Waking Up a Depressed Partner

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I remember years ago talking with a friend about his recent divorce and remarriage and mentioning the stressful time my wife and I had been having at that time. He bluntly suggested: Well, why don’t you leave? I told him I wouldn’t do that since I thought the problems were as much on my side as hers.

He looked at me quizzically and said: “Really?” – as if that were a curious idea.

Plainly, he had never thought about questioning himself in that way. Leaving had been his answer, even though he was running into some of the same problems in his new marriage that had soured him on his first.

Self-Awareness in a Troubled Relationship

What does it take to get a dissatisfied partner, especially a man, to look at his own contribution to a troubled relationship? It’s hard in the midst of anger and frustration to turn the spotlight on yourself, but I can’t imagine how a relationship can be preserved, especially when depression is involved, if self-awareness doesn’t kick in.

Terry Real, who wrote I Don’t Want to Talk About It about depression in men, has developed a form of therapy with couples that helps partners change their behavior through self-awareness and what he calls relational mindfulness. He details the approach in How Can I Get Through to You?

His description of the state of mind depressed partners can work themselves into captures quite well the way my friend looked at his relationships. I knew what he was going through because I had long shared that same state of mind.

Learning Self-Protection Too Well

It consists of the ingrained set of reactions and defenses learned in childhood to guard your true self against humiliation and emotional abuse. As Real sees it, many men internalize two things as they are growing up.

One is shame and humiliation about expressing their emotional needs. The other is a false sense of empowerment that, as adults, they too will be able to treat people close to them with the same insensitivity that they experienced.

He believes that these two behaviors are flip sides of the same phenomenon. You either exaggerate your worthlessness in shame or exaggerate your power in grandiosity.

In my relationship, I tended to alternate between these two modes. I could feel tremendously entitled to have all my needs met and be completely insensitive to my partner. Or I could disappear in shame, feeling that my needs didn’t count for anything.

In both cases, I was not available as a mature partner but only as a reactive one still caught up in protective survival modes I had learned as a child. They were also the experiences that had contributed to the development of depression.

Change of Consciousness about the Relationship

Most couples who seek therapy tend to have developed a level of tension and anger that leads both to act out with each other. They have locked up their emotional needs and trigger each other’s hostility most of the time.

Their behavior is guided by a state of mind and feeling that Real calls “first consciousness.” It’s the knee-jerk reaction of anger that drives the need to be right, to control, to feel entitled to do what you want, to retaliate and to withdraw.

Depressed partners are usually lost in self-absorption, with little ability to think beyond the immediate pain. Whether they retreat into a sense of hopelessness and shame or lash out in anger, they’ve lost the sense that the relationship can help them. Their partners are shut out or attacked and often lose their bearings as well and become trapped in destructive confrontations.

The goal in Real’s approach is to get the partners to move away from a knee-jerk, linear way of reacting narrowly to the immediate situation.

Relational Mindfulness

What he calls “second consciousness” is an awareness of the relationship as the larger setting and a sensitivity to the needs of your partner as well as your own.

It leads to behavior that has to do with reaching out, trying to repair, being compassionate, cherishing your partner and focusing on what helps you both in the relationship.

Relational mindfulness helps you look to the larger fulfillment that comes through the connection to your partner rather than the immediate need to vent or get even. It means stopping when threatened by the visceral onset of knee-jerk reactions, cooling off and switching to a different awareness.

Real believes that most men, who learn to cover their vulnerability and shame with an insensitive, often aggressive front, need to come face to face with the full consequences of their behavior before they can stop themselves. I think that’s especially true in depression.

Confronting and Loving the Depressed Partner

He believes that most therapy with men is based on the mistaken assumption that you can’t deal with the hard issues until you’ve first established a trusting, emotional bond.

Real believes that you have to confront the worst aspects of the man’s behavior up front and remind him of the value of the relationship as a whole that he is undermining by acting destructively.

It’s important to try to separate the decent guy beneath the hard surface from the blaming and insensitive behavior he’s showing. Real talks about holding the “perpetrator” accountable but also loving him.

If you only show the loving support, you can’t deal with the destructive behavior. If you only hold him accountable and condemn what he’s doing, he’ll feel shamed without any sense of empowerment on how to connect with his better half.

When I was in a prolonged depression and undermining my relationship, it was important to get this dual message from my partner. It’s not an easy one to give or receive since it depends on a combination of love, accountability and enough shock to break through the defensive exterior of blame and withdrawal.

A good therapist might well be in the best position to deliver the message in a way it can be heard. As an independent observer, a therapist can help you see more clearly the pain and distress of your partner while helping you break the focus on immediate triggers and look at what the relationship really means to you.

A depressed partner needs treatment for the illness itself, but it is also important to deal with the effect of depressive behavior within a relationship as soon as possible. As I found, reaching a new awareness with your partner can also be a big step forward in treating the underlying depression.

Have you found a way to move from knee-jerk retaliation to what Real calls relational mindfulness? Have you tried to deal with depression before working on the relationship? Has that worked?

This is a post from the archives.

47 Responses to “Waking Up a Depressed Partner”

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  1. Andrea says:

    I have been married to a depressed man for almost 4 years. He hid it in the beginning. The last 2 years it has really began to show itself, although there have always been signs. As many others, I thought our love, our relationship would make it better, that I could make him happy. Boy was I wrong. Things have only gotten worse. The blaming me for “setting him off”, the drinking and rampage that follows the drinking. Never has he physically hurt me, but the emotional damage is irreparable. He always threatens one of two things: 1 He threatens to leave me, or 2. He says he wants to die/ kill himself. He says he loves me more than life. He has made it clear that without me he would already be dead. But when he is on a tirade, he has said he doesn’t need me. He has never said he doesn’t love me as I told him that all he ever has to say are those words and I will end our marriage. He is possessive, paranoid, and angry much of the time. He says he has dreamt every night for the last month that he shot himself.
    I go from being angry because he will not get professional and medical help to feeling like I should be able to make everything alright to shutting down my heart and emotions, which is where I am now. I have suffered enough pain in my lifetime. I feel trapped. I don’t know what to do. I have to work because his work is sporadic and he doesn’t make a true living when he does work. I do not need anyone to support me with money, but I didn’t sign up to support someone else either. I feel I am on egg shell all the time. I never know what will set him off or when it will happen. Sadly, I find myself relieved when it is directed at someone or something else other than me. There is no happiness, no close connection, no warm fuzzy feelings anymore in our short marriage. I have to make myself have sex with him… and I used to greatly enjoy that part of our relationship. I no longer feel desired, needed or truly loved.
    He will go into a dark mood and then a tirade where I am the target. There are always the morning apologies , usually. Although the apology comes with justification for his cruel words, thus nullifying the apology.
    I am at my wits end. I lived with my first half a and for almost 20 years. The last five of that was horrible. I vowed to never live in an unhealthy relationship again… and here I am. I had counseling when my first marriage ended. Worked through the emotional baggage that came with that. I have tried to get my husband to go get help and he refuses. He says there is no help for him. He also refuses to go to a doctor for any health issues he has. He is convinced he is about to die. Says because of the rough life he has lived, or because a close friend and one family member only lives bed to 55 that he will die at that age if not before. Says he can feel it, whatever that means. He has no desire to live life, no desire for fun, no desire to enjoy life.
    What do I do? I don’t want to fall into the same hole he is in.

