Love + Sex, Love

8 ways to help your partner if they have depression – and take care of yourself

I've been through it as the partner with depression — and I'm here to help out.

Experiencing depression is overwhelming, and when you’re in a relationship it often further complicates things.

When entering a serious relationship, I feared how depression would affect me and my partner. I worried about being burdensome with my needs or struggles, especially when I fall into what feels like an abyss of depression.

But something important my partner has taught me is that I don’t have to walk this path alone, and he can help me carry the weight.

While supporting your partner through depression shouldn’t replace them seeking professional help when necessary, your compassion can make a positive impact on how they cope with trying times.

Based on my own experiences, here’s what you can do to support your partner and assure them that they’re not alone:

1. Listen

I often feel isolated and alone when depressed, so it’s comforting to hear my partner ask what he can do for me.

Whether it be a hug or a sounding board, my partner assures me that I am valued and heard. Simply listening to your partner talk about their feelings or what they might need from you can make all the difference.

2. Help them do the hard stuff… and the simple stuff

Sometimes motivating myself to do seemingly simple tasks becomes impossible when I’m depressed. On days where I can barely take care of myself in the most basic ways, the extra push from my partner matters. Little reminders from him to eat or make my bed helps me add a little bit of structure to days that seem like a blur.

Even offering assistance with the little things can make getting through seemingly arduous tasks all the more manageable.

3. Educate yourself about mental illness

Trying to understand what your partner is going through when they’re depressed can feel challenging, especially for those who haven’t experienced it. Although you might not fully understand the extent of their struggles, it doesn’t hurt to do your own research.

Whether through the Internet or a mental health professional, it can also provide you with comfort to get a better idea of what your partner is experiencing.

4. Send them words of affirmation

I often tend to diminish my self-worth and value, so it means a lot when my partner tries to uplift me by reminding me that I’m valued and loved.

Whether it’s a quick phone call, a voicemail message or text, let your partner know just how wonderful they are.

5. Give them space when they need it

Although your instinct might be to be there for your partner as much as possible, giving them space can be just as helpful. Sometimes I can’t even muster the energy to form coherent sentences, so talking it out with my partner becomes more frustrating than anything.

In these instances, it’s more helpful to mull over my thoughts and feelings so I can better articulate them.

6. Celebrate their victories – even the tiny ones

When you’re dealing with depression, it’s important to count all your victories, even the small ones. My partner is fantastic at reminding me to count each victory as they come along, even the things I find trivial. I often dismiss things like crossing things off my to-do list, seeing a therapist, or making small efforts to be healthy, but my partner is quick to applaud me for things that I’ve struggled to do in the past.

He makes sure I focus on every victory.

7. Send them things that will make them laugh or smile

Obviously funny videos aren’t the solution to coping with depression, but sometimes it’s nice just to smile or laugh. One of the things I appreciate about my partner is how he’ll send me a stream of puppy videos or memes that will make me laugh. It’s no “cure” for my depression, but the fact that I can take a pause to laugh or smile makes all the difference in hard times.

8. Take care of yourself and know your boundaries

More than likely you’re not a mental health professional. At the end of the day, you might not have the tools or know-how on what to say to your partner or how to make them feel better, and that’s perfectly okay. Establishing these boundaries, although hard, is completely necessary.

Remember not to conflate your ability to support your partner with your ability to “cure” them. No matter how much we’d love to snap our fingers and make everything better, we can’t. All we can do is do our best to help. Seeing your partner struggle can be hard on you too, so take it easy on yourself. Your mental health matters too.

Although depression can be overwhelming, showing your partner that they are loved, valued, and not alone can help them overcome what seems like the impossible.