When Your Partner Has Depression
Struggling with depression can drain us of our passion and fire, which can cause a disconnect in our intimate partner relationships. Not only is this a struggle for the partner suffering with depression it can feel completely overwhelming for the partner trying to support them through it.
If you are struggling to figure out how to best support your partner when they are battling against depression, here are several tips you can follow:
1) Listen and Be Present: Giving your partner undivided attention when they are sharing with you is impertinent to them feeling supported. This means cell phone away, TV off, and other responsibilities put on hold. Listen without judgment.
2) Allow Silence and Allow Expression of Emotion: Let it be ok if your partner is not ready or does not want to talk about how they are feeling, do not try to fill the quiet moments. Although you may feel that you want to stop your partner from crying or sharing pain, it may be something they need. Make space for whatever emotion they are feeling.
3) Offer Validation: Your partner may be feeling a multitude of emotions that can cause confusion and disorientation. Validate what they are feeling and let them know that will send by them no matter what.
4) Recognize When Your Partner Needs a Break: Recognize that your partner may need time to be alone. Do not be offended if they turn down your offer to talk or a lunch date. Understanding that and not taking it personally will allow space for your partner to take the time that they need.
5) Be Aware of Your Own Internal Reactions and Needs: You will no doubt have many emotional reactions as you support your partner through their depression, be aware of these things and find outlets for expression of these and other needs through alternative avenues (friends, supportive family, therapy, etc). Understand that your partner may not be able to be as emotionally available to you during this time.
6) Remember that You are Not There to “Fix It”: While we want to shield our partners and protect them from pain, you cannot “fix” your partners depression. All you can do is stand beside them while the learn to heal themselves. Remind yourself that it is ok to not have solutions, your support and love during this time is all you can provide, and that’s OK!
Struggling with what to say to your partner? Here are some statements that can provide validation, support, and encouragement:
“I can see how hard this is for you and I am here in whatever way you need me.”
“I can only imagine how (sad, lonely, helpless) it would be to feel this way.”
“I am so impressed by your ability to push through this.”
“This would feel debilitating to me, I am amazed by how you manage to wake up and face each day"
"You are so strong."
“I will be by your side no matter what you are facing.”
“I love you and nothing you are going through right now will change that.”
“What do you need right now?”
It is incredibly difficult to watch your partner struggle with depression. The disconnection you feel is truly the nature of the beast that is depression. Remember that while you are supporting and caring for your partner, it is also important to care for yourself. You can burn out from exerting all of your love towards the battle your partner is fighting, DO NOT forget to turn some of that love inward and take care of yourself.
If you're in the Sacramento or El Dorado County area, schedule a FREE 15-minute phone consultation HERE so we can chat about how I can support you.
Kimberly Ciardella, Psy.D. is a licensed marriage and family therapist in El Dorado Hills, CA. She specializes in working with couples and individuals experiencing the challenges of infertility and the grief and loss from miscarrying. Dr. Ciardella works with determined individuals to overcome anxiety and low self esteem, along with strengthening relationships and mending old relationship wounds. She works with couples who are facing parenting struggles that are working towards prioritizing their relationship in the midst of the chaos of raising a family. Dr. Ciardella helps clients heal from past traumas in order to lead fulfilling and joy filled lives. Click here to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.