    • Percy says:

      Andrea, I feel like you have just described my life… I am 28 and ask myself can I keep doing this for the rest of my life. It’s a very difficult life, for both the depressed partner and the relationship. I don’t really have advice, it’s just nice to share with someone and not feel alone

  2. Crazy says:

    I have read all these blogs, and as everyone else said “this is my life” I am in love with a severally depressed, PTSD, I think ADHD, Narcissistic man. All these post, all these comments but no solutions. I committed to this man for the rest of my life. I am not a quitter. I can see the fair tell, the dream. I can occasionally see him. But no one in any of these blogs has any answers or solutions. I have for almost 7 years that I could love him through it. But tonight I am alone after he told me once more that he doesn’t want to be with me, that he is not “in love with me” and is never going to marry me. Which he has been saying in his drunken depressed state of mind for almost a year now. So I packed up and left. Then he send me a text like it is a major surprise and how awful. I am for leaving him that he loves me. This is the 3 or 4 time this has happened. The last time I was not going back, he can in told me what I need to hear Ask me to marry him the whole nine yards. I fell for it. and here I am again tonight. And every time it is more escalated. He is jealous of my kids and grand kids. They cant come over to our house, I have to take them to my old house which I have to keep because of this kind of crazy. He shows me a few months ago of how he wanted to kill himself by putting his gun in his mouth and pointing it up toward his brains. (He is a recently retired special agent working mostly horrific homicides. He had to retire because he could not do it anymore. But by what he has told me he has always had depression and suicidal thoughts. even as a child. Very low self esteem. Then and now. He comes across loud and firm just to cover up his insecurities. I thought he had shot himself a few weeks ago, I was in the kitchen and heard what I thought was a gun going off. I howled his name repeatedly but he did not answer. I was terrified to go do the hall and into the bedroom, one didn’t want to find him and two he has been threating me when he is drunk, so I didn’t know if it was to get me to walk back there so he could shot me and say that he thought I was a threat or whether he had killed himself. So his son lives next door so I texted him. And of course he wasn’t home and would not come back. His son called his phone and he answered like nothing was wrong but would not answer me screaming his name. he got up came into kitchen raising hell with me asking me if I shot a gun. He had his gun in his hand waving it around. He finally calmed down and went back to bed threating me once more not to walk back there or he would consider it a threat. meaning he would shoot me. So I did break his confidence and text his son that I thought he had killed himself. I should not have. Wished I hadn’t because it didn’t matter. His son still did not come. (A few days before he was drunk and laid a lighter on the stove and it exploded sounded like a gun for the second time.) so the next day he said it was a lighter exploding that I heard. He showed me an exploded lighter. But that night when I came home from work I seen something laying in the floor close to the stove but so much was happening I didn’t pick it up. I think a lighter did explode but before I got home. I believe he did shot his gun out the window. I can not be sure. I was not in the bedroom, I was in the kitchen facing the area where the stove was but was mixing up something and wasn’t looking so I don’t know but the fact it I believe it could have been. Thought it was. He is to the point that I think he could kill me. He blames me for everything and I think, He did not say, but I think he hates me for not being able to make him feel better. This is very real and has been going on to this degree for over a year with me. He is an investigator and he interrogate people and is highly intelligent so there is days that I think he is playing me. We just got back from a Florida fishing trip where as always, he is obnoxiously drunk. Us in a boat on the st john’s river. We are in a small water way where manta rays are and are suppose to drive really slow because the can not get out of the way and the boat motor will kill them he had the boat wide open just being mean to me because I want to go in because it was getting dark and we did not have light s on the boat. So he was going to show me. But I caught him looking over at me to see if I was scared. I didn’t show any emotions at all. If I had let him know I was scared it would have been much worse. He ruined his entire vacation trying to ruin mine. So what is the answer to men and depression. I, tonight am at my house alone, writing this searching once again for answers, he is probably laying on some new crazy women. And the craziest thing of all is I still believe in tomorrow, I still have hope. I still think I might can find him. So who is crazy here.

    • Kristyn says:

      You need to leave. At this point you stuck around way longer than anyone expects you to, and it’s for your own safety. He sounds insane and dangerous. Do not blame yourself, just leave. If he kills him self that is his choice. You tried.

  3. ashley says:

    My husband is so full of shame and anger, I’m having a hard time connecting. We signed up for a conference, but then I ‘interfered’ in his ‘new life’ (made a phone call to inform someone that he is still in fact married) and he is so angry with me, he now says he doesn’t want to waste time going to a conference with me. He wavers between telling me I’m a good person, wife and mother, and that I always have to have my way, and he hates me. I’ve learned a lot since he snapped unexpectedly on me 4 months ago. I own that I have a strong personality, and don’t give him space to express himself. He gives generously, but is ‘give out’. He has been out of work for over a year; we are hoping his field will open back up soon, but his sense of value is destroyed. He almost resents it when I try to build him up and remind him how valuable he is to me because he doesn’t feel valuable. He told me he would have to make me hate him so that I would leave him, but now he’s ready to leave me.

  4. Peggy says:

    Can you recommend a therapist in the Chicago Illinois area?

