LOVE in the Age of Depression: 7 Ways to Keep Your Relationship Happy

This post is for:

*Family, Friends or Lovers*
of people that struggle with Depression.

Depression can be confusing and difficult for everyone.
You might be at a loss as to what to do. Not to mention that likely, nothing you do seems to help.

There is no single idea or method that works for everybody.
Ultimately, if these ideas (or any others) don’t work: try something else.

I hope that people who don’t have depression, but who care about someone who does, will find this post useful.

These are just my opinions.
Check with your loved one and ask them what they need: communication solves many problems.

First!

Depression can have many causes.
There are chemical and psychological elements. Depending on the individual, it could be either (or both). There are issues of habits, self-perception, associations, and a host of other things. Just as no two people are carbon copies of each other, no two depressed people will have exactly the same problems.

Sometimes there are similarities… but
what helps one person may not have any impact on another.

Unfortunately, if someone struggles with Depression (as in “D” in caps) there is no “overnight cure.” Even if things are fine for your loved one in the morning, that night things might be… not so great.

*In other words, most likely, this is something that will be present and relevant over a long period of time.

*Often things that are helpful take time to have any meaningful impact.

*Both of these notions mean: Don’t give up! Keep trying!

*TIPS*

1) “It’s not you… it’s me.”

No, really. Seriously.

Well, maybe you said something terrible, I don’t know.

Do not take it personally when your loved one falls into their malaise.
Be level, calm.

At least, unless you know it’s personal..!

There can be so many other triggers for Depression — for some people, it can be something small, and things just get out of hand from there.

Often Depression can create hypersensitivity. Maybe something you did got under your loved one’s skin… but really, they were already spiraling to begin with.

Don’t automatically assume that you are to blame.
Try to stay clear-headed, don’t freak out.

2) Be Prepared!

No, really… seriously!

If you sense that your loved one is depressed, but you aren’t ready for a long, tear-filled conversation, think through how you can engage them.

Hopefully you have a fairly solid, honest communication going in general. Yes? No? *Ahem*. Well, work on that one = )

Depression often comes with a great swirling of insecurities. This means your loved one may already feel bad about drawing you in. Or… feel bad for being a downer for the third day in a row. Or… yeah.

It’s great if you’re able and willing to have long talks with your loved one.
It’s better if you do it when you’re up for it.

If you’re not up for it in that moment, my suggestion is to be supportive but set a time, as specific as possible, for when you can talk things through more thoroughly.

Ehh… you don’t have to say “I’m not up for this right now!” and storm out.

Reassure your loved one that you want to listen,
and that you want to be there for them. Setting up a time lets them know you mean it. Show them know you care.

A brief display of sincere caring goes a long way.

3) Don’t break…! Get help!

Again… seriously!

As I said — if we’re talking about real “Depression,” likely it’s happened before, and likely it’s going to happen again. It’s going to keep happening. To be blunt, It could be something that’s always around.

For loved ones, this can be tiresome. You might get to a point where you don’t want to deal with it anymore.

Get your depressed person some additional help.
Not in the moment of depression, but in preparation for the return of “the big D.”

This doesn’t have to be therapy, although it can be. It could be more friends and loved ones. It could be family, or anyone else.

This is tricky, as… well. If someone is dealing with depression, they might not be that social. Even if they are (or even if they are in bursts), they might not like telling people about their depression.

All the same — think of “help” collectively as a rope bridge. The more strands, the more pressure it can take, and the longer it will last. If you are the only rope holding your loved one aloft, you are likely to break sooner.

If your depressed person has five people they can call instead of one, that will make life much easier for both of you.

4) Build Good Habits!

For many, learning how to successfully get through Depression is all about habits.

Some days will be better than others; sometimes there could be great stretches of being “okay.” Only to crash and burn!!!

Always, in the back of your loved one’s mind, the Depression might be lurking, even when they’re “okay.”

Habits can help keep them going,
help them stay focused & productive.

Additionally, your depressed person will probably hate it if all they do with you is talk about their depression…!

I know, right? Tricky!

Find things that you can do with your loved one.

Part A of this could be: figuring out some of the triggers that throw your loved person into the Pit; or the ideas they use to keep themselves there. Common examples are weight, insecurities, desires or things they do that they themselves don’t like, feeling lazy/ unmotivated, and so on.

Take something negative and turn it into something they can transform, especially if it’s something you can do together. Generally speaking, habits are more easily formed if they are done on a regular basis, and if they are done with other people.

Celebrate together — and celebration will help make it a habit. Utilize something that will bolster the ego/ sense of accomplishment/ self.

Exercise can be a good one, or taking up an activity, like writing or photography, reading, learning a language, cooking. Taking walks, exploring new places, travel.

It won’t always work.
As a loved one, you have to know that.

This is okay. It’s not about “curing” or “fixing” anyone.
Rather, it’s about making things a little bit better, and consistently so.

5) Hone your Listening Skills

I… HATE… when people just aren’t listening!

You can often tell when it happens.

Listening does not equal offering advice.

Sometimes, the most important aspect of a “conversation” is letting the depressed person release all the terrible sadness they have locked inside.

A little bit of sincere encouragement or sensitive and positive reinforcement goes much farther than anything starting with the words “you should.”

Additionally, if your depressed loved one tells you what’s bothering them, and you are unable to pretty much sum it up, you’re probably spacing out and they just might notice. THEN you will have more problems on the pile!

This doesn’t mean you have to understand everything, it doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything, nor do you even have to empathize with everything.

