How to deal with depression in a relationship?

When your partner and you are both depressed it can make things feel harder than usual. This is usually because depression as we know is a mental illness experienced differently by each individual. Even though there are a set of symptoms that need to be visible in order to have a diagnosis, it still manifests itself differently from person-to-person. 

In this article we will be understanding the following things, what to do when both you and your partner are depressed. How to deal with depression in a relationship? And also what are the key points to remember and probably work on or avoid. 

  • How to deal with depression in a relationship? 
  • What can we do to avoid enabling each other’s illness? 
  • Points to remember

How to deal with depression in a relationship?

When both you and your partner are depressed, it requires more attention and care. It’s important to be conscious and less ignorant, here are a few points on how to deal with depression : 

  • Balance between listening and talking
  • Seek therapy 
  • Have a support system externally
  • Keep your boundaries clear

Balance between listening and talking

The one thing you should keep in mind is that depression is felt and experienced differently by each one. There can also be different forms of depression depending on their duration especially. Your partner might have been diagnosed with chronic, clinical depression. Whereas your onset of depression might have been triggered by a recent event. 

If this is the case, or vice versa, forms of expression can differ. Someone who has been dealing with depression for a long time now, might have certain set ways of doing things and also of dealing with things. This can also vary depending on whether they’ve been seeking help or not. 

Someone who has been seeking help regularly would have probably developed healthy ways of communication and also dealing with triggers or difficult situations. However for someone who hasn’t been to therapy regularly, this can be difficult and they might act out or completely shut themselves off. 

Depression sometimes can be accompanied by psychosis as well. This would then require the focus of a psychiatrist as well. Thus it becomes important to remember these things and always work towards making it a safe environment for each other. 

A safe environment would include listening as much as you share and express. It is important to communicate to your partner effectively, however at the same time it’s important to listen to them as well. Keep an open mind because they might be experiencing the illness in a completely different way. 

Seek therapy

It would be necessary for you and your partner to seek therapy. This can either be individual therapy or couples therapy. 

If you or your partner haven’t ever been to therapy or thought of the same, then it’s best to begin with individual therapy first, and then if you feel like your relationship also needs a mediator or some kind of introspection and help, then it would be best to go in for couples therapy as well. 

A very important point to remember in this section is that, while medication is important when it comes to severe forms of depression, it needs to be balanced with counselling. One cannot just rely on medication to help them cope with depression, especially not in the case of chronic depression. 

The reason being that while medication deals with the symptoms, it can’t change the way you feel or think, it won’t be able to help you moderate your emotions, and it definitely cannot promote insight in a client. That’s why it’s necessary to have an equal balance of therapy and medication.

Have a support system externally 

Your partner is an integral part of your support system, there is no doubt about that. When we speak to a client about support systems they often mention their partners. While it’s important to have the support of your partner to help you through this journey, it can be dangerous to have them as the only support system. 

This is particularly dangerous when your partner also has a problem with depression. In relationships there’s always a risk of becoming codependent. Naturally when we rely on only one person to fulfill all our needs, it gets to a point where we want them even when we don’t need them. This can soon turn into a toxic relationship affecting both the people involved. 

In a case where both partners have depression, this would mean that you are expecting a lot of sacrifice from your partner. There has to be a line you don’t cross because you might be overloading your partner with your own emotions and needs. That’s why it’s important to have a support system on the outside such as friends and family. 

Keep your boundaries clear 

We often expect our partners to be there for us no matter what, we might even expect them to drop everything for us  when we need them. While all of this has been highly romanticised by the media, we need to give it thought. At the end of the day your partner is an individual, and their own person, and the same applies to you. 

You have a life of your own, a different set of friends and different likes and dislikes. You also probably have certain priorities that are different from your partner. Would this mean that you aren’t giving your partner importance? Of Course not. Boundaries need to be maintained and also appreciated. 

Especially when the both of you have depression, you might each require different things to deal with it. The space you each require can be different. If you need to speak and express but your partner prefers to take some time off to be by themselves, then this is a boundary that needs to be expressed. 

At the end of the day you are living with someone who needs your support, but in a way which will help them. If you keep trying to support them in a way they don’t like, then this is counterproductive and doesn’t really help anyone. 

What can we do to avoid enabling each other’s illness? 

While being in depression and having a partner who is also going through the same, you both might become enablers. In this case even if you feel better on a particular day, but your partner is having a tough day, this might result in you feeling weighed down. 

This usually happens when there aren’t any boundaries in the relationship. Your feelings are pouring out and affecting the other person as well. It can also become a very toxic and vicious cycle if you don’t keep a close eye on it. 

This is mostly why couples therapy is recommended for two people going through depression at the same time. Even if there aren’t any visible problems, therapy can help in setting boundaries, and also communicating effectively without crossing those boundaries. 

It can be tough to hold yourself back from expressing how you’re feeling to your partner. Especially if you’re having a particularly rough day and your partner is having a better one. But this is where external support systems come into place, this doesn’t just have to be people, it can also be a hobby you like to do , that helps you keep your mind occupied. It can be a place you go to , to feel better. 

You can always come back feeling a little refreshed and light, and at the end of the day probably share how your day has been with each other. It’s important to remember that having boundaries doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be sharing your difficulties and battles with one another, it merely means that you need to have a line. This line exists so that you don’t overburden your partner, and turn the relationship into a codependent one.  This could be detrimental to the mental health of both you and your partner as well. 

Conclusion

When your partner and you are both depressed, it’s important to have good communication and also a good set of boundaries. When this doesn’t happen it can prove to affect each of your conditions and also the relationship. Try to have your own support system, keep your boundaries clear and communicate about these boundaries, don’t assume that your partner knows what they are. 

If you have any questions or queries please drop them in the comment section below. 

References

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.mindbodygreen.com/articles/best-practices-when-both-people-suffer-from-depression-in-the-relationship

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