When depression takes over your partner, you’re likely to go through an emotional waterboarding, a torture you have to escape. You may feel overwhelmed, confused, helpless to do anything. You take the brunt of the punishing anger or indifference that is all your partner can give you.
The relationship that means the most to you feels like it’s breaking fast. What can you do to keep yourself together?
There are thousands of men and women who have lived through this struggle or are in the midst of it right now. They have a lot of insight and share their painful stories in face-to-face support groups as well as online communities.
The members of one of the oldest of the online forums, Depression Fallout, report over and over again that the support of such groups has been a mainstay for dealing with their depressed partners. Communities like these might be a good starting point for you as well.
Here are 10 ideas drawn from the experience of people who have had to live with depressed partners as well as from my own experience as a depressed partner.
Take care of yourself as well as you can. When depression strikes and you find yourself living with a distant stranger, it’s only natural to focus first on your partner. You’re likely shocked and confused and want to bring back the familiar loving person you know. But it’s easy to lose sight of your own needs and gradually undermine the health and inner balance you need to get through the crisis. The obstacles are huge since your partner is right there and depression is now part of your life. It’s important to keep your own life going, get out of the hothouse as often as you can and spend time on the things that most help you relax.
Get help. There’s so much stress in living with depression that you should reach out for support. Perhaps you have caring friends you trust enough to confide in, or can find a support group, online communities, perhaps individual counseling, . That’s the critical first step. And keep on getting their help. You need regular support because the injury doesn’t stop until depression does.
It’s not your fault. Depression is the cause of the problem, not you. Nothing you’ve done could have brought on the ugly transformation of your partner – whatever accusations they might throw at you. Nor is it possible for you to fix the illness. Depression is complicated, not fully understood, and has multiple causes. No one really knows how to cure it. You may be able to help your partner get the right kind of help, but they need to commit to the work of recovery and stay with it.
Learn about depression and how pervasive an impact it can have. That will prepare you to recognize the many ways it can distort your partner’s behavior. You should realize, though, that what you’re learning is just a small part of an evolving field of research. It’s easy to jump to conclusions about exactly what’s wrong and what can be done about it. Consulting a mental health professional is a good way to get further insight into your partner’s illness.
Offer love and support without trying to be directive. Suggest it might be helpful – but pushing it, demanding that he get help in certain ways or learn what you’ve been learning won’t work. Tell him you’re trying to figure out what all the changes in the relationship have been about – and will be there to help as much as you can.
Depression can control you both. Be aware of the danger that you can easily be drawn into the same vortex that’s spinning your partner around. Anne Sheffield describes it as Depression Fallout. Michael Yapko writes that Depression Is Contagious. It’s common to develop your own illness as a result of living with a depressed person. That’s why it’s so important to get all the help you can and to watch your emotional and physical state.
Break the Cycle. One way to keep from being dependent on your partner’s moods is to look closely at your reactions to each of them. What are the worst, most painful moments for you – the ones that trigger your most intense feelings? What does your partner do to set you off? What is the feeling that wells up in you – anger, fear, hopelessness? And what do you do in response – meet attack for attack, hold your feelings in, leave? How do you feel about your own reactions afterward? It can help to track these reactions on paper at first to help you recognize the triggering events. That tactic could make it easier to interrupt your usual reaction, restore a sense of emotional independence and break the cycle that’s hurting you in so many ways.
Be tolerant of yourself. You probably can’t stop the emotional rollercoaster all at once or persuade your partner to get help or take perfect care of yourself. Expecting too much too soon can only lead to more frustration and reduced self-esteem. You already have enough of those to deal with.
You Can’t Go Back. Try to remember that the relationship you used to know may not return. It’s likely to be changed as a result of living with depression, especially if it recurs of if a single episode continues for several months, perhaps even years. It’s only natural to long for the return of the loving partner you used to know – your partner wants the same thing – but be prepared that it may not be so simple as that. You and your partner are more likely to face a gradual process of redefining how to live together.
They’re responsible for getting help. (edited 12/20/2013) Depression may be the underlying problem, but that fact doesn’t take away responsibility for destructive behavior. This is a difficult subject to talk about, and I do so from the perspective of someone who inflicted pain on his family during bouts of depression. When feeling better, I might well say something like: it was depression driving me to say and do those things. It’s not about you – don’t take it personally. But of course it’s personal. I was constantly leaving my wife and kids out of my awareness and often spoke and acted abusively. The anger, attacks, threats to leave and emotional withdrawal are as personal as it gets in a relationship. It’s especially important, then, to set boundaries. Depressed partners have to know when you can’t take anymore, or they cross a line that can’t be crossed. Remind them about what’s at stake and what you are really feeling. A depressed person is ill, yes, and probably wouldn’t choose to act hurtfully when well, so simple blaming is not appropriate. But there are supportive ways to remind them of your limits and insist that they get treatment. That is what my wife did for me, and it was a powerful wake-up call that got me back into treatment after a long period of denying the problem, despite my long history of depression.