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, Peggy –

      We don’t make recommendations on this site, but there are many online resources for psychotherapists. Goodtherapy.com is one, and the Psychology Today website has listings. Both include info about the interests and specializations of the therapists.


  5. Kathy says:

    My husband of 37 years gets depressed beginning in October every year and will usually come out of it sometime in the spring.
    His health has suffered terribly from his depression, he isolates himself and has no friends never really has had friends since I’ve known him.
    When you are married to someone who lives their life in depression you wonder what you’ve done to cause so much unhappiness to another human being when all you’ve done is your best everyday to please them, you walk on eggshells hoping it does not set them off and hope each day that all will be well.
    But nothing ever really is, there is little happiness and if you find yourself happy which I can do by myself I can find happiness in litte things like a flower or bird, he will be sure to stomp on it through his horrible debillitating depression. In the end of it all, you are to blame for everything so that when you mate passes away, you will be left with horrible guilt for all their misery. Can’t win for losing.

    • WholeHeartBeatin says:

      I don’t have any advice or brilliant insight, but Kathy’s comment rings so true to me. So many times when he blames me for being weird, crazy, irrational, not acting my true self, I start to question my own sanity. But then I read so many stories of depressed person’s partner describing exactly what is happening in my own marriage, so I think that is really is the depression causing these destructive cycles and painful, isolating, and indifferent behaviors in my husband. I have not found a way to make him understand how hurtful his behavior is to me and how much our relationship is is truly hanging by a thread. They truly cannot see themselves or their behaviour/ effects & consequences of their behaviour from an objective perspective. I don’t know how to get through to him without triggering an oft repeated cycle of anger and arguing. I am truly losing all hope and have tried to cut off my own emotional engagement as a coping mechanism because the never-ending cycle is too painful and damaging to my own psyche and self confidence. But by distancing myself as a self-protective measure, we are only getting father and father apart while it seems like any hope at all for salvaging the marriage is getting lost the longer he continues to reject the idea that his depression is a real illness that needs treatment, not just him needing to “get his shit together.” If it was under his control, why would it still be perpetuating this long? I cannot believe that a healthy rational human would CHOOSE to keep living in misery/ a hell of their own making (and by default cause their partner to also be stuck in a horrible reality).

    • Anne says:

      Hello Kathy how this story echo’s my own ,my partner started in October last year on holiday and he is slowly seeing the light again now its spring. I have read so much on depression since all this started and at the moment feel strong but I am constantly waiting for the “crash”.
      My loving funny, partner turned into a monster who I just did not recognise and completely broke my heart after saying didn’t love me anymore but still cared about me ,I was lost lonely and hurt by his actions He will not let me tell anyone or go for help but I want to shake him and shout at him to sort himself out ,I feel he is selfish and doesn’t respect me anymore .I know that the loving person is still in there but he shows no emotion what so ever , I am not sure how much longer I can take all this as he seems to just be plodding along unaware of my feelings and is absolutely fine with everyone else which is so annoying. I dare not mention any future plans i.e. holidays ,decorating etc. for fear he will spiral out of control again but why should I put my life on hold because of him. I know this sounds cruel and I do deeply love him BUT I don’t like him at the moment !!! I do everything for him but am tired so tired with it all. We have been together for 20 years very happy ones so this has all been a shock .I have been for a session of therapy myself and this helped but I suppose it made me feel that I was the catalyst allowing him to carry on like he is and that I should tackle him with my feelings but to be honest I dare not do that.
      I am trying to do the best I can but feel so insecure and unhappy

      • Barbara says:

        Hi Anne,
        Reading your story is like reading my own. My husband is suffering from depression probably for years, but it’s since January of this year that things got really out of hand. In January he left work as at the time we both thought that it’s the work and constant night shifts that are majorly contributing to the way he feels. Ten months later and I think that work had very little with his state of mind. As they say, in depression you have to have someone to blame so we both blamed work. Very soon after he stopped working all attention and blame focused on me and it’s like that since. I love you, I don’t love you, stay, get out and never come back… All the time mixed messages, messing with me, messing with my fellings and emotions. I’m exhausted.
        At this stage he does recognise he has a depression, I think. Nevertheless he refuses to get proper help. He was prescribed some medication but it’s more an escape and excuse than actuall treatment as he does not to stick to the dose nor taking them regularly. We tried marriage counseling, and things were fine between us for the duration of he counseling, which was 6weeks. And as soon as the therapy stopped we were back to square one.
        We are together for 12 years now and most likely he was battling depression for most of that time but what is happening now is just heartbreaking for me. No respect for me or my feelings, my needs are not even on his list if there’s such. Constant battle between us, constant arguing and hurting each other. Sometimes if feels like it’s a competition who can be more cruel. And I know I should be stronger and not engage in his match of abuse but he can be so hurtful that the only thing I can see is to hurt him back. Usually I’m the one who suffers most , or at least feels that way. Don’t know what to do anymore, don’t know if I want to do anything else. Just leave. Leave him behind and try to rebuild just a little bit of happiness in my life.
        My husband is like your partner, shattering every bit of happiness I ever have or had. It feels so unfair, doesn’t it?
        Reading this blog helped me to understand that many other people is going through what I’m going through. Unfortunately it doesn’t take the hurt away.
        I gave my husband this website, hoping that maybe if he reads some of the articles he will understand how miserable he makes both of us. But no, he didn’t even bother to look. Just like he didn’t bother yet to look for help to fight his depression, even though he knows our marriage is on the line right now.
        Like you Anne I was seeking for help for myself and similarly like you I feel like I’m enabling him and his anger attacks. It’s like I should have no feelings, I should just take him as is and not put any fight. But I can’t. I have feelings, and most of the time it’s a feeling of regret for not leaving, feeling of hurt and betrayal, sadness.
        How to help someone that doesn’t not want to be helped? How?