You just need to listen.

Listen.

Just. Listen.

Sometimes, asking a clarifying question or two can be good. Then, at the end, make sure they know you love them, and that you mean it.

Trust me when I say, ultimately, depending on your person, there’s a pretty good chance that they don’t believe you. Maybe they believe no one loves them. That’s not necessarily your fault; and yeah… you just went over all of this a few days ago *sigh*.

BUT you should keep it all in mind, and give convincing them a reasonable shot. Yep. Again.

6) Find Solutions That Work! Carefully!

There actually could be an “answer,” depending on what’s going on, at least to the present situation.

For example, maybe your loved one *GOT FIRED!!!* This sucks. And… talk about a trigger!

Okay. This might be good, actually.

So – loved one spirals down, down, down into one of the various Pits of Depression.

You sit. You have “the talk.” You “listen.” For… *checks clock*… oh, let’s say three hours. You tell them how much you care about them, etc etc etc, and you reassure them that, yeah… firing them was completely asinine, and yeah, likely, Karma is looking for their former boss right now.

Cool. Now what?

Luckily, this is actually a problem with potential solutions.
But Wait! You may think the answer is obvious, right? “You should get a new job!”

Wrong! Slow down!

This is where you kinda feel things out first.

My advice here is to ask something like, “are you up for talking about what to do next?” And this, only after all the crying and hugging is done.

Sometimes… Depressed folks… don’t want to face the things they have to do… at least not yet!!! Sometimes they need to breathe!

If your person is ready, then this question creates an opportunity for action. It creates a chance for you to help bring things around to a positive, hopeful outcome.

Still… avoid the “you should” and try something open ended.

Like, “okay, cool. So… if you want, I can take a look at your resume?” or, “…how about we check out a few ads online?”

This approach avoids laying subtle blame/ responsibility (or perception thereof, even if you didn’t mean it that way… *phew*) while cracking the door to resolution. It gives the Depressed person a way out if they’re not up for it.

Even if you have a solution, one they will love, there WILL be something else to bring them down eventually.

Life is full of inevitabilities.
It is highly likely that your depressed person will hit a roadblock again.

And that’s okay.

7) Get In Touch With Your Feelings

Yeah, YOU.

Know what? Remember that thing I said about hoping you have good, solid communication? Yeah, that.

Unfortunately, sometimes your person just might be depressed about YOU.

Whoever you are, whatever your relationship.

Your best bet, in my humble opinion, is to stop screwing around. Don’t play games, don’t misdirect, don’t be evil or manipulative. Don’t use each other.

Be honest and treat each other with kindness. Be clear, but in a thoughtful, respectful and considerate way.

Share your ups and downs, your goals and worries.

Be a real person, develop TRUST.

The more your depressed loved one trusts you, the more they can rely on you, and the more that their problems really have nothing to do with you or your relationship, the better.

Just to let you know, that doesn’t mean YOU will never be the trigger!

Ha ha! So… get that hope for immunity out of your head! It just makes it less likely; and if it happens, if YOU are the “cause,” but you have a good relationship, things are likely to turn around faster and better.

Final Thoughts:

You need to know that if your person is suffering from Depression, it could be something that sticks around.

One time, it could last an hour. Another, it could go for days, weeks. It could vanish for months and then, out of the blue, you come home and your person is on the couch, in the “Pit.” And staying there.

Try to not be judgmental. Try to be patient. Try to be loving. Be good to your person, but also be good to yourself.

If your loved one exhibits signs of wanting to hurt themselves or someone else, don’t try to handle that on your own: Get Help.

Be okay with their Depression; but find more reasons to celebrate and enjoy life.

Dealing with Depression can be work, but it can be rewarding and satisfying. You can still have a great relationship.

Ultimately, you have to work together, both people have to do their part.

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions or other ideas, let me know. Please keep it positive!

— A

2 thoughts on “LOVE in the Age of Depression: 7 Ways to Keep Your Relationship Happy

  1. Tough, isn’t it. And ‘getting’ help isn’t always equal to ‘asking for help,’ especially from the professionals.

    Sometimes the trigger is situational – and they need/want to stay in that situation (think college), because not finishing will make them feel worse – so you support, don’t judge, and (if possible) keep paying.

    I read columns like yours to check that I’m doing everything I can without jumping in there, all parental, and taking charge. After 18, unless things are very bad, parents are NOT in charge – and the kids know it.

    They should also know they are loved.

    And that I don’t presume to understand – my own ‘episodes’ back in the day (and the ones I relentlessly manage with CBT because I can’t take drugs) are not the same, and I don’t presume they are.

    It is tough.

    1. Hey Alicia!

      Really good points.

      Hopefully you have found some successes with CBT — a lot of people find it useful. I personally view drugs as a last resort, but for many it’s an automatic response. Ultimately, everyone has to figure out what the best way to cope is for them.

      I generally apply the “if it doesn’t work… try something else! But keep trying things!” method to most situations hehe

      I appreciate your comments, especially because I can tell they are actually quite personal. I hope the people in your life know you care about them. Love (as corny as this is gonna sound…) can clarify many things.

      It *can* be really tough. I do believe for many people, if they find things that work for them, then depression can be more manageable and life can be better overall.

      Part of what makes it tough is that people expect an easy, quick solution, when sometimes, there may be no “solution” at all. There are only techniques to get through one situation and to be better prepared for the next.

      I appreciate you coming by and I’m grateful for your comments.

      — Arley

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