I have been with my partner for over 4 years, no kids or anything, but he was (and still is) my first. Due to an accident 6 months into the relationship, he is out of work and spiraled down into a heavy depression and suicidal thoughts. I have tried to support him, stayed by his side, tried to talk him into going to therapy but it is of no use. As a result our intimate life, my mental health and in general our relationship has become such of an old, grumpy married couple, whereas Im still in my 20s, he is in his early 30s. I am honestly very tired, and want to leave, but I am feeling very guilty for wanting to run away when he needs me the most, as he isolated himself from everyone and apart from me and one other online friend, he does not speak to a single soul. I am trying once again to try and ask him to start going to therapy, but frankly, even if he does I don’t want to stay with him any longer as I am tired of constantly worry if I am doing the right thing, if I share that I am unhappy he will do something to himself or get even worse. Has anyone been in similar situation? I just feel emotionally trapped and guilty for feeling this way, and yet I want to help him and support him and want to see him getting back on his feet, as I do still love him, but not as a partner, more like a mother/friend type of love.
U need to leave
I feel the same way. No matter what I do or say, it doesn’t help and he says I am the only one keeping him alive….what am I supposed to do? Wait for this depression “flare up” to come and go? It’s been over 2 years now that this has been going on
I have been married 25 years to someone with depression. To the outside world we appear “normal” but not so much. He received treatment once and life returned to a pretty good state. Now 8 years later, no intimacy for 8 years, constantly says don’t touch me I am not in the mood, then I catch him watching porn! Now he is begging me to stay, says he needs me to live and I can’t stand the thought of him ever touching me again now. So, my advice, if someone does not respect you enough to get help. You have to respect yourself enough to leave.
My hubby hasn’t worked in years, does not really do anything but watch TV and drink beer, and will not bathe regularly. He suffers from BPAD and had a rocky childhood, to say the least. I try to be sympathetic, but I am left holding the bag – I work, clean, and pay for everything (he has no benefits or income of any kind, and does not qualify for SSI/SSD or state aid). And when I want to do something, he does not want to do anything. I’m sorry, but after my experiences with him, I just cannot recommend to anyone meeting someone with a mental illness like this. I don’t want to be insensitive, but it has been awful with very few happy moments. I won’t leave him because a vow is a vow. And I know he will not change. The man is a prisoner is his own mind, and I have no hope that he will ever improve.
This sounds like my situation. I go through cycles of hope and worry that my happiness depends on his moods. I feel like if I were to leave, he would enjoy not feeling the pressure of being around the breadwinner. He wants to be a bachelor with no responsibility. Then part of me thinks he would unalive himself? Such a sad empty existence.
I have just gone through this with my girlfriend. I was like riding a Rollercoaster that you couldn’t get off of. I know the feelings of wanting to help and nothing seems to work or make a difference. I had no choice but to move on, you have to take care of yourself also. It’s easy to fall into there dark world, becarefull. Email me if you would like to vent. I wish you both the best
I understand you left your gf due to her depression. I am finding it so hard, is there by advice you can give please? How are you coping now?
I know how hard it is. My now husband was like that early on and I chose to stay and we are still struggling 6 years later. And we have both hurt each other as resentment grows. Relationships aren’t easy. As you don’t have children involved yet, as hard as it may be you have to give an ultimatum. It isn’t your responsibility to save him, no matter how guilty he makes you feel.
my girlfriend is cold with me and makes me feel horrible when i try to hug or kiss her by pulling away or being snappy with me when she is depressed. We have been together just under 1 year and her most recent bout of depression has been the toughest for me to cope with. Can anyone help me and give some advice on how they deal with the rejection?
Raz Sey says
Unfortunately I hate to be a debbie downer , but, if she’s in treatment, critical she stays in. If not, the person u fell in love with likely will return only infrequently. Unless u get help from groups or friends , u can fall in same rabbit hole. Everybody is broken in some way, question is , can you deal with it on long term basis. Just noticed the date , hopefully things are improved.
