One of the most helpless feelings in the world can involve witnessing your partner struggle with depression. For starters, you may vacillate between guilt (Did I cause this? Why can’t I do more to help?) and frustration (Why won’t they let me be more help?). It’s a scenario that requires patience, compassion, knowledge, and support.
The first step is to identify any troubling changes in your partner’s mood, communication style, and sleeping habits. Also, are they self-medicating? You can literally be a life-saver by paying close attention and pointing them in the direction of professional help. From there, you can take powerful steps to assist in their recovery.
Depression is very common but equally misunderstood. Make it your mission to know what is happening and why. Learn all about the symptoms, treatment options, and, crucially, the potential signs of suicidal ideation. Such a commitment will:
- Go a long way in helping your partner
- Make you feel better about your ability to support them
- Demonstrate that you are here to help in any way you can
- Demystify both the disorder and the treatment
2. Don’t Take Depression as a Personal Attack
There will be times when it is tempting to feel neglected, blamed, and abandoned. You’ll wonder where your partner went. They don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but it will happen. A giant step toward mitigating this conflict involves healthy communication. Talk clearly and directly to your partner. Reassure them that you are here to help and for the long haul. But also set some boundaries as to what you need during this journey. Working with a couples therapist is a proven path toward resolving an issue like this.
3. Work As a Couple
You’re already doing your best to support your partner, but much more progress will be made if you collaborate. Your partner’s treatment will become more doable — and fun — if you use teamwork to make it happen. For example:
- Help them stay on track with medication and therapy appointments
- Go to therapy with them when and if needed
- Cook and eat healthy meals together
- Get active and exercise together
- Practice stress management as a team to make your home a healing environment
- Create a gratitude practice together
- Make fun plans as a couple at least once a week.
4. Hone Your Listening Skills
Your patience will be tested. Being more comfortable in the role of the listener is an antidote to frustration. Among other things, healthy listening means:
- Checking your body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions
- Not interrupting
- Remaining curious about what your partner thinks and feels
These are tools and skills that will serve you well in all parts of your life.
5. Set and Meet Small Goals
Depression is almost always treatable, but that does not mean it will be a smooth, quick process. Work together to break things up into smaller tasks and, hence, smaller goals. Celebrate whenever a goal — regardless of size — is attained. One day, this could mean your partner attended and enjoyed a gathering. The next day, the goal could be simply getting out of bed. They are all part of the healing experience.
Emphasize the Importance of Treatment
All of the above advice is indispensable in a scenario that can feel nightmarish at times. But be careful you don’t slip into a state of mind in which you think you can “fix” your partner. If you’re not sure where and how you fit in, I urge you to reach out for a free consultation. Let’s discuss your situation and how I can help.