Telling your partner about your depression is often intimidating because we do not have the ability to control how they respond. It’s easy to imagine the “worst-case scenario” that will result in disdain or judgment or even a broken relationship. I find this especially difficult because in relationships, we are often told to keep up appearances and to act like everything is fine. But it is absolutely important to tell your partner if you are experiencing symptoms.
In his NAMI article, “5 Myths We’re Taught About Relationships,” Larry Shushansky says that healthy relationships are possible when mental illness is present. He argues that connection is an essential part of mental health and can improve mental illness symptoms. And letting the other person know how they can support your treatment can actually be very beneficial to your healing. I couldn’t agree more.
With that in mind, how do we address depression with our partners? Let’s dig into a three practical things that can assist you.
Make Sure Your Partner is Ready for a Serious Conversation
It may be helpful to start with the fact that you have something difficult that you need to share as you do not want to blindside them with difficult news. You also don’t want to bring this up in the middle of a fight or when tension is high. One of the worst things that can happen to a person with depression is being judged harshly or misunderstood. Ensure that the mood is judgment-free, and that they are ready to hear you out.
Be Honest and Vulnerable About Your Depression
When you address depression with your partner, be open with what you’ve been experiencing. Do not sugarcoat matters or try to downplay the issue. Even if it is not severe depression, you should still tell them know before it grows into something more serious. The more honest you are, the more they will be able to help you and support you.
Most partners will be understanding. However, if your partner does not understand, it may be helpful to meet with friends or a counselor to discuss the issues and work through them together.
Share What You're Doing About The Depression
If left unchecked, unmanaged or untreated, depression can worsen. So it’s an important step to let your partner know how you are going to address your depression. The fact that you are trying to treat the depression will show your partner that you are serious about facing the problem head-on. Be as specific as possible and clearly outline that it will be a journey, but that you will do as much as possible to manage the illness.
Your partner needs to come to terms with your depression to be successful in helping you manage it. Depression can vary or change in symptoms over time, and emotional support is essential. Let them know the steps they can take to help you. For example, they can learn more and try to understand depression and that it most likely will take time for you to see progress and healing.
Depression is already a difficult illness to face, and you shouldn’t have to face it alone.
Ben is a writer for Ascend and SBTC. He writes about topics such as bankruptcy and how to experience debt freedom. He is an advocate that helps people who are dealing with depression due to financial stress. In his free time, Ben enjoys going on adventures with his wife and young daughter.
We’re always accepting submissions to the NAMI Blog! We feature the latest research, stories of recovery, ways to end stigma and strategies for living well with mental illness. Most importantly: We feature your voices.
Check out our Submission Guidelines for more information.