Dating someone with anxiety and depression can introduce several unforeseen elements into a relationship. However, that doesn’t mean these relationships aren’t worth pursuing, and those who suffer from depression can still be incredible life partners. Learning how to date someone with depression means taking a unique approach to the relationship that not only seeks to better understand depression, but also implements unique approaches to deepening the relationship. While loving someone with depression can be difficult at times, there are tips for helping overcome a partner’s depression and still enjoy a fruitful, happy relationship. Learning how to love someone with depression may mean making additional compromises, but overcoming depressive episodes together can further bolster the trust and love between two individuals, and can be a catalyst to the development of an incredibly strong, life-long bond.
10 Tips for Dating a Depressed Person
Dating a man with depression or dating a girl with depression are both unique situations that require a different approach to dating. However, following some key guidelines can help each individual both understand depression better, as well as continue to develop a relationship despite the effects of depression.
Accept That Depression Is Real and Educate Yourself
Depression is often thought of as simply sadness. However, depression is actually a much more serious disorder, and it can affect each individual in unique ways. While some depression is more severe or has longer episodes, others may suffer from depression in a more sporadic manner. Accepting that depression is a real disorder means internalizing the fact that it isn’t a matter of willpower, and that “just cheering up” isn’t a viable solution or a helpful thing to say. Rather, it is a mental health issue that requires effort in order to address, as well as educated and proper support. It also means an individual accepts that depression isn’t something that will just magically go away under a certain timeframe — it is something they will continue to manage alongside their partner and continue to learn more about the condition as coping strategies develop.
Stay Flexible and Open
Depression is a condition that can present itself at any time. While some may have particular triggers that can induce the onset of a depressive episode, depression can also seem to occur without these triggers over time or may be cyclic in nature. Because of this, plans may need to be altered last-minute, and plans will not always fall into place neatly. An individual suffering from depression may simply not be equipped to go to a public function, and it is important to be flexible to this possibility. This can also present itself by altering plans to have contingencies in place in case there is an additional need. Mind that it is never the intention of a person suffering from depression to ever “ruin” some kind of evening or date, and keeping an open and understanding mind about how depression can affect each individual, as well as the unique ways in which depression may manifest in one’s partner, can help contextualize these last-minute changes.
Accept Their Feelings
Accepting another’s feelings means understanding that depression can manifest in a number of unique ways. Depression can feel irrational, and one may feel extraordinarily sad over what may be perceived as negligible incidents. However, accepting someone else’s feelings means not looking to try to rationalize their emotions, but rather react to the genuine way in which they are feeling. Telling someone that why they are upset “isn’t a big deal” can further highlight irrational feelings and may cause additional hurdles, whereas asking someone, “What can I do to help you through this tough time?” can be much more supportive in showcasing an endearing level of understanding and acceptance.
Encourage, Don’t Advise
One of the greatest pieces of advice when it comes to dating someone with depression is to try not to give advice yourself. A partner who suffers from depression may need a more supportive, encouraging role, and isn’t necessarily looking to their partner for how they are supposed to overcome their depression. Especially if those who suffer from depression aren’t directly asking for advice on how to address a situation, offering this unsolicited advice can be confusing or make it feel as if they are being told what is best for them. Offering supportive words and encouragement during a depressive episode can be the support that is more effective in the moment, and it may be beneficial to revisit coping strategies with an individual after the depressive episode has passed if they are wanting to discuss it. While those suffering from depression may look to professionals for how to continue to develop their coping and grounding strategies, their relationship with their partner may be more based on encouragement, support, and understanding rather than direction or advice.
Don’t Blame Yourself
Depression isn’t anybody’s “fault.” Just as it is not the fault of those who suffer from it, it is also unfair to blame oneself for another’s depression. While accepting that all relationships will have their complications and that one may upset their partner from time to time, it is also important to remember that depression isn’t the fault of any one person. Blaming oneself for depression can lead to ever-increasing stress levels in learning how to cope with it, rather than dedicating this time to thinking about the good times or the steps already taken in overcoming depression and thriving in a bountiful relationship.
Focus on Your Own Needs
Depression is an intense experience. However, it is still important to be able to focus on one’s own needs and self-care, even while supporting a partner who suffers from depression. Dating shouldn’t come at the expense of either person’s identity or individuality. Focusing on one’s own needs may mean scheduling time for a person to do something on their own, engage in their hobbies, or work on their personal or professional goals. While it may be necessary to have one’s phone nearby during this time in case of emergencies, dating someone with depression doesn’t mean solely providing care and support around the clock. Rather, maintaining proper self-care practices and boundaries can help you stay more effective as a support to your partner by avoiding things like compassion fatigue.
Look Beyond Depression
Depression may make up a portion of one’s relationship with another person. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other aspects to each individual. Defining another simply under the umbrella of “one who suffers from depression” can be a great oversimplification, and there are many more complexities to each person. While it is important to be cognizant of another’s depression, it is also important to remember all of the other aspects of the individual. Likewise, it is also important that an individual doesn’t simply blame everything on depression. It is possible to be sad without feeling depressed, just as it is possible to feel nervous without experiencing debilitating anxiety. Talking about depression, as well as accepting the things that it either does or does not affect, are all paramount to creating effective communication throughout the relationship.
Focus on Communication Strategies
Learning how to communicate is an important part of any kind of relationship. For those dating someone with depression, this factor can be even more crucial. Learning how to communicate effectively means working out a particular language or approach that can help support a loved one with depression in a way that isn’t unintentionally offensive or infantilizing, as well as can help clearly communicate essential information in the event of a depressive episode. Communication strategies can mean implementing or removing certain words from one’s vocabulary, implementing new mediums such as texting or messages, as well as simply dedicating time to ensure there is a chance to speak, whether it is about depression or something more lighthearted. Having dedicated mediums in which to communicate can make managing depressive episodes more streamlined and structured, providing additional support.
Practicing equality is an important thing to internalize. This means that an individual needs to see their partner as an equal and valued member in the relationship, despite if they are suffering from depression or not. Likewise, this also means that an individual needs to treat themselves as an equal member with equal needs and goals, and not only define themselves as a support system. This balance can be difficult to find as each person has their own needs and compromises to make for a functioning relationship, but maintaining that each member is equal in need and respect is essential for continued, healthy growth as a couple.
Be an Active Member of Their Healing
Being an active member of a partner’s healing means understanding that depression affects many people. Learning coping strategies alongside one’s partner, trying new hobbies with them, as well as continuing to educate oneself about depression months or years into a relationship is all crucial to be an active member of healing. Successful relationships with those suffering from depression will consider depression as a shared issue to overcome and will incorporate strategies that involve both members of the relationship. While understanding another’s needs is important in the healing process, getting involved and engaging in these coping strategies, learning to model grounding strategies, and being open to engaging in new hobbies are all hallmarks of an active, effective, and wholly supportive partner to a loved one suffering from depression.
When Should You Seek Help?
Depression is unique, and coping strategies that once worked might not always continue to be able to alleviate the pain of a depressive episode. If one’s strategies are no longer working, or if depressive episodes seem to be getting progressively longer or more frequent, professional help may be necessary to address the unique changes to one’s experience with depression. When seeking help for a loved one suffering from depression, talking about couples-based recovery programs can help inform not only of how an individual can address their depression, but also continue to build on one’s supportive strategies simultaneously.