  6. Jennifer says:

    I have read several posts and they’re really enlightening. My boyfriend of 10 months moved out 2 weeks ago. We were friends first for 1 1/2 years and decided to take it further. I knew very little about his depression until 4 months into our relationship. He hid it well aND since we didn’t live together, he dealt with it behind closed doors. He blames himself for his brother committing suicide 12 years ago and is an Army vet with a diagnosis or PTSD and maniac depression. He admitted this to me at the beginning of the year. At first, I was a little taken back but I love him and want to show him I’m here for him. I first encountered his depression after the holidays. He suddenly withdrew from me and I thought it would only be 1 day or so but it ended up being 4 days and I felt hopeless and stranger like towards him. He apologized to me and then our life together moved forward or so I thought. A few weeks after this instance, he accused me of letting someone grab my breasts which is not true and I have plenty of witnesses to back me up. He was drinking heavily that evening and was again when he accused me of this. He once again apologized and we moved forward. By this time, I was already feeling insecure and my anxiety was through the roof because the way he talked to me and threatened to leave all the time made me crazy. Nothing I did or said was good enough. I was there for him when he needed someone to talk to when his sister got sick, when his Mom needed help and even gave his son money when he was down and out. He kept shutting me out when all I wanted was to help. He doesn’t take his medications as directed and went to to his counselor twice in 10 months. I resent him for this because I want him to get better not for me but him. He moved in about a month ago and promised he would get back on track with his medications and counseling but did not. We went away for the weekend about 3 weekso ago and I feltlike I was on the trip alone. He started shutting down on me again and I had it. I shutdown and was completely heartbroken. We got back home and he apologized for his behavior and told me he loved me but something told me he was having second thoughts about moving in. I asked him and he said no being alone is a lonely life. 3 days after he said that, he moved out. He moved out while I was at work the kicker we work together. The only thing he said was he has mental problems and he is the only one who knows how to cope with them. Noone can help but him. He said our relationship is toxic and we disagree all the time. He said he’s sorry and I did not fail him. He will never know how his behavior of jealousy, insecurity and withdrawal made me feel. As I was trying to save him, I was killing myself. If he would have asked me why I was so angry rather than thinking I was this deranged human being maybe he could have seen my side of things. I still love him and hope he gets the help he needs.

    • sharon says:

      Omg this is me and my relationship.
      I’m going through exactly the same ATM.
      I have decided to try and work through this with him but I’m not sure if it was a good desission.

    • Becky says:

      I was friends with my partner for a year n abit before we decide to move things forward. We have been together two and abit months and he left me again two weeks before Christmas I know it’s a shirt time but I love him he made me feel things I never felt before I wanted to marry him and grow old together. He says it’s nothing you done I don’t know what’s wrong my head is fuzzy and bouncing all the time he tells me he loves me but then he not sure if it’s his head saying he doesn’t. Weren’t away for my birthday for weekend we didn’t have loads of money and I paid for our meal but the weekend was amazing just the two of us. We gotback and within a week we were over he says he wishes that that weekend never ended but yet he left me. Iv cried for days I don’t know what to do or how to feel I just feel hurt sick can’t sleep or eat. Yet he don’t seem to care he just ignores me he moved to his mams with his kids for awhile away for me. I know he depressed and I want to help him but he won’t let me he says I don’t need or want him in my life when he like this and that why would I want him after everything he done to me but he don’t get that I love him more than anythink and I’m struggling with what he has done. When he is happy he is amazing couldn’t ask for better but when he gets like this he just leaves me and we before have kids so what do I do

  7. LaThomp says:

    My husband sleeps a few days at a time. Although I am at peace most of the time, I have found myself getting really pissed off recently. I have finally wrapped my mind around the fact that I am pissed. When he is awake, he’s constantly complaining about the way I cook or do laundry or even parent our teenage daughters, who are asking me why I just don’t leave him. I don’t leave him because I see HIM…this illness is crazy, and it is OK for me to be pissed off. I told myself that I would let it be and keep on loving him through it until he started missing work. Well, he used to only go to bed for a few days at a time once a year, but the past 2 years it’s been more often, and he’s such a jerk when he is awake…and he’s gone 2-3 days a week for work. Anyway, this past year has been really rough…since January, he’s been in bed about 12 weeks total. I never get sick, and got the flu this year…put me in bed 3 days, and during that time our older daughter smoked pot. Although the she told me about it, she also told me why….I can’t continue being both parents. Now he’s missed work because of his depression. I’ve realized I’ve been making excuse after excuse for attending events alone…but then he’s still there sometimes. It’s an emotional roller coaster that I hate for our daughters to be on. But, looking back on my childhood, I had my dad…my mom had her own self-absorbed issues. I remember my dad tellin me after catching her having an affair that love never ends, and it doesn’t! My parents have been married over a century…I’m still married after almost 2 decades. Those moments when he can slip out of the depression make the days of sleep and hours of anger worth it. I hope to teach my daughters to rejoice I the fruits of their labors. Marriage is a hard work, and hard challenging work when your partner has depression, but we are blessed for helping our loved one. After all, in sickness and in health I do believe includes mental illness. (For the record, my husband has never been violent with us.)

  8. Caz says:

    If been married 35 years….he’s had a few bouts lasting 6-9 weeks……I recognise it as depression… He doesn’t….

    • selena says:

      Hi I’ve never written on a post before.
      My husband of 21 yrs (been together for 26yrs) both age 43 now, I think has depression. It started in August last year when he started working very long hours every day, something he’s never been bothered with before. During August I was subjected to 3 episodes of violence on the 3rd I called the police and he was arrested but I did not pursue against him. He left the following day which was 6 months ago now. Since then he has been round everyday for at least an hour. His mood is viatable, he is hypersensitive, guarded, blaming and emotionally shut down from me. He virtually lives out his car with a bin bag of clothes. He has no interest in the house or children (14 & 18) he won’t spend time with them on his own or take them out. He has no appetite, is always tired and complaining of one bit or the other aching. He is self obsessed and doesn’t ask anything about us. He says he has no purpose or role here with us and feels like he doesn’t belong anywhere. He’s says he feels empty and numb and doesn’t feel anything for me anymore ” it’s fizzled out, no want or need for me”. When he comes round he just ants us to talk and be like friends, no questions or pressures. He will not give me any money or sort out our finances, he won’t make any decisions or commit to anything, even just coming round at a certain time. He will go if he comes in and I am upset or ask a question.

      He absolutely denies being depressed and says he is the happiest he has felt in a long time.

      Please please is he depressed or does he just want out because he doesn’t love me anymore.

  9. Beccysue says:

    Reading everything that is posted here is a great relief. Thank you to all the people who post, your words are a great resource. They have been helping me to keep it together.

