11 Ways to Be an Effective Partner When Your Girlfriend or Wife has Depression & Anxiety.

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Being in a relationship with someone suffering from depression or anxiety can be challenging. You wish you could turn a switch that would magically make her feel happy again, but in reality, healing takes patience and compassion.

But there’s hope for joy, peace and relief. Here are 11 ways to make your relationship function better by communicating openly and understanding that her illnesses do not define her:

1. Only play the role of the partner.

You’re not the doctor, therapist or parent. There will be many times when she’ll want to cry or vent, and the best thing you can do is be there to comfort her. Let her know everything is going to be okay.

2. Support her healing strategies.

Ask her how her treatment is going and let her share what she’s discovered so far in her healing process. Always know that there are life coaches, therapists, counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists she can lean on who are trained in effectively treating mental illnesses.

3. Turn the conversation to something optimistic.

When she talks about what’s wrong, ask her if she sees any lessons. When she talks about what doesn’t feel good, ask her what does feel good. When she talks about suffering, ask her what she can do to feel comfort again. Give her seeds of hope.

4. Let her know how you love her.

If she’s dealing with depression and anxiety, she’s most likely also trying to strengthen her self-awareness and self-esteem. Although you can’t put these strengths in her, you can help her feel reassured that you’re there for her. Share with her what you love about her talents, humor and beauty. You can never say “I love you” too often.

5. Understand her triggers and avoid setting them off.

She may get upset about things that don’t bother you, like your mother’s politics or where you put your shoes at the end of the day. Pay attention to her body language—when she tenses up and seems upset—and notice when you push her buttons.

6. Be gentle yet honest about how you’re feeling.

Share your thoughts, fears, frustrations, ideas, solutions, dreams and revelations. Discuss what makes you happy in the relationship, and fantasize about things you see the two of you doing together. Talk about what excites you about in the relationship and the methods to finding its full potential.

7. Create direct and clear boundaries between yourself and other women.

What you may perceive as unfounded jealousy is actually fear. It is fear that her illnesses will scare you away or that you’ll leave her for another woman who doesn’t have the same problems. Only welcome women into your life who honor and respect your relationship and love your girlfriend/wife as much as you do. Build and maintain bridges of trust.

8. Surround yourself with people who care about you and your girlfriend/wife.

She’ll need to be surrounded by those who love her and hold a supportive and healing space for her. Someone is not part of your positive community if he or she does not show compassion or does not show the respect she deserves for her courage. Keep the tribe and the drama small.

9. Have productive activities that only the two of you share.

Make art together. Go on hikes together. Take an impulsive weekend holiday together to the beach to make sandcastles. Visit a record store or go to a show together. Drive around and point out houses or gardens that you both like. Establish unique bonding time.

10. Give her space to grow and heal on her own.

Be enthusiastic when she tells you about the cooking class she wants to register for. Encourage her to try a restorative yoga class or join the meditation group. Let her have her own set of hobbies and activities that bring her peace of mind, confidence and self-awareness.

11. Make love to her.

The power of affection and sexuality can express love, give comfort and uplift moods like nothing else. It will make her feel beautiful and desired. It will be a satisfying way to reconnect on spiritual, emotional and physical levels. Be affectionate and watch how even in the darkest of times, the deepest sensation of calming hope is available to both of you.

Recovering from depression and anxiety during my own relationship has been challenging, but it also helped us strengthen our companionship. We ask each other questions when we need clarity and we work to respond to each other with compassion. Ultimately, I learned that effective partnership grows from honoring each other’s needs and treating your partner like the fragile and precious person you fell in love with.

 

Author: Kiki Dombrowski

Editor: Evan Yerburgh

Image: Flickr

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Kiki Dombrowski

Kiki Dombrowski lives in Nashville, where she is a tarot card reader, intuitive life coach, and workshop teacher. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from Southern Connecticut State University and her Master’s Degree from Nottingham University. Please visit her website for more information.

Comments

23 Responses to “11 Ways to Be an Effective Partner When Your Girlfriend or Wife has Depression & Anxiety.”

  1. Mariela says:

    When my dad died I was very depressed. However my partner wasn't a support. He used to cone from work and tell me "you need to get yourself together I can't handle you crying all the time or having break downs. If you continue like this I can loose my job" . I never got why his job was in jeopardy because I was grief the lost of my father. He used to tell me as well. "Tell me if you can handle the kids I will take them to my mom so she can take care of them because seems like you can't." So I just swallowed my sorrows. I had to get support out of my home. Thanks God I had a good circle of friends.

