Loving Someone with Depression Comes with Challenges
Can depression and love ever happily coexist? Many couples manage to live well despite one or both partners being depressed, but it isn’t always easy. Depression comes with many challenges you might not anticipate at the start of a relationship; these include sex troubles, fatigue, financial strain and poor physical health– all of which can make romantic love difficult to sustain. Here's what to expect from depression and love, as well as some tips to help you overcome the common obstacles.
Depression and Love: Why Is It So Difficult?
Depression and love are more prevalent than you might think. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 16.2 million adults in the U.S. have had at least one depressive episode a year. Contrary to popular belief, studies have shown that people in relationships or marriage were no less depressed than those who are single. Quite the opposite was shown to be true in one study, where cohabiting men were found to be less depressed than married men because marriage made them more insular.
Many people experience depression in long-term relationships, so what’s the key to making it work? Can you ever be depressed and happy at the same time?
How to Be Depressed and Happy In Love
Believe it or not, it is possible to sustain a happy relationship when you or your partner has depression. Clinical depression is an illness – it's not a state of mind or a fleeting emotion – and as long as it's treated with care and compassion, there are ways to live well with this diagnosis.
Supportive and loving relationships are vital to happiness and wellbeing, whether these come from romantic partners, family members or friends. Here’s how to get the most out of your relationship when you have depression.
If depression and love are going to co-exist (and let’s face it, they will in most relationships at some point), then you and your partner need to create a culture of openness and honesty. The only way to lessen depression’s hold over you is to bring it into the open and let other people help. Talk about your feelings and encourage your partner to listen and accept what you say.
It may also be helpful to tell your partner what you need back when you talk about your depression. Are you looking for advice, support or someone to listen without judgment?
Make each other laugh
We all know that laughter is the best medicine – it helps us create antibodies, decrease stress and diminish physical pain. When you’re depressed, laughter feels impossibly out of reach, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Humor is an invaluable coping mechanism – just think about beloved comedians like Robin Williams and Jim Carrey who have battled depression and still made audiences laugh.
Laughter is also great for bonding couples together, so next time things start to feel intense, try switching on your favorite comedy show or listening to a funny podcast together. It's okay if you're not always able to see the funny side.
Depression causes many people to physically withdraw from their partners, which can throw up issues around intimacy and sex. What’s more, both depression and antidepressants can alter the balance of dopamine cells in the brain, causing reduced libido and lack of enjoyment of intercourse.
For all of these reasons, it's important to stay intimate in any way you can – whether that means holding hands, being physically close or communicating honestly and openly about your feelings. Many people find that issues around sex and depression level out once they find the right depression treatment plan, but you may wish to consult your doctor about your options if staying intimate becomes an ongoing struggle ("My Depressed Boyfriend, Partner is Pushing Me Away: Try This").
Work as a Team
Depression is never a choice, and it’s nobody’s fault. There’s no point blaming one another for the challenges in your relationship. So, if you have to blame someone, blame depression. When it comes to depression and love, presenting a united front against the illness will help you feel more bonded and help you channel your frustration without making one another feel bad.
Smith, E. (2022, January 4). Loving Someone with Depression Comes with Challenges, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, June 1 from https://www.healthyplace.com/depression/relationships/loving-someone-with-depression-comes-with-challenges