March 15, 2019
Depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44, affecting 16.1 million American adults. Odds are that at some point you have already or will eventually date someone with major depressive disorder.
Dating someone with depression can put added strain on your relationship. It can make it harder to connect with them, becoming a wall that separates you. The bad news is that depression will always be present in some form if you are dating someone with MDD. The good news is that there is plenty you can do to make your relationship a happier and better one.
There are a lot of popular myths about depression propagated by movies and the news. The worst thing you can do for your partner and your relationship is to believe in and spread these false truths. Learn as much as you can about depression, so you can determine fact from fiction.
Depression isn’t just in your partner’s head, it doesn’t mean they are weak, it’s not the same as feeling sad, and it isn’t necessarily related to any particular trigger. The more you understand what your partner is going through, the more you can be there for them and manage your own expectations.
In addition to learning about depression in general, you should always be learning more about what depression is like for your partner specifically. Every person with depression experiences it differently. Stay curious about how your partner is feeling, and don’t assume you know what they are thinking.
People with depression experience life through a negative filter, so your partner won’t often interpret things the same way as you do or even as you expect them to. Ask them questions, and listen to them without judgment. This alone will do a lot of good for your relationship.
It’s true that dating someone with depression comes with extra problems most relationships don’t have. However, it’s not the reason for every issue you experience in your relationship. Your partner can quickly feel attacked if you name depression as the root of all your relationship woes, and for good reason.
It’s also important to take any grievances your partner voices seriously. Yes, sometimes it may just be the depression talking. But if you attribute all negative talk to depression, you'll never hear your partner when they are honest and open with you. Listening is just as important when dating someone with depression as it is in any other relationship.
Just as listening is important for any relationship, so is being honest and accepting with your partner. Dating someone with depression can be painful and confusing for both parties. It isn’t their fault they are depressed. It’s a fact about who they are. Accept that.
It’s also not your fault if dating someone with depression takes a toll on you emotionally. It can be frustrating when your partner always feels awful and there doesn’t seem to be anything you can do about it. Be honest about that, and if your partner truly cares about you, they will accept it too.
It’s important that you don’t see yourself as the solution to your partner’s problems. Depression isn’t something you’re ever going to fix.
When dating someone with depression, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking it’s your job to cure it. This is an attitude that has the power to ruin your relationship. If you were dating anyone else, would you think it was your job to be the sole provider of happiness in the relationship? That’s way too much pressure, and if you think of your relationship this way, it can bring your baseline level of happiness down to that of your partner’s.
Instead, set boundaries, and continue participating in the usual activities you enjoy. Remember to acknowledge and satisfy your own needs. Even if it sometimes means spending less time with your partner. This isn’t to say that depression is contagious. However, people tend to imitate the behaviors they see most often. Only spending time with a partner who has depression can lead you into negative thought patterns.
Dating someone with depression is not easy. Sometimes, it can feel like you’re the only one putting energy into the relationship. It’s important to be open and honest about these feelings and to create a space where your partner can be open and honest about theirs. Voicing your thoughts and feelings is especially important when dating someone with depression. It will enable you to be the partner they need while still being able to fulfill your own needs.