A person struggling with depression can be far from an ideal romantic partner, but Kristine Rose and her boyfriend have built a strong and lasting relationship.
My boyfriend and I are as happy together as two depressed people can be. Friends of mine have marveled at how this can work and I am nothing short of surprised myself. Though five years apart in age, neither of us are where we were hoping to be in life right now. One day, if we’re ever rich and famous, this will be the part of our relationship that people will romanticize. They will wax poetic about how we stuck together through a bad economy, depression, and creative projects that never went as far as we had hoped they would. Sadly, love alone isn’t enough to sustain a five year relationship through all of that. It also takes the least romantic thing of all: hard work.
A person struggling with depression is far from an ideal romantic partner. When you feel like you’re drowning in a black hole it’s hard to think outside yourself enough to be considerate in a relationship. I even briefly considered ending things when I thought it was unfair to give my boyfriend the worst version of myself, but reconsidered. If you’ve found something that works at the core, you shouldn’t have to lose it to a bout of bad timing. Here are some of the techniques that sustain us through the bad times:
Communicate: This may be the most important thing to do in any relationship, but is especially important when dealing with depression and anxiety. If you are in a bad mood or need alone time, explain this to your partner. Failure to do so can make the person feel like they are somehow at fault. If you make it a habit to discuss your feelings, your partner may even pick up on patterns you didn’t notice. They can help you realize that these feelings will pass because they have before. Patience isn’t really something that comes naturally to me, but I’ve really tried to work on that for the sake of my relationship. I know that my boyfriend is not in my head, and there might be things he won’t understand right away. As long as I see that he’s trying I cut him some slack.
Laugh Often: If you see your partner lost behind a dark cloud, find something to take their mind off it. My boyfriend and I love to snuggle on the couch and watch It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia or Jontron. Doing something fun that doesn’t involve the pressure of a social situation is a good way to wind down.
Remember Your Partner Isn’t The Enemy: When you’re already feeling low, it’s sometimes hard to share space with someone. Every little thing may start to rub you the wrong way. Remind yourself that your partner did not make you miss your train, lose your wallet, or tell your boss to chew you out. They are there to support you through tough times, not make it worse. Let your partner be a source of comfort and a safe place to end your day..
Be Encouraging: Unless your partner did something unforgivably awful, be on their side. This doesn’t mean to never call them out on anything, you can and should, just don’t make them feel trapped. If they messed something up, focus on what they can do to prevent doing that in the future. Let them know that you don’t think less of them.
Give Each Other Gifts: If times are financially tough, this can be something tiny or handmade. The key is to make the other person feel thought of, not to spend a ton of money. Bring them their favorite candy, draw them a little picture, or write a note. You would be surprised how that can change the cadence of their day.
Give Each Other Space: Being close to your partner can make them feel loved during difficult times, but people need well rounded lives. Encourage them to spend time with friends, read, or work on something creative. A relationship isn’t enough to make you happy.
Above all, no two people are alike. No two people experience depression in exactly the same way either. If you are ever in doubt about what your partner needs, just ask. Let them know in a non confrontational way that you realize they are going through a rough time right now. Reassure your partner that you are there for them and you want to minimize their discomfort. Depression is a awful, but I feel closer to my boyfriend than ever. I know that whatever happens we will continue to support each other.
Photo courtesy of the author