    • bee says:

      I’m so sorry to hear that. I hope you’ve since found ways to deal with your grief. The man in my life is the same way, really. My sadness makes him very uncomfortable.

  2. Paul Wright says:

    or boyfriend or husband?

  3. wldrse says:

    As a depressed person I need to remember to get out of my own head, and remember that my partner has needs too. That his needs are as important as mine. Also, that my depression is not his fault for not supporting me right. He is human and flawed and sometimes says things wrong. A list like this is helpful for the partner of a person who has depression, but as the depressed person I also need to take responsibility for getting better and working towards that rather than indulging in my tendency to blame everything that is so wrong on every one else. By the way my partner is a great support and does do many of the things on this list.

    • Jojo says:

      Hi wldrse,

      I love it you're able to think that way. I hope my girlfriend would be able to think as you would. I love her so much, but as a regular human, I also feel pressured about her situation and my seeming inability to be of any help to her.

      Cheers to you and your partner!

  4. Julie says:

    In my household both my husband and I suffer from depression. I can usually snap back after a few severe meltdowns. He on the other hand usually suffers for months on end. I feel awful as I get very frustrated with him. Thank you for this article. I plan to share it with him tonight.

  5. Kasey says:

    Right now I’m feeling very suicidal, I’m not able to handle things anymore. My partner realized this and finally read this article. Just him reading this just put a bit of joy amongst the darkness for him to take the time to read this. I suffer daily with both, but I’ve aggressively gotten worse.

  6. igm says:

    My wife is suffering from depression and anxiety. Until now I thought I was going to lose my mind dealing with it but Subhan Allah, this information really made me realise how selfish I’ve been to her. She is the sweetest blessing even though I can get Ssooo annoyed by her condition.

    What I read here tonight is exactly what I needed to ‘hear’ from someone… was feeling ahem.. little depressed about it myself.

    Alhamdulillah, praise be to God.

    Thanks to the author, your insight is truly a godsend. May Allah Reward you well for your efforts.

    Jaza kallah khayra abd shukran.

  7. Lilly says:

    My husband and I separated almost exactly a year ago to the day because of my depression,anxiety and bipolar disorder. I know there's a lot we didnt do like the article says we should have done or should do now to save the marriage. It's just so hard to trust that I (or my husband) won't get hurt much more. I need courage and to know he really wants to not give up on us,yet if he hasn't already done so. I miss him and myself.

  8. Harry says:

    Um.. May be some good strategies. But you totally messed up by making the affected partner feminine. Men experience depression and axiety too stupid. Its simple to write gender neutral.

  9. KNS says:

    Please allow me to add something as I have just broken up with a man who is suffering from some sort of depression or mental disorder (he is in the process of seeking the proper therapy for a correct diagnosis). I supported him until he took his unhappiness out on me. I was yelled at for mundane things like buying the wrong brand of tuna fish, for having to work late (I’m a teacher, my students were in midterms), and I was told “fuck you” when he asked me what was wrong and I said his temper tantrums were draining. Then I was told that my unwillingness to tolerate this behavior was an unwillingness to support him through his emotional battles. Support with love, but don’t allow someone to take you down with them. My boundary was that he was no longer allowed to take his mental state out on me, he said that was forcing him to hid emotions and that I needed to learn to not take his lashing out so personally as he had no control over his emotions. And now I am single. My last sentiment to him was that I hope he can learn to love himself.

  10. Iona Eubanks says:

    This is one of the only cases where using the female pronoun throughout is extremely sexist.

  11. Jackie says:

    As a writer and person with depression I want to begin by thanking you for taking the time to describe some strategies for showing up and being present for someone with depression. Some of these contemplations touch on the specific challenges of being romantically involved with someone who experiences depression and anxiety – and I hope that people reading are able to find help in it.

    However, I would invite you to go further – I would invite partners to go further. For instance: 3. Turn the conversation to something optimistic. When she talks about what’s wrong, ask her if she sees any lessons. When she talks about what doesn’t feel good, ask her what does feel good. When she talks about suffering, ask her what she can do to feel comfort again. Give her seeds of hope.

    While there is a gentleness described here, when someone is in the thick of it, changing the topic, shifting the focus, or asking them to simply sublimate the experience can feel condescending, and leave one with the impression that their partner isn’t willing (or able) to bear witness. Reflective listening, without the filter of fear, or a compulsion to ‘fix’ another is best.

    Another consideration: 11. Make love to her. The power of affection and sexuality can express love, give comfort and uplift moods like nothing else. It will make her feel beautiful and desired. It will be a satisfying way to reconnect on spiritual, emotional and physical levels. Be affectionate and watch how even in the darkest of times, the deepest sensation of calming hope is available to both of you.

