Dating someone with depression can be difficult to navigate, and it’s not uncommon. It’s estimated at least 7% of U.S. adults suffer from depression, causing things like low motivation, low self-worth, and a myriad of other issues.
As a partner, how can you support and love someone with depression without taking on the role of their therapist? Here’s what to know about how depression can affect relationships, plus how to handle it.
How depression affects a relationship.
A depressed partner isn’t something that can be taken lightly, as it will likely affect all aspects of the relationship. “The partner experiencing the depression often feels a lack of motivation and energy,” explains licensed marriage and family therapist Shane Birkel, LMFT, “and then ends up feeling guilty for not having the ability to show up in the relationship in a meaningful way.”
There’s research that indicates, for example, that depression can cause decreased libido and sexual dissatisfaction, on top of making other everyday tasks difficult. And with one partner depressed, the other is left unsure of what to do.
They can feel like they’ve lost the person they fell in love with, to the point of questioning whether they can stay in the relationship, Birkel adds. “They feel sad about not having the relationship they once had, and sometimes it feels like a grieving process. This often leads to disappointment and resentment because they feel like they are disproportionately holding up the relationship,” he says.
As one partner learns how to manage their symptoms and hopefully improve, the other must also learn how to hold space and support, while finding where their own boundaries are.