    I have a boyfriend who is currently in a deep state of depression. Hes 39, I’m 35. We have been on again off again for 2 years. Usually the pattern is that everything is wonderful for a few months, then he gets really manic, starts smoking more pot and drinking more, I usually get irritated at this point, he freaks out, general life things begin to fall apart e.g. work gets hard, he stops cooking food and going to the sauna or yoga, we argue, his depression gets triggered and he pushes me away, I get upset, he breaks up with me. (then he plays mine craft or some shit eating crisps and been and pot in bed and then wakes up one day wondering where I am)

    That’s the simplified version, there is obviously more to it, and I am definitely not blaming myself for his depression.

    Anyway I love him he is amazing. And when he is well we have the greatest time together.
    I am trying something different this time. I am letting him have space. It’s been nearly three weeks (But they was the odd week of no contacting here and there before this recent stint). We have texted a bit, it is me initiating, and I have sent only friendly up-beat no pressure texts, but often he just ignores my message. Sigh. Most of the time I have felt ok, but sometimes, such as now, the fear creeps in and i am scared that we will break up, or that this is a breakup and that I am some badly treated chump who hasn’t realised shes being used and abused. But I think that is the fear talking. I keep pulling my self back to the though that – he isn’t well, and he is not thinking clearly, and yes, he is a completely different person when he is like this. A sort of mean, harsh and slightly crazed person. It’s hard, I am totally in the dark. I am too proud to ask any of his friends. He is so good at hiding things that I suspect that wouldn’t really realise. I suspect he has bi polar, he definitely has addiction problems. Anyway, I hope I am doing the right thing. I feel that he and I have been in this cycle and usually we never get through this bit. If I was to force the point or demand an explanation I know he would break up with me. I don’t want to give him that chance. I just wish I knew when his depression was going to lift. So in the meantime I keep swimming laps at the pool, focusing on work and friends, dealing with my own abandonment problems, hoping that the space that I am giving him is the right thing to do and that my beautiful friend emerges out of this shitty forest, and as the incredible supportive and amazing man that he so often is.

    If anyone has any similar stories I would love to hear.
    Mia it was great to read what you wrote, thankyou

    • Mia says:

      Hi Beccysue

      Your post sounds so similar to what I’ve lived the last few years. It’s so hard to go through and to understand, but the only advice I have is give him the space he asks for. Even if you text him friendly texts he’s in the stage right now where he feels you’re the reason he is going through this hurting. As illogical as that is to us, that’s how he feels. I say be strong and give him space. You need to tell yourself that if you love him you will respect his wishes and needs before your own. He needs space right now because not even he understands what he is feeling. Usually after this “hate” stage, he will return looking for you. Have you talked to him about maybe seeking help? It’s hard, because often times they don’t even acknowledge the pain and suffering they are inflicting on those who love them the most. Be strong, and have faith that he will ease out of this stage and return to a stable peaceful state again. If he does I encourage you to speak to him in a peaceful non provoking way encouraging him to seek help. Mental disease is real, and it’s extremely painful for those around the people suffering. I am sure you are hurt right now, but from all my experience dealing with such a similar situation I have finally come to realize that they do not realize in the moment what they are doing or saying, and how much their words kill us. They are not bad or evil people, they are mentally unwell. I’m sending you positive vibes and strength. Stay strong for the both of you! Best of luck to you and your partner!

      • Beccysue says:

        Hi Mia,

        Thanks so much for your reply..
        It has helped me feel not so alone.
        Sigh, yes I am giving him the space, so much space! and slowly accepting that it’s probably going to take a little while, god knows how long though? for him to calm down..I was hoping that it would over sooner! It’s been 3and half weeks since we spoke, not so long when you think about it, in the grand scheme of things. I think it is the not knowing that is the worst. It’s all just so crazy. Thanks for reminding me about the hate stage, I forgot that he will be blaming me, gosh, it’s so sad. Did your partner have a cycle? A time frame? How long would they be unwell/depressed for?

        • Mia says:

          My heart truly goes out to you. I know exactly how much this is painful, to be pushed away for no reason. I would doubt myself. Eventually, slowly I realized that he has an issue fat more serious than I thought. I never thought depression could be so harsh. He becomes a completely different person. He goes from one of the most beautiful people I know , to an absolute monster. I can do zero right when he enters this stage. It has been so difficult on me mentally. But I remind myself that he is not well and this is not him speaking or acting, it’s his disease. And I encourage you to think the same way. My partner disappears completely for about 3 months each time. To the point where he changes his number and tells people he is changing he number so I can never reach him again. The sad part is I don’t reach out to him, I leave him in peace. But he makes it seem like I am the one who is making him crazy. And again at first I blamed myself, but now I realize his disease makes him speak and do these unstable things. The last time he returned I made the decision for myself to not take him back. And trust me it was extremely hard for me, we grew up together and it’s hard to cut your best friend out of your life. But in my case he refuses to get help, and I have gotten to a point in my life where I know I deserve more. You need to decide if your partner is worth the fight and roller coaster. Is he open to receiving help? I know professional help can help them. Just stay strong as hard as it is, if I can do it so can you! Stay strong and give him all the space he needs. There’s a good quote I like: “go find yourself first, so that you can find me too” -Rumi. He needs this space my dear. The more you push for answers or try to show support he will interpret it as stress and he will keep pushing you further. In my experience the only thing that worked was to respect his wishes completely. And I love him so much that’s exactly what I did. I put his wishes before my own. I really hope things work out for you and your partner. I’m sending you positive vibes and strength! Stay strong, give him space to clear his head. Tell yourself the space you give him is for the best! -Mia

          • natalie says:

            what do you do when your partner is “open” to getting help, admits that they want/need it… but are so overwhelmed they can’t even make the doctor appointment? My partner is jaded by a bad first experience with therapy a few years ago and is being especially picky this go round to avoid another crappy patient/doctor relationship. she’s done alot of research to find doctors in our area, but of course the ones she wants to meet with are not on her insurance plan or aren’t accepting new patients at this time. She doesn’t want to go to “just anyone”, but idk what else to do to help her! i did some searching of my own and sent her names and contract info for a few doctors and it turns into a fight between us, ending with her crying and mad and wanting to drink, and i just want to get the hell outta the house… i’ve told her before that i’m not enjoying this relatipnship anymore and that if she doesn’t get help i don’t want to stay around because it is not fair for me to live like this (we share a home)… and she gets super angry and yells at me that i’m abandoning her and that i just don’t want to deal with her.. how do you get the person back to who they were when you fell in love, if they keep saying they’re going to get help and don’t…. this sucks.

