What Every Twenty-Something Should Know about Depression and Relationships
I’ve written previously about depression in my Thriving with Depression post and today, I’m dishing some serious dirt on depression and relationships. Take a minute to do this for me: I want you to open up Google and type in “depression and relationships.” What do you see? A bunch of negative posts about how difficult it is dating someone with depression. At first, I was infuriated by some of these posts, especially this one. But then I realized not everyone is capable of dating someone who battles with depression.
Being in a relationship with someone who has depression is definitely not easy. It takes someone who can see past the dark days, who truly cares and loves an individual completely for who they are. I have a confession: before Justin, I truly thought that my depression made me unlovable. Even when I was on medication, I never really had control over my depression (let alone my anxiety). While I’ve gotten better at figuring out when I’m going into a depressive episode, it’s still difficult for me to pinpoint exactly when and how bad it will be. I’m so lucky to have Justin by my side in the dark days, but we didn’t just magically get to this place. Here are some key tips to keep in mind when dating someone with depression:
Open Communication is Key
As I’ve said before, talking about my depression is not easy for me, especially with Justin. Past relationships have made me feel insecure about my feelings when I’m feeling depressed so I find myself holding back from really telling him how I feel sometimes. But without an open line of communication, there’s no way your relationship can thrive. Open communication should start the moment you start getting serious about your relationship. I can’t remember exactly when Justin and I first started discussing my depression and anxiety. But when I knew we were moving towards a serious relationship, I knew that it wasn’t something I could keep hidden. You should never be afraid to tell your significant other about mental illness. In order for the relationship to be healthy, there needs to be a good deal of conversation happening. I know, it’s scary to initially tell someone about depression, especially in a dating situation. But if they’re worth keeping, they’ll be able to see past it. Communication also isn’t a one way street. Justin knows that he can ask me anything he wants about my depression at any point. I’ve even told him that it’s okay to tell me when I’m pulling away because of depression. It is my belief that our open lines of communication are what gets us through those times when the melancholy sets in.
Patience is a Virtue… and So is Support
We’ve all heard the saying “Love is patient, love is kind” etc. Loving someone with depression requires a lot of patience. There may be times when your significant other doesn’t feel like going out for dinner or even taking a shower for that matter. Be patient. I have to take a minute to brag about how great Justin is at this. I think he’s starting to be able to tell when I’m retreating into myself because of depression. I have a tendency of getting really, really lazy and I don’t have much energy. He does little things like take me out to dinner and a movie that make me want to shower and put effort into my appearance and go out. I may pout at the suggestion, and complain about showering and getting ready, but he’s patient with me. Being supportive also goes hand in hand with the patience thing. Your partner needs your support (honestly, this goes for any relationship) when depression flares up. Society does enough minimizing, we don’t need it from the person we’re dating to. Validate your significant other’s feelings and let them know that how they’re feeling is okay! Reinforce your feelings for them and make sure they feel your support. It will go a long way, I promise. Also, don’t try to “fix” us. There’s a big difference between being supportive and trying to fix things. I’m sorry but no amount of “You can do it’s!” is going to make me feel less depressed on one of my dark days (but we love that you try).
Don’t Take it Personally
Those antidepressant commercials, you know the ones I’m talking about, the ones that say something like “depression hurts everyone”? Well, they aren’t lying. But it isn’t personal. I know, I know, it’s hard not to take something personal when you’re in a relationship, especially when your significant other is pulling away from you, not being as affectionate, etc. It’s easy to go out and put on an act, pretend for just a short while that we’re not depressed. But please don’t ever think you’re the cause of the depression. You aren’t.
Be Honest with Each Other
This honestly kind of goes with open communication. I am a firm believer that if you can’t be completely honest with your boyfriend or girlfriend about literally everything, you’re with the wrong person. Tell each other how you feel. Depression sucks. It is hard to deal with and it can hurt. It’s going to have many ups and downs and that isn’t for everyone. You may not be able to handle being in a relationship with someone who has depression. That’s okay, really. Just being honest about how you’re feeling, whether you’re the one with depression or the SO, will help alleviate so much stress in your relationship. Also, be honest with yourself. Relationships are only valuable if they are healthy. And a toxic relationships definitely isn’t helpful to someone with depression. It’s okay to call it quits. Just do so with acceptance and understanding and knowing that you gave each other your all.
If you’re here, you probably relate to this post in some way or another I want you to know that we’re here for you! My inbox is always open for questions and comments so don’t ever hesitate to reach out to me with any questions. Dealing with depression in relationships is never easy but it’s doable and with the right support you and your significant other can tackle anything. I’ve got so much more depression advice where this post came from so let me know what you want to see next!