Mind & Soul > Emotional Health > Dealing With Depression in a Relationship

Dealing With Depression in a Relationship

Your partner’s depression may involve emotional distance, lack of interest in love and intimacy, and exhaustion. These tips for dealing with a partner who is depressed may help you cope.

“In these 20 years of work among the people [in Calcutta], I have come to more and more realize it is being unwanted that is the worst disease any human being can ever experience.” – Mother Teresa.

Feeling unwanted and isolated is a huge factor in depression — and so are feelings of loneliness and fatigue. One of the best books on how to get over depression is The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness.

The more you know and understand about depression, the better you can see what to do and how to help a depressed partner. These tips for coping with a boyfriend, girlfriend, or marriage partner’s depression are from Dr Melvyn Lurie, author of Depression: Your Questions Answered.

Expect your partner to lose interest in physical intimacy

Losing interest in your love life is common in people with depression. “Whether from the inability to feel pleasure (anhedonia), inability to feel love, social withdrawal, or something more direct, interest in intimacy is frequently diminished in depression,” writes Dr Lurie. Further, losing interest in your love life can trigger other communication problems in relationships.

Has your partner lost interest in love or intimacy? Find other ways to express your physical intimacy, such as a massage or bubble baths together. And, remember that communication and intimacy problems can be triggered by depression.

If you’re wondering if your relationship is in trouble, you might find 10 Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship helpful.

Don’t be surprised if your depressed partner tries to make you feel bad

This happens more often than you’d think! When someone feels incompetent, worthless, and unenergetic – which people with depression often do – they may project their feelings onto their partners. That is, a depressed partner may consider his or her partner as incompetent, worthless, or unenergetic.

depression in a relationship“This kind of defense doesn’t work very well because it drives people away,” says Dr Lurie.

To cope with your partner’s depression, be aware of how negative feelings are projected. It can help simply to know why people dealing with depression make others feel bad, and learn to shrug off those behaviors. Learning how to cope with your partner’s depression in a relation can involve developing a thicker skin.

If you’re confused about your relationship, read How to Deal With a Depressed Boyfriend.

Be aware of how depression can lead to relationship breakups

People dealing with depression may feel isolated, misunderstood, attacked, and unloved. They may withdraw socially, want to be alone most of the time, and lose touch with the ability to feel love. This causes communication problems in relationships. Plus, people with depression may become critical and argumentative. These factors make it difficult for a relationship to survive.

And, knowing how depression and relationships can co-exist can help smooth things over. Deciding in advance how to handle the negative parts of the relationship will prepare you for most anything. Also, contacting a Distress Line, depression support group, or counselor is a great idea, especially if you feel like you’re not dealing with depression and your love relationship very well.

And, knowing how to overcome depression can help you understand your depressed partner, which can help you cope.

For Single People Dealing With Depression

Learn how depression affects your dating life

“Low self-esteem from depression can stop you from pursuing, let alone achieving, your goal of curing your loneliness,” writes in Dr Melvyn Lurie in Depression: Your Questions Answered. “This is a vicious cycle – your low self-esteem prevents you from curing your loneliness, and your loneliness worsens your depression and further erodes your self-esteem.”

Do things that increase your self-esteem, such as taking small risks and crossing things off your to-do list. If you’re dealing with depression, do little things every day to help you feel better about yourself.


Are you dealing with depression in a relationship? Sometimes it helps to write about your experience and feelings. I welcome your thoughts below, but I can’t offer advice. Please call a depression help line if you need support.


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156 thoughts on “Dealing With Depression in a Relationship”

  1. Dear BBB2111,

    I’m sorry to hear about your mom’s death. It sounds like this is a difficult time for you, and your boyfriend isn’t giving you the support and love you need. He’s going through his own issues, and he can’t see past his depression to be there for you.

    I wrote this post for you:

    My Boyfriend Keeps Pushing Me Away – How Do I Show Him I Care?

    I hope it helps, and welcome your thoughts.


  2. My boyfriend of 2/3 years has completely shut down on me. This is the third summer this has happened accept this time it seems worse. The first year, 2010 we had only been together a few months and when June arrived he became depressed and withdrew. He explained to me by e mail how he gets like this and after a couple of months he was ok again. We starting seeing each other again in September and apart from the odd few days here and there, and Christmas where he shut himself away, we were ok. Then May 2011 he starting to withdraw again and I didn’t see him for weeks and weeks. He still contacted me here and there by e mail but that was it. In the August we passed each other in our cars, he text me to say hello and that he had pulled the car over to talk but I had disappeared. We starting texting each other daily, he was his old self, we had lots of banter like we used to. So we agreed to meet up in October. He asked me to stay at his place for the weekend. We met up and it was wonderful. He told me how much he loved me and missed me and how he now realised just how much I meant to him. He mentioned that I was always there for him. In fact we talked for the first time in depth about his issues. He apologised and said that all that was behind him now and that he was going no where. So we have had a lovely year, lots of loving and caring. He tells me how much I mean to him and I believe him. He was working hard in his career to build a future for us. And it was us, not just him he said, for us. We planned holidays, where we might like to live, everything, we just wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. Grow old together he said. We are no spring chickens; we are both in our early 50’s.

    So July came this year and I felt him becoming a bit odd again, going off for a couple of days here and there but when he did get in touch he apologised if it seemed like he was pushing me away, it was just his work. He was very aware of when he was leaving me out. He booked us a short holiday beginning of August with my 2 teenage kids. The week before we went I