    • Judy says:

      This is a really tough thing. Just keep in mind that unless he gets treatment and recognizes that he has a problem or two, your life could go on forever like this, in turmoil. That’s no way to live. I’ve been on both sides of this, so I’ve had the experience. Just think about what YOU want for a change.

    • Rach d says:

      This sounds similar to my fiancée been engaged for 1 year together nearly 7 years. He started to change his behaviour not acting like himself at all. He didn’t come back one night I was worried sick and another night he left me New Year’s Eve. He says he wanted space so I left and living at my mums for 3 weeks. We are still in touch everyday but he speaks about breaking up but I really don’t want to. He said he wants to be left alone. I want to help but not sure how? I’m on an emotional roller coaster I love him so much but he won’t seek any help or talk about anything to me at all just clans up. He says he doesn’t know how long he will feel like this or what’s going on in his head at all. He blames me for leaving but I couldn’t stand being in that atmosphere he thinks setting me free is right but I want him to know I’ll be there for him. Is there a way through this? How long do people wait? I still want him in my life.

  10. SA says:

    Like many others, I came accross this blog in an attempt to learn more about depression. I have known my ex bf for ten years. He was my first love, and I thought he would be my last love. We dated 10 years ago in high school, briefly, as we were both young he left me because he didn’t want a gf. Sure it hurt but at the same time we were too young to be starting anything serious anyways. He would still keep close contact with me, but always said he couldn’t be with me because he couldn’t be the bf I deserved. After a few months I met someone whom I quickly fell in lust for. We ended up dating for the next 5 years. All throughout this time my ex bf would call me, and text me, pleading me to get back together with him. He insisted he had changed, and insisted that we were soulmates and no one could love me like he did. Because he had hurt me once I refused to give him a chance again. I stayed with my then current bf, even if my heart was really with my ex. As time went on however I started to love my then current bf and completely shut my ex out. He had hurt me as a young girl, so I wanted him out of my life. it finally ended with my then current boyfriend, and last year my ex resurfaced through social media, as I had changed my cell number. I agreed to meet up with him given it was 7 years we hadn’t spent any time together. I had such an amazing night with him just talking and laughing like I hadn’t in a very long time. It was like that magic we has never left, even after 7 years. He then walked me back to my car and we didn’t leave eachothers side for the next 7-8 months. He was the best boyfriend and friend I has ever had. I never believed love could feel so strong and real until last year. He would always say we were soulmates, and he wished he could glue himself to me.he would tell me I was the best thing that ever happened to him, and he couldn’t wait to call me his wife. He would tell me he wanted me to be the mother of his kids. And as independent as I am, I felt the same. I loved this man with my whole heart and soul. After about 7-8 months I started to almost instantly see a different side of him. He went from being SO loving and caring about my family and I, to being so rude and aggressive. I didn’t recognize him. He became so evil to me. Constantly picking fights and saying such rude things to me. I didn’t know what to do. Some days he was back to his laughing beautiful self and other days he despised me with every inch of his body, he was like an animal with me. Never physically, but mentally he was abusive. What hurt the most is that it was out of nowhere. About a month later the fighting got so bad he broke up with me saying he wasn’t I love with me, and that he wanted to be single and go have fun. He said we weren’t the right match for eachother. All out of no where. I was completely devastated. My heart hurt so much. I just couldn’t understand why?! How?! Out of no where? How could he not be in love with me all of a sudden? Months passed and I didn’t msg him, I was soooo hurt and embarassed I felt so played and used. 4 months later he resurfaced, begging for a chance. Insisting weasel tberapy, insisted we do everything possible to make US work because I was the love of his life. I was sooooooo hesitant to let him back in. I was still devastated from the breakup and from how evil he had been only month prior. It took months before he could convince to give it another try. It took 3 months before I accepted to try again. And he worked so hard those months proving me how serious and how badly he wanted us to work. I would be a fool not to believe him. 6 months after he returned he has left me yet again. This time out of no where. He would pick fights with me but not nearly as bad as last year. He has told me he thinks he is suffering depression. He is not diagnosed. He says he has lost all feelings for me and isn’t in love with me. When I asked why he was doing all these sweet things for me just weeks prior he said because he thought that is what a good bf does. Just weeks before telling me it’s over, he was telling me he wanted to have kids and get married and be together. Now weeks later he says he isn’t in love with me, and isn’t happy. I am so hurt yet again. I tried to support him and tell him we would get him help together. But he says he wants to do this alone and wants to be alone. Yet he still sees his friends. I feel like he has just shut me out completely. We had a huge fight because he wouldn’t even meet me for a coffee. He has since blocked me and says he never wants me in his life again. I literally feel like the rug was swept from under me. How can he turn so cold so fast, yet again. I am at a loss for words. This hurts so much. I don’t know if he is truly depressed or if I am just a victim of his games? How can someone be so beautiful one day, and completely evil the next. Sorry for the long blurb, I am just in so much pain over this. I know he is a good person inside, why is he being so evil? And to me? All I ever wanted for him was the best…

    • Tired says:

      Dear SA,

      I know it has been a couple years since you posted this, but in case you check back in, I wanted to say I hear how maddening the relationship has been for you. I grew up with a very self absorbed depressed father and am now realizing it impacted who I chose for a husband. I think the depression has some of the same effects as narcissism does on the “helping partner/bystanders ” in relationships. I’m trying to decide what to do in regards to my husband because I just can’t handle the blurted out yelling at me. I can’t sleep because of it, and my husband gets up and acts like nothing is wrong. I don’t want to even be around him

  11. Leah says:


    I’m laying in my bed googling “how to live with a depressed partner” and came across these conversations, thank the lord above I have some light now! My situation is I have a boyfriend of about 3 months, I am in love with him, he is a beautiful person and treats me very well! He has pulled away or should I say we have pulled away from each other 3 times already, but I cant seem to be without him, my heart and chest literally aches when I know he’s not with me, all three times we both didn’t last 24hrs before recontacting! I just wanted to understand the illness better! I ran into his mum today at the shops and had her bawling her eyes out to me in regards to stuff and found that she too suffers severe depression and anxiety