    Making love is an incredibly vulnerable and sacred act. Feeling loved, desired, and connected can be wonderful antidotes to feelings of depression — but if someone is really in the thick of it, being so vulnerable can be overwhelming. If depression is coupled with self-esteem issues or body dysmorphia, this can be wholeheartedly disturbing – to initiate sex with someone feeling so delicate in this way. Or, if someone’s depression or anxiety is linked to sexual trauma or abuse, this would be an absolute violation, and disrupt any foundation of safety sensed in relationship. Trust is tantamount to love, doubly so with someone suffering so.

    I would also echo previous comments about dropping gender language and assumptions, as depression doesn’t discriminate by gender.

    Ultimately, one-size-fits-all lists like these aren’t appropriate in every circumstance, so I would highly recommend connecting with your partner spaciously, openly, to discuss and describe their feelings and needs. This is true of any relationship, and could lead to much clearer communication and understanding between people.

    • Jenn says:

      Thank you Jackie! Your reply was so kindly worded and obviously well thought out. As a person who suffers with depression/anxiety I whole heartedly agree with everything you said and appreciate how well you spoke these truths.

      • Jackie says:

        Thank you for your feedback! So glad my response resonated with you. The more collaboration and discourse people with depression participate in (with honesty, humility, and candor), the better the dialogue will get.

        I maintain a blog where I talk about my experience with depression, spirituality, relationships, and life. Feel free to check it out: http://www.justjq.blogspot.com.

    • Jojo says:

      Thank you, I wholly agree especially with 11. I will keep showering my girl with love and affection, not because it will "cure" her but because I love her and chose her.

  12. Alayne says:

    I think that women suffer the stereotype enough of being the emotional ones in the relationship. This article completely exacerbates that stereotype. Men, women, transgender, queer, etc…. ALL suffer from depression and anxiety. Suffering is a HUMAN condition.

  13. Holly says:

    I’m just wondering if there’s one for depressed boyfriend/husband. But yes, my boyfriend is depressed and I tried a few of these ways, and he’s happier at the moment. I’m also few depressed person too so I’m trying my best to help him with his. I’ve seen how long and good the other responses were so I’m a little anxious that mine is really bad. Anyways, i think this is all I have to say.

  14. Drew says:

    Can you write a version for a girlfriend of a man with anxiety and depression please?

  15. kiwipom91 says:

    This article really hit home with me. My partner supported me and continued to support me through depression and anxiety. (I've opened up about it here: https://thewriterslabyrinth.wordpress.com/2015/11… The most important thing that he did was offer a perfect understanding. He didn't understand straight away, but after many conversations he came to. He didn't try to tell me what to do. He understood what many don't – that simply saying that everything is okay doesn't make everything okay. When you're depressed, the things that you are feeling/not feeling are not rational. He understood that the best thing to do was to hug me and tell me he loved me anyway.

    But it wasn't all on him. I would be careful when it comes to "avoiding triggers" and "creating boundaries with other women" – you don't want anyone to feel that they have to walk on eggshells around you. Your insecurities should not prevent your partner from living their life the way they want. They should not have to feel responsible for your well-being – that's far too much pressure for a person. I was worried – still am, sometimes – that I would become controlling, or use my illness to emotionally manipulate my partner. Even if it's hard to see your partner hanging out with friends that are potential love rivals, you have to suck it up and trust them. Support goes both ways.

  16. RalphR says:

    Great tips, I know how hard it is to help your partner when she is struggling with depression. The more you try to get closer, the more she feels worse. Some things take time, so don’t force the depression out of her. I agree, she must feel your presence and know you are there for her.

  17. chica says:

    This is a good read. But, i don’t understand why this is geared towards women being depressed. My husband is the one who suffers from depression/anxiety. Do these same rules still apply to men? I feel like they are a completely different animal when it comes to depression/anxiety.

  18. ley says:

    This article inform a lot and its true. I did it to My husband because he also suffer thru depression or other kind of mental disorder.in 10 yrs we been together i took the risk to face everything about him its so difficult to do because we have children a lot of courage, patience, understanding,support and to give most of love but sad to say it was way back 10yrs ago because we got separated he change and things got change i cannot take it anymore many concern people told me i take the risk or i or my children will die i dont know if its a calling that its enough i been good enough i did my part so yet its badly hurt for my family i still believe and pray that my husband can still get thru with it because now i need to give priority,support and protect my children.im not selfish because i did the best part that i can give as human the love that he took forgranted 🙁 i know god will guide each one of us for the better..

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