I have the same with my partner of 3 years…he is emotionally distant, won’t talk with me about how he is feeling, continually stonewall and no affection or statements of love/ appreciation when we met he love bombed me and I am now wondering if that was not the real him but this version is…he stayes he isn’t depressed and can cope but it is really feeling like I am reaching the end of my patience and tolerance.
I think this sounds more like he’s abusive than depressed
10 years in
im sitting at my desk at 1 am after going to sleep cause of the hopelessness and being woke by my depressed wife to tell me all im not doing and we live well.
there is no fixing and there is no happiness to be had no matter how much u love
straight up that boat is sinking with or without u on it
u will be able to blame no one but yourself if u choose to stay on it
sounds harsh but no one in one of these relationships will dispute it
I have been with my partner for about 11 years. He told me he was on medication for depression a short while after we met but I was too naive to realise what that could mean. He was intelligent and funny, well-educated and in a good job.
11 years later and he hasn’t worked for the last 10.5 years. We have two children (8 and 6) and he’s a good dad – very involved and very much loved. But I am broken by the stress and anxiety of dealing with a partner with depression. I am the only one earning and constantly fear what will happen to us if I lose my job. I juggle 90% of the house work on top of working full-time. And my partner does not have the capacity to be grateful for that. He drinks every day, not enough to be falling-over-drunk, but enough that (mixed with depression medication) he falls asleep at 8pm every night. It’s boring and lonely. The loneliness is the worst bit as even on a good day he is sort of absent, not really listening, hearing or remembering anything I say. Twice this week he hasn’t got out of bed until lunchtime – this is normal. Meanwhile I’m running around doing my job, washing, kids meals etc etc. My life is hard work and he can’t offer any support. And yet he is funny and helpful and engaging outside our home, so everyone in our village thinks he’s great, and nobody sees my struggle, it’s all hidden behind closed doors.
So to anyone wondering whether to stay with a partner with depression, I would say think very very hard. Because most likely it will only get harder for you. You will become increasingly tired and worn down, and face other pressures in life such as career or kids or whatever, and probably with little support from your depressed partner.
I know it’s illness so I’m not meaning to be unkind, you just have to be an extremely tough person to live with someone with depression and not get dragged down by it yourself. I won’t leave, but my life is an emotional rollercoaster and it’s not much fun.
I’ve been with my girlfriend for about 3 months now, the first 2 months were great but the last month has been difficult. My girlfriend lost her best friend at the beginning of January like her best friend ended the relationship and since then she’s been getting more distant , she dosent talk to me that much we see each other maybe once every two weeks. She also started working over nights and feels very tired when she dose have a day off and dosent want to hangout a lot of the time. I try my best to let her know that I care about her and that I’m here for her. But it dose hurt that I feel I’m being pushed away from her.
I’m in the same boat as you. The only difference is that we’ve been together for a year and a half now and my partner lost their dog recently which they were very very attached to and they admitted to me that it would take a lot of time to recover from. We only see each other once a week, sometimes more, but she has grown emotionally distant and doesn’t talk very much, I’m the one that has to push every I love you’s and every conversation some days.
They do act a little bit differently when they’re with friends? Idk how to explain.
As someone that deals with major depression and other mental disorders, it’s been kind of hard trying not to take this behavior personally, I don’t want to think this way but it’s irrational, it’s a voice that creeps on me. I feel guilty for thinking that they don’t love me anymore when they’re hurting. To add to that, they are naturally cold and very ”I’m okay because I’m tough and nothing hurts” kind of person.
I don’t know what to think and how to proceed. I’m trying to be the best partner I can be. How’s your situation going, since its been months?
Hi everyone, so i’ve been with my boyfriend for 3 years now and pretty much the entire of our relationship he has suffered depression. First 2 months were like a fairy tale best time ever. Then things started rocketing downward. I knew he was going through a lot from his past life (Ex wife, daughter) I tried to just be there and listen when he wanted to talk. He would go a week or sometimes even two being great but then BOOM! back to depressed.
I have done everything from trying to help him, give him space and just listen but this past year it is much worst. He now goes days without calling me and when we do talk he is cold and distant with me. I really needed him this year specially with this pandemic i need to have him around so i too would not feel so alone. My two youngest kids, 3 grandkids and myself all decided to move in together because we were all alone, this did not impress him he got so angry said i ruined the only chance of us having peace quite away from everyone., he lives with him mom (she is 67 and not from Canada). I tried to explain to him that i felt alone all he said was i was not thinking of us. I am honestly at a loss i feel heart broken and yes i know how depression works but i too am suffering and feel like i am not good enough for him only when he wants me. How long am i suppose to allow this continue, i have really tried to be supportive but when it starts effect the supporter what do we do at this point? The past 3 days he has not called or text me so i am giving him space once again, i do send him texts to say i am here when he wants to talk but honestly maybe i am selfish but i am getting tired of this sort of relationship.
