How To Deal With Depression In A Relationship

Annie Gurton

Relationship Therapist

Depression in a relationship can be fatal. Not to you individually, but to the relationship. When one partner is depressed the stress can be so huge that it becomes impossible for the other to endure it. Sometimes even the sufferer can find the relationship so hard that they are the one to pull the plug. Yet it is possible to survive in a relationship even where there is full-blown clinical depression.

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Depression minimises the positives in your life and magnifies the negative. So when your partner leaves their clothes out or doesn’t wash the dishes, the depressed person can automatically think they’re inconsiderate and clearly don’t care about you.

The worst of it is that depression breeds self-doubt, which can colour how you view your partner and how you think they view you. Someone with lower-self-esteem and depression may have a bad time with their partner and think, ‘She/he doesn’t really care about me. I knew it wouldn’t last,’ whereas someone with a healthier sense of self-worth may think, ‘Right now, we’re going through a tough time, but I know our relationship can withstand this. We’ll work it out.’

How do you know if depression is affecting your relationship?

Ask yourself:

– Has our sex life and moments of intimacy slowed to a standstill, or nearly?
– Do you feel hopeless about the relationship, and/or stuck in a negative place?
– Are emotions far from the surface, and life seems superficial?
-Do you feel tempted to ‘act out’ or behave in ways which are atypical or passive aggressive?
– Do you feel anxious a lot of the time, or unsafe and not in control?

Here are some things you could do:

1. Acknowledge and discuss

The first thing that has to happen is that the depression has to be out in the open, fully exposed to the healing sunlight of love. When the depression is hidden and allowed to fester inside, it becomes even more deadly.

2. Reach out for outside help

Relationship professionals will have seen it all before, and help you both to talk more clearly, and work out a strategy for dealing withe the depression and any other underlying issues. If necessary see your GP for medication, but try couples talking therapy first, such as Imago Relationship Therapy. Find you nearest Imago practitioner.

3. Don’t rush into any hasty decisions.

You may feel the relationship is over, you’ve had enough of having this third element in the relationship and you just dont’ want this any more.   Remember you were attracted to each other by something deep and strong, and that doesn’t come along very often. Try and work it out before throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

4. Set a deadline

As they say, time can heal but if nothing is changing then something dramatic may need to happen. Allow at least three months for behavioural changes to kick in. Working with a professional will help you to define these changes and the commitment promises that go with them.

5. Be honest

If you really don’t think that this relationship is serving you any more, and you will both be happier apart, have the courage to say so in a caring empathetic way.   Being honest doesn’t mean being hurtful.

It really is possible to live with depression if there is a treatment program in place, such as with an experienced couples therapist. Have faith in your original love for each other, and have hope that it can be restored.


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