  12. Dawn says:

    t have been going out with a guy i really love for about 8 months in the past couple of mths he,s being a differernt person at first i was doing everything wrong and believeing it was me and it hurt. now he has pushed screamed and hurt me a couple times and it always my fault . last night after a couple nights of his anger ask whats going on and he said he has depression, he had talked about it once before but not dealing with did know what was what truth or false if that makes any senses . asked him to talk to a docotor and he said they dont help . we have a baby on the way in a ouple of mths. and now today he sleep another 14hour and isnt talking to me and aster the yelling and blaming me last night i just dont know told him i was moving on . i do love him very much just dont know what to do lost at all ends i have been up since yesterday at 9am and fighting with him since 11pm till 8 this morning about sex feelings and everything my fault / i been reading on depression and even tried to talk to his ma and now we are not talking and hes is ingorning me just laying on the couch he toke the phone away and car keys so im in the back bebroom trying to figure what i did sorry about spelling but trying to seek to write to figure out what to do in the dark . he is 25years old
    thank just had to talk or get this off my chest

  13. Sheila says:

    I am the depressed partner and have been struggling for years. Most recently I feel like I have given up. With suicide not an option (promise to husband and children), I am simply marking time till I drop dead for whatever reason. On the surface I suppose our relationship and my life look normal but I am emotionally unavailable and my husband makes no demands. My apathy/hopelessness and his fear of upsetting me has created a marriage that is full of love and compassion but no passion and very little real emotional connection. I gave up on therapy years ago for myself, he thinks he/we don’t need it. The whole thing about moving between self-absorption/self-pity and self-loathing has made it impossible for him to help me. I went back and forth between tears and anger for so long and now it seems I just don’t care anymore.

  14. saddened says:

    I’m struggling with my relationship. My boyfriend is depressed, and also suffers from adult ADHD. We’ve been together for 1.5 years, and live together just the two of us, but the whole relationship has been fraught with uncertainty as he can’t seem to keep a job for more that a few weeks, maybe a couple of months, so tends to be out of work more than he is in work. This means that all the financial support then falls to me as well, and I can’t afford to keep doing this. When I try to talk to him about it, he gets resentful and angry. I’ve tried talking to him every way that I can think of, I’ve been kind, I’ve been encouraging, I’ve been supportive, I’ve given him ultimatums. I’ve broken up with him twice (earlier on in the relationship, when I was frustrated with his ability to get his life together), but now that we live together, I feel too ingrained in the relationship. He constantly promises me things, or talks about doing things, but never actually does them. I am exhausted from working everyday, then coming home and generally having to then do a lot of the jobs around the house, as it doesn’t occur to him to do them. He then stays up late until 3 or 4am every night reading stuff on the internet, so we don’t have any intimacy in our relationship, and it feels like we’re just flatmates. I can’t rely on him, I can’t count on him. He sits at home all day every day, and I’m starting to resent it.

    I love him, but am worried that it isn’t enough. I am going to talk to him about the depression tonight, and try to get him to seek help, but I know that he won’t take meds.

    • jo says:

      I am living with my partner he is the father to my 6 year old, for 18 months now he has been saying he is leaving and blaming me for everything. He says he loves us both in one breath and in the other i am the most vile partner there could be not listening to him not understanding him I have changed blah blah…. I have been with him nearly 10 years 6 ago he lost his job and i believe thats when he first suffered with depression since then he has dipped in and out.
      Ive tried being loving, supportive, caring, thoughtful. Ive given him space and independence i have tried all the different things I can think off. He wont accept he has depression or even go to a doctor, of course its all my fault.
      The time has come where for myself and my son I have to let him go without a fight, in the future if he got help i would consider a reunion but until then i feel really selfish, although essentially I am giving him what he wants?!?!
      is this wrong? your not alone x

    • v says:

      I am making a tough decision after being married to a depressed bipolar man for 7 years. We separated, he got help, things got better we had a baby and did the whole move to the burbs live happily ever after thing. My son is the best thing to come out of this marriage but I wish I had just left him. I love him dearly but now I have to ask him to leave and less than two years of starting our happily ever after, ask him to move out so I dont end up on pills myself. He’s had the latest episode coming for 7 months getting off meds and blaming me for being on them to getting off conpletely. He is impossible to be around. I also have to make my younf child who adores his father a child of divorced parents. It is hard to do later in life. Move on and spare yourself the hurt and pain. It’s just not worth it no matter how much they love you. If he’s not getting properly treated consistently you are in for a painful road that will just destroy you emotionally. It’s not worth it trust me.

  15. mel says:

    never give up let them know how much you love them and care about them!!! i never gave up!! and it worked!!

  16. c- says:

    My DBF of 3.5 yrs. left our home in an episode 4.5 months ago saying he had to leave, I wasn’t the one( he was getting ready to propose)….. This was his 3rd episode in 3 years. In the previous episodes he would say the same thing. He always returned saying he made a mistake and that he loved me. This last time was the straw that broke my back. I recognized that something bigger was going on with this “pattern”. We had started therapy prior to the 3rd episode. My bf went 5 times and then quit. (The therapist confirmed that he was Depressed and suspected Bi-polar) This time I did not ask him to come back but rather i told him he needed to seek some help for what was going on in his head. He has hymned and hawed. I told him he could not come back till he made the effort as I could not endure this behavior any longer ALTHOUGH i would be willing to hang in there with him if he reached for some help.
    FAst forward……I have not been reaching out to him at all however like clockwork he reaches out to me via, text, phone, in person at least Once a week. He calls Just to hear my voice. He showed in the lobby at my work because he was in the neighborhood( right…)to just say hello. He said he thinks about getting help everyday and is going to at the first of the new year. He admitted that he has depression and said he thought he inherited it from his mother . He was very sweet and I was so happy to see him however he left and nothing had changed . No commitment to us or therapy. He texted me yesterday telling me it was our 4 yr anniversary and how he will never forget the day we met and date we had. ???????? Hard to get into the mind of a D person. We are not together because he bolted again but he is texting me his sentiments of our first date
    It was a bummer day for me wishing things were different but they aren’t. He always says he he doesn’t want to upset me but he just wants to see me, hear my voice etc….

