Updated: Mar 18
Being in a relationship with someone who deals with mental illnesses, especially if you don't, can be a really difficult road to navigate. I know this area well so I feel like I have a lot of solid advice to share because of it.
My most influential relationship was with someone who culturally didn't have a lot of experience in expressing emotions or feelings. Because of that, the ability to understand and comprehend someone else's was almost impossible for him.
When I first opened up about depression and anxiety and the battles I have faced because of them, his response expressed that he genuinely knew nothing about them as he has never truly been around anyone that dealt with either one, that he knew of.
This lack of both emotional expression and emotional comprehension was an area that caused a lot of hardships for us. Plainly put, he under-communicated from an emotional standpoint and I over-communicated.
Now, I'm not saying you need to be in a relationship with someone who has experience in the dealings of mental illnesses, but your communication styles have to mesh well or else it will be a constant battle unless worked on diligently.
Beyond being able to communicate openly with one another, there are other important ways to help your partner and help your relationship succeed. Here are 7 ways to help a partner with depression.
1 // Educate Yourself.
This was the biggest issue we faced. A lack of wanting to learn about depression and what it was truly like. What were the signs, what caused depression, how one reacts or acts when depressed, etc. You have to be open and willing to learn about it because at the end of the day, depression is part of your relationship whether you like it or not. It's almost like a third entity. If you aren't aware of it and understanding of it, then it has the ability to get in between you and your person.
Some great resources to learn more about depression:
A. Your partner would be a great first resource B. Youtube; lots of people openly document their experiences and their struggles C. These posts: D. Websites such as:
Some common signs:
lack of motivation
changes in appetite
feelings of hopelessness
outbursts of anger
There are more, but these are some common ones.
2 // Be a Safe and Supportive Place
Relationships should be able to thrive through thick and thin and this is no different. Now, it's extremely important to check-in with yourself because being someones support, especially if they are going through depression, can be exhausting, tiring, frustrating, and discouraging, don't get lost in someone else's battles!
With that being said, have your boundaries, but be there for your partner. Make sure they know they can always talk to you and rely on you, but make sure your partner knows to ask first. Dumping emotions on you won't help either one of you.
3 // Be Mindful of How Things are Internalized
When someone is dealing with depression, everything is negative. You could say "hey you look amazing today" and all we would hear is "you look amazing today but not any other day". Lame, I know.
It's important to be mindful that everything goes through a negativity filter. Make sure tone of voice and choice of words are appropriate. I understand at times it may feel like you're walking on eggshells, but you must know this is temporary and you 100% should express that! Come up with your own ways of having "safe words" or cues to let the other know "today is NOT the day!"
4 // Encourage Seeking Help
Encourage your partner to see a therapist (online or in person) and/or to visit their doctor to maybe see a psychiatrist as well. There is no need to suffer when help is available.
In addition, you too can seek therapy for helping you navigate depression while maintaining your own peace. I want to repeat this again. It is so important for you to maintain boundaries and check-in with yourself. You can not and should not be your partners crutch or saving grace. You are not their cure. Please put yourself first.
Some great online therapy sites include:
5 // Journal Together
If something is bothering your partner and you are unable to navigate it, use it as a journal prompt so both of you can write down what you're feeling, what your needs are, and how they can be met. Then you can read each others' responses. I like this method because sometimes we are able to process emotions better when it is written out than speaking it out loud.
Also, sometimes we feel rushed while communicating and aren't able to clearly convey how we feel. This eliminates that.
6 // Actions Over Words
When someone is depressed, they feel like a burden, they feel unworthy, and they know they are acting in a way that isn't true to their being and it's embarrassing at times.
It's important to actively show that you love them and show that you are there for them versus just verbally expressing it. The act of love is far greater than any words. Most of the time it just feels like we're being told what we want to hear.
On the flip side, if it is too much for you, you need to let them know and stop avoiding conflict. This is where going to therapy together can be super beneficial if you need an exit strategy.
7 // Stay on the Lookout for Suicidal Behaviors
Unfortunately this is part of the territory at times. Knowing the signs can save a life and it's important to know them if you are the closest person to them.
changes in behavior
withdrawing from those they love
talking about "endings" or death
more reckless behavior
decrease in mood
more irritable or angry
disinterest in the future
giving items aways
talking about how they feel worthless or like a burden to others
indirectly speaking on suicide
If you sense someone is showing signs, you too can call a suicide prevention hotline and seek help for a loved one. They can help guide you and give you information to assist.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255
Being with a partner who deals with depression is not easy, I've seen it firsthand, but please know it is temporary and although it may be difficult for you, please know it is so much worse for your partner.
In addition, you have free will in life. If you feel like you are incapable of being a supportive partner, please know that it is OK and to gently and properly have that difficult conversation. Be sure to make sure your partner's nearest and dearest are informed of your decision so they can step in and act as a buffer and safety net to prevent any rash decisions.
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