Watching your loved one suffer and feeling helpless in the face of it is one of the worst feelings in the world. When you have a depressed partner, it may feel like nothing works.
So, what can you do when your partner is depressed?
Fortunately, when your spouse is feeling depressed, there are things that you can do to support them through it. Almost more importantly, there are things that you definitely shouldn’t do to help your person manage and get through their depression.
Here are 5 things to do — and not do — when your spouse is depressed.
1. Acknowledge the problem, but don’t try to fix it.
When you see your spouse feeling depressed, it’s important that you don’t run away from them. Dealing with depression and sadness is daunting. The instinct is often to run away, because you don’t know what to do.
The most important thing for you to do when your spouse is feeling depressed is to acknowledge to them that you see that they are depressed. Just knowing that your partner is aware of how you are feeling can help people manage their depression.
Once you have acknowledged their depression, is it important that you don’t try to talk your partner out of it. Don’t say, “But your life is great, why are you depressed?” or, “It’s such a pretty day out — be happy,” or, “Snap out of it.”
All of those things will only serve to let your spouse know that you don’t, in fact, understand the place they are in. This will only make them feel worse, because they know all those things to be true, but can’t seem snap out of it.
So, when your spouse is feeling depressed, acknowledge what you see, but don’t try to “fix” it.
2. Give them space if they want it.
Many people struggling with depression need some space to help manage. It’s a lot of work trying to be positive for someone when you’re depressed, so giving your depressed partner space can be very helpful.
That being said, giving them too much space can make them feel alone and even more mired in their depression. So, it’s important that you don’t abandon them completely.
Perhaps you could go for a run and then come home and just be in the house, not being overly cheerful, but checking in on your person to let them know you are there. Perhaps you could suggest a movie to take your partner’s mind off of the depression, even if just temporarily.
Ask your partner what they want as far as space. Hopefully, they can be self-aware and let you know what they need. Once you know, making every effort to give it to them will help them manage the depression and hopefully ride it out.
3. Make a plan and stick to it.
What I did so that my boyfriend would know what to do when I was struggling with depression was: When I wasn’t depressed, I’d make a plan for what I needed when I was feeling down.
That way, if I wasn’t able to articulate what I needed while depressed, then he would have a resource to help him help me.
For me, when I’m depressed, there are a few things that always help. Going on a hike, watching a movie, sex, pad Thai, and a nap.
All of those things I know will help me manage my depression. They might not get rid of my depression, but the distraction of a movie and a nap, the endorphins produced by physical activity, and the sheer yumminess of pad Thai are all things that can help me through.
Once my partner knew what I needed when I was depressed, it was way easier for him to help me through it.
So, make a plan with your partner about what they need when they are feeling depressed. Knowing what your spouse needs will make it way easier for you to feel like you are doing good helping them.
4. Be positive, but be realistic.
It is important that, when your partner is feeling depressed, you make an effort to be positive. Misery loves company, so if you’re down when your partner is down, it might make things worse.
That being said, being overly positive to the point that you are cloying won’t help at all. Don’t tell them that their life is good, that people love them, that the sun is out, that they have no reason to be unhappy, that they should just snap out of it.
None of these things will help, and will only make things worse. People get depressed, even if all of those things above are true.
When your spouse is feeling depressed, be positive. Tell them that you love them, that you see them, and that you accept where they are right now. Tell them that you will be there for them, no matter what.
If you’re feeling down yourself, perhaps because your partner is depressed, be honest with them and take some time for yourself. If you can’t be positive, you aren’t good for your spouse right now.
5. Seek help, but don’t push.
When your spouse is feeling depressed, it’s important to know that help is out there. Oftentimes, when those you love are struggling, it’s easy to get mired in their depression — in the tears, the anger, and the chaos that can result when your spouse is feeling depressed.
Fortunately, there are lots of resources out there for both people living with depression, and for those who love them.
Seeing a therapist or a life coach, getting involved with a support group, talking to your primary care doctor, or getting involved with the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) are all great resources for dealing with depression. Make yourself familiar with them, and use them as you see fit.
It is important to know that you can’t force your spouse to get help.
Until they are willing to accept that they are depressed and be willing to reach out to a doctor or therapist, any attempts by you to get them help will be useless. What you can do is share the resources that you find with your partner, so that they know they are out there.
Sometimes, when people are depressed, they get so hopeless that it’s hard to believe that anything could possibly help. So, make the info available for when they are ready.
When your spouse is feeling depressed it can sometimes feel like the world is ending.
You love your partner, but the chaos caused by the depression can be hard to deal with. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to help mitigate the damage and perhaps make change going forward.
Make sure you acknowledge your partner’s mood, but don’t try to fix it. Give them space, but not too much isolation. Make a plan for how to manage, be positive but not cloying, and know that there is help out there.
Depression gets worse the more it goes untreated, so it’s important that you pay attention to your spouse’s depression. If you see it getting deeper, consider reaching out to your family doctor for help. They can help you take the first steps towards helping your spouse get better.
Mitzi Bockmann is an NYC-based certified life coach and mental health advocate. She works exclusively with women to help them to be all that they want to be in this crazy world in which we live. Contact her for help or send her an email.
This article was originally published at Let Your Dreams Begin. Reprinted with permission from the author.