In 3 years i can honestly say maybe 5 months total were ok or good. This past year was terrible from the start of the pandemic right up to today. Please if anyone has advise let me know because i am at a loss and dont know what to do with myself or this relationship. 🙁
Also note he does take anti-depressants but has yet to speak with a therapist although i have tried to encourage him many times.
Margie Askins says
I still say run. I lost twelve years on trying to help him. Being loyal. Found out he was lying to me as well snd I would’ve never imagine that. ..,it’s a selfish disease. They can’t give you what you need even if they want to.
I have been dealing with a depressed spouse for over 4 years. We have 2 kids together, and she used to be the most loving caring person. After our 2nd child, she suffered through post partum, and her therapist/psychologist said she had symptoms of PTSD, which is not hard to see as in 2016 after our 2nd child was born, she found out of an illegitimate half sister, as well having 2 dogs we loved die, and she took the election of Trump very hard, on top of the post partum. She has blamed her depression on me, and after recently recanting those feelings, she now blames her PTSD on me. She has had zero treatment in 3 years, and is on no medication. We are currently separated,, and this is the 3rd time in the last 4 years that we have separated, and it always happens at the beginning of the year. I have reached my breaking point, as I don’t want the marriage to end, but she refuses to get help, and has recently gotten into religion, stating that she feels much better now, but there is zero change in how she treats me. I tried to get us both into counseling when she told me she was feeling depressed, but it turned into her going, and her therapist seemed to be more of a friend than a helper, as I felt when I was finally allowed to go, it was an attack session on me, instead of helping us. Shortly after seeing her therapist, she told me she felt like she was going to go through a deep depression, and said it would be best if I left her. Im not the kind of person that would leave someone I cared about, especially my wife, and I have stuck it out through the abuse (being called stupid, fat, disgusting, etc), as well as her mocking my health issues, and her being condescending with simple answers and seemingly being addicted to her tablet/phone. There were some things about my business that I didn’t tell her, for fear of pushing her over the edge, as she told me she had some suicidal thoughts, but I have been faithful through it all. I want to keep my family together, but I feel like she is too far gone for the relationship to be saved, as even before she was depressed, she was never one to freely admit being wrong (which is something I accepted, because I loved her), and with the depression, she rarely admits to being wrong about anything, and there is no change in her attitude when she does. I’m lost, and my vision for my life with my wife and kids has been destroyed. Im not sure where to turn next.
I can relate i am in a similar situation, i have been with my depressed boyfriend for three years now and this is not how i pictured my life to be. I am 52 and just want a calm happy peaceful life however long that will be. I have tried to be supportive but when do we say its enough, when can we take control of our lives again?
They say it is up to the depressed person to get the help they need so do we leave and hope they will and not fall down the rabbit hole further after which we will feel guilty?
I hope things work out for you and your wife, its tough when kids are involved, best of luck to you all.
Thanks for commenting. I’d you are the person who posted above me, it sounds like we are in similar situations. I think you know when its time to leave. I was ready to leave before our most recent separation, and I think it is due to her lack of follow through (saying she will change and go to counseling for 3+ years and it not happening). I feel for my kids, but I’ve done all I can. I feel like its in her hands. Do you feel like you’ve done all you can do?
I got the empty promises cycle for 12 years. He never did shit. He did some therapy. Played with some medication inconsistently. Made promises of progress and a new us.
None of it happened. I don’t know how I lost so much time believing in him and thinking in the end, it would be worth it. I’m telling you now, it’s not. I’m exhausted. I wish I had left him long ago. My needs were never met. It’s time for me to be selfish.
I understand where you’re coming from I’ve been married for 3 years first year was great now with his depression and dabbling in medicine and him still not going to see a therapist to help with anything else he’s distant can’t talk to him about the simplest things or the things that matters he doesn’t want to work he has goes and he’s bringing me down with him and he’s done nothing but made promises and not kept his word it’s like he could care less if he’s here if he ain’t I just wish he’d leave instead of bringing me down with him actions do speak louder than words he knows this and I know he’s got to know what he’s doing any advice