    I am grieving. I am going to Alanon and taking good care of myself, moving forward to take care of myself. I do hold hope for him and US as he is a lovely man. I pray daily for him. I pray he will reach out for help after the holidays as he has said. He said he’s afraid. I have been compassionate for his situation, but holding firm to my boundaries about him getting help before he can return home. ( not even sure he wants too although his behavior shows differently).

    I am sad this morning and am grateful to be able to share this on this site. Any thoughts or comments would be appreciated. Has anyone been in this situation where a loved one is trying to come back in such an indirect way? Did you hang in there? any positives outcomes?


  17. Judy says:

    To answer your question about dealing with depression before working on the relationship – yes, I did that for a couple of years but I don’t think I did very well at it because it was like working in a vacuum. While it was painful to do couples therapy, it was exactly what was needed. I was so ashamed of being depressed and of feeling angry and could never talk about it until I was forced to during our sessions. My husband had all kinds of assumptions about my depression and think he was probably relieved to realize that its origins were not with him. There were ways that he was contributing to it, but it really wasn’t all his fault. His mother had been depressed most of his life before we were married and he was the only one living at home with her for the majority of the time, so he ended up dealing with a psychotic episode or two and I think he was scared to death that he had gotten himself into the same situation with me. It’s funny how we can make so many assumptions about a person’s intentions but never check them out with that person – we just keep guessing and going about it the hard way! Maybe we’re afraid of what we’ll hear.

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, Judy –

      The assumptions are the worst part of it. They are always negative, never positive, and that should be a clue, if we were in any shape to think clearly about what’s going on. It’s always amazing to me how huge the relief is to straighten out the mistaken assumptions and how hard it is to open your mouth and ask. For me, holding back is about a combination of fear and the anger that goes with self-contempt. Totally perverse! I’m so glad you were able to break through all that in couples therapy. I know what a hard ongoing struggle it is to maintain progress. It’s helpful to know from John Gottman’s research that successful marriages are full of irreconcilable conflicts that come up over and over again. The key thing is the time spent in repairing the damage – and also, after a while, accepting the differences and recognizing them as soon as they come up.


  18. Michelle says:

    Thank you so much for this enlightening post! It really helps to understand some of my ex boyfriend’s behavior. I especially like how you say that some depressive behavior stems from the behaviors as a child. I was definitely the same way growing up and just wanted to deal with any problem that I had on my own. So, I would go for walks to get away from my family and just go somewhere to think and withdraw.
    My ex sent me a text last week basically telling me to leave him alone and to move on because he has. That was the beginning of a text/phone call fight that lasted hours. I talked to one of my friends about it and said there was more to his texting than just wanting me to move on. It seemed like he picked a fight with me for a reason, and now this post kind of relates to that. He is hurting and doesn’t want to ask for any type of emotional reassurance. So he picked a fight that would ensure that I would tell him both good and bad things.
    I know that I have the choice to walk away from all of this pain, but I am like you in the beginning of your post, and feel that there is something here worth fighting for. That he is worth fighting for. During our conversations, I did tell him about his part in our failed relationship, but also acknowledged the depression part of things.
    He did contact me a couple of days later and asked if we could get together soon. I have yet to hear back from him but am hoping that he reaches out to make definite plans.
    Thanks again for this insight into his behavior!


    • cloud7 says:


      Any update on how it panned out? I am currently in a VERY similar situation with a depressed boyfriend, I was wondering how it worked out for you.

    • bluebird says:

      This happened to me exactly. same exact thing. he started a text fight that escalated to a phone fight where he started to find imperfections in me so he could push me away. now he responds and stuff but will never let me back in – wont meet up for anything. I sent him a text saying that I know he is in a funk right now and that I will call him in a few weeks to see if he is up for meeting then and he can have space and time to sort through everything. I also called him on the fact that he was making up things about me to convince himself im not “good”

      This is horrible. Its a terrible feeling becuase he is amazing and smart and really gracious and very percetive person. How can it go from such a great time to “i just want to be alone” in a couple hours?

      I feel like I need therapy now because I cant get him out of my head. I cant just walk away and I want to know if anyone has any advice on how to reach in there and get the real person out….how can I get him to trust me and come out of that shell? What is the best way to communicate to convince him that he can talk to me?

      • r says:

        Hi, I’m in a very similar situation right now. He was here a week ago, told me he loves me and he’s so lucky and then within a day, we broke up. I sent an email today to say that I can be there to help him, that I will not leave his side, but if he doesn’t let me, I hope he finds the help he needs for his depression. I told him I’m here for whatever he may need and this was the last time I was going to say anything. Any advice?

        • Mia says:

          Hi R,

          I know how you feel, and my heart goes out to you. I dealt with a depressed partner for 8 years on and off. Only a year ago I realized he was suffering from depression along side a personality disorder. It took me several months to understand and to be at peace with all the awful things he told and did to me. I came across this blog and spent countless hours reading. Today I can tell you that as much as we want to help them and be there for them we cannot. You need to give your partner space, and he will find you. Right now his head makes him believe you are among the reasons he is hurting, even though you are probably the person who is there for him the most!! His head does not allow him to see it. I have come to view depression like a dark cloud, you need time before it passes. Only once it passes over him will he be able to think clearly and logically again. Until then my advice to you, and the way I have dealt with my partner is, I tell him I am there for him and I tell him to reach out to me once he is ready. And as painful as it is I cut all contact with him. Once his cloud passes he looks for me and is confused as to why i went away. This is the nature of his disease. My partner does not want to seek help as he does not understand the extent of his disease and the consequences of his words and actions on my life. Nonetheless I know he is a great person, however he is mentally ill, and I do not hold this against him. I encourage you to see it this way as well. All you can do is give him the space he needs to deal with this cloud. You need to be as strong as you can, and if you truly love this person you need to give them that space, as hard as it is. When he does return, you should encourage him to seek help. I also felt this site helped me understand the nature of depression. It helped me heal after my partner left. I wish you much strength and I hope everything works out for you!

          • R says:

            I want to thank you for your support and let you know that whenever I feel like I wish I could be there for him, I’ll be there for you in my mind instead and sending you all the strength and positive energy I can.

          • natalie says:

            how do you give your partner space when you live together and they’re codependent??? that’s what i need to know. I’m not moving out… my partner doesn’t really have any other friends besides me, but she does have alot of drinking buddies..


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