working through your own insecurities.

    I imagine that living apart makes a huge difference! That space and time apart can be helpful in coping with a partner’s depression, but again it’s different for all couples.

    I hope you and he get through this second upheaval successfully.

    Best wishes,
    Laurie

  25. I have a depressed partner. In our almost 8 years together this is our second upheaval. When he is not having a crisis our relationship seems almost a thing to envy as we are so close and compatible. But when he has a breakdown it becomes a nightmare for me. Not taking it personal has been the hardest thing for me. I see a lot of things that make me feel left out but I feel I cannot talk about that with him. I can only appreciate the parts I get. I have to be careful with what I bring up. Any touchy question or observation seems to lead to shame, defensiveness, or a crying jag. Sometimes I feel like I almost have to be perfect or pretend things don’t bother me. I have to work out my insecurities on my own and with my therapist because he isn’t in the strongest frame of mind to reassure me or tell me what is going on. I have journaled pages and pages worth of material to keep my thoughts positive.

    Giving space and not reacting to the distance has been difficult but very necessary right now. I keep looking at the big picture. We’ve beat this before and I feel it’s worth seeing it through. Forcing ones way into a depressed partner’s world has been suggested but I find that in my situation the space is better particularly since I don’t want to get my own insecurities and hurt mixed up in all of his stuff. Furthermore a seperate identity for him is a critical theme that has remerged albeit with less intensity this time. Living apart makes it easier.

  26. John,

    I’m sorry for this — it sounds very frightening for both your wife and you. And her mum!

    I hope you and your consultant can figure out the best way to make sure your wife takes the amount of medication that she needs. It sounds like your wife wants to live and overcome her depression, though. It’s a good sign that she called her mom.

    Hang in there…I’m sure things will get better, especially if you can get the consultant’s advice.

    Best wishes,
    Laurie

  27. an update from me…. 7 weeks ago my wifes medication was changed because the old one had bassically stopped working and my wife had been getting suicidel thoughts, at 1st things seemed to be going in the right direction, however last wednesday i got the phone call from hell from my brother in law, saying that a ambulace was on its way to my house because my wife had taken an overdose, i had been holding her medication to try prevent this but unknown to me she had got a new lot from pharmacy[ a months supply] and she`d taken the lot, yhen panic`d and rang her mum. as it turned out she could have taken any number of these tablets and would`nt killed her. they have again changed her medication and are waiting to see consultant about the next step, im really scared off loosing her, doing my best to keep what happened from the kids, but think the eldest knows what happened.ive asked the gp if her medication can be made out to me, but this is not possible

  28. Thank you so much for the thoughtful and supportive note Laurie! All the best! Warmest wishes to you, Michelle

  29. Thanks for your update, Michelle…it sounds like things are moving forward for you, which is great. You WILL find what works to help with your husband’s depression. It just takes time, dedication, and faith.

    Good luck, and I hope it all works out sooner rather than later!

    Laurie

  30. Checked back in for a sec. Was in such a real rush earlier. All the best to everyone. Appreciate everyones help in the past. Counseling for the partner/spouse of a depressed person really does help. Sending warm thoughts, Michelle