Photo credit: Josh Hild
More than one quarter of U.S. adults report having been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives. The disease makes life challenging in all kinds of ways, and relationships are no exception. For partners of those suffering depression, the inability to “fix” the other’s condition can be difficult and frustrating. But even though we can’t cure our partners’ depression, we can learn skills that strengthen our relationships and make them more fulfilling for both parties.
Depression is one of the most common forms of mental illness in the United States. Romantic relationships with those who suffer from depression can be hard: we don’t enjoy watching our Loved Ones suffer, and we don’t have the power to make the depression go away. At the same time, just ignoring the illness is out of the question. As Caitlin Cantor (licensed social work, certified sex therapist, and psychotherapist) explains in this article from Psychology Today, “depression has a loud and convincing voice that dominates the minds of those who suffer from it.” It can also weigh heavily on the minds and hearts of those who care for them.
If we can’t “fix” our partner’s depression, what can we do? Cantor offers five concrete tips: maintain the balance between self-care and caring for your partner, learn how to support them in their suffering, focus on the positive, practice compassion, and learn new ways of communicating with your partner. She elaborates on each of these just enough to show the reader where to start investing thought, effort, and hope for a new direction. There’s also a great model conversation between a suffering partner and a one not suffering from depression, illustrating how support, compassion, and self-care can (and really must) coexist in such relationships.
This is wise and useful guidance for anyone who cares for someone with depression—whether the relationship’s just getting started or has lasted for decades.