I’m in a year-long relationship, and I’ve had depression on and off before and during the relationship. When my emotions get the best of me, my partner will tell me that I need to do more to combat my depression and prevent the build-up of emotions from happening. At one point, my partner told me I was being selfish for not trying hard enough to get out of depression because it was taking a toll on our relationship. My therapist believed that I was putting too much of the responsibility on myself and that there should be efforts coming from both people in the relationship. If I was single, then she believed I needed to take responsibility for coping with depression. My partner is technically trying to help me by telling me to go outside, but he doesn’t ask to be involved in them. I don’t typically ask him to be involved either due to his reluctance for going outside because of his schedule or allergies.
Years before I leaned on a previous partner for my depression and put him as my source for happiness. Everything hurt so much more when we broke up, and I took it as a lesson that I shouldn’t depend on other people to help me through depression or they’ll leave or I’ll end up even worse. I accepted my current partner’s advice because it’s still helpful advice to follow if I was alone, but my therapist stressed that I shouldn’t have to carry all the weight by myself.
Is it healthy to be in a committed relationship but feel like you have to cope with depression alone? (From the USA)
Yes, it is healthy to be in a committed relationship while struggling with depression, but there are a few ground rules that will help.
- Your partner is not responsible for making you feel better, helping you get out of your depression, or adjusting their life to accommodate you. They can be very helpful in supporting you through it, giving you encouragement, offering some assistance in getting the help you need, but the responsibility is yours alone. If partners help too much, they run the risk of becoming codependent and live in orbit around their depressed partner’s needs. If they do not care at all — the relationship is likely to fail. Having a supporting but not responsible-for-your-depression partner is ideal.
- You do not want a partner who doesn’t know how to handle or give you space for your depression, and definitely don’t want one who makes it worse. A partner who can’t grasp the nature of your pain and belittles you for your depression is adding to the difficulty, not helping.
- Become vigilant in seeking your own treatment. Exercise, meditation, and psychotherapy are a powerful combination. Many other countries recommend exercise first for the treatment of depression before medicine — and for good reason. The research demonstrates that exercise alone can be the difference needed to improve a depressed mood. Some forms of meditation have been shown to be equally as effective as medication, and of course, there is psychotherapy with a long list of research to support its effectiveness. Here is one article about it. Of course, there are antidepressants and other medical approaches to treatment such as Trans Magnetic Stimulation (TMS).
- Couples therapy can be very helpful in sorting out the balance of love and limits that emerge in a committed relationship when one partner has depression. This group has counselors that can help—and the find help tab at the top of the page will connect you to folks in your area that have couple counseling.
Wishing you patience and peace,