Loving someone with depression can strip you of your own joy. You can’t save them. Only they can save themselves, it isn’t your fault they’re sad.
For most of us, when in a relationship, you want to make your partner happy. In fact, you thrive on being with someone who not only fulfills you but that you make their life better too. Loving someone with depression is not an easy thing. It isn’t just tough on them—it takes a toll on you.
We all go through times in our lives where things aren’t so great, we get into a funk, or we just don’t feel happy. But, if you live with someone who can’t seem to break out of that rut and it is more habitual and more than feeling a little down, it also robs you of your happiness. [Read: 18 emotions you shouldn’t feel in a healthy relationship]
Loving someone with depression isn’t what you might think
The hardest part about loving someone with depression is you want to get them out of it. You think that if you love harder, make them happier, are nicer to them, or make their life easier, they’ll snap out of it, and you walk into the sunset together. But, truthfully, depression has nothing to do with you and you can’t solve it.
For someone depressed, the only one who can save them from it is themselves. If you are with someone who shows signs of depression, it is important to try to get them the help they need. But, don’t negate what you need or find yourself in the same misery to try to help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves.
Depression isn’t just about feelings or experiences. For many, it is a chemical imbalance that starts with brain chemistry. That can’t be fixed by your smiles, your enthusiasm, or you continually trying to make them happy. It is true that the only one who makes you happy is you. Sure, other people pick you up once in a while, but you can’t keep carrying the weight of your partner if they are truly depressed.
#1 Get them help. One of the hardest things to get someone with depression to do is to admit they have a problem. No one likes to admit they need help, especially not the depressed person.
You can’t make them see a therapist or get an evaluation, but suggest it to them without fear of reprisal. If you keep quiet and don’t state the obvious, you do both of you a disservice.
#2 Don’t lose yourself. When you love someone with depression, you want to solve it for them. You think if you just make things light, happy, and easy for them, their problems will be solved. But, the more you try to make them happy, the unhappier you become.
Because, for all your efforts, you likely get no reward. That has most people in love with someone with depression feeling like a continual failure. We all like to think if we do enough, we make our partners happy.
But, the only one who makes you happy is you. And, if your loved one is depressed, you can give them the world, and they still won’t enjoy it. It isn’t your fault. You aren’t to blame. Don’t lose yourself trying to save them. It won’t work, you just lose yourself in it. [Read: Stand up for yourself and get what you want from your relationship]
#3 Don’t become an enabler. Sometimes we stay with people we love because we feel like we must be the martyr or they won’t be able to exist without us. If you are both miserable and can’t seem to pick them out of their depression, you don’t do them any favors.
Often our best efforts become nothing more than enabling. If you love someone with depression, sometimes you give them an ultimatum to get help, or you won’t watch it anymore. You can’t fear what they will do or feel like you are ditching out when they need you most.
If you let things go the way they are, you enable them not to get the help they need or to see what is really going on. The best way to love someone with depression is to not continue playing along. It keeps you BOTH stuck. [Read: 25 clues to know if relationship therapy will help]
#4 Get other family members or friends involved. It is easy for your partner to put the blame back on you or to ignore your requests that they seek help. You likely aren’t the only one seeing the decline in their mental status.
If you can’t talk some sense into them, there is safety and power in numbers. If you truly think your partner is depressed, approach a close family member or friend confidentially and enlist some help. Sometimes it takes more than just one to help turn things around.
If it isn’t coming from you, it might be heard differently. That does not mean to call around announcing the problem, that leads to shame, and it isn’t productive. But, do find those people who your significant other values and enlist their help when possible. [Read: 25 important questions to ask your significant other]
#5 Stop blaming yourself. Loving someone with depression can be one of the biggest knocks to your self-esteem and what you think of yourself. If you can’t make the person you love most happy, what does that say about you?
#6 Stop letting it rob you of your happiness. I know the feeling. You walk in the room or they do, and even if you have a good day or are on cloud nine, one look from them reminds you “oh yeah, we aren’t happy.”
Happiness becomes a team effort. If you find you lose your joy because they suck away your happiness, then love them or not, it is time to get out. If they don’t want to take steps to change, don’t stick around and lose the joy you have in life.
That saying, “Life is too short” is true. If you don’t walk, I guarantee you that your smile will be squashed for a lifetime. If they aren’t willing to seek help, the only one changing will be you. You shouldn’t live that way, love or not.
When we are in a relationship, we want to make the people we love happy. But, for a person depressed, nothing makes them happy. It isn’t your fault they aren’t joyous, but it becomes your fault if you continue to enable them to stay stuck.
Not only do you have to end the cycle of depression for their good, but you have to for your own. No one should live unhappy all the time, not them and not you. Try to convince your partner to get the help they need. If they won’t, don’t stay out of guilt or play the martyr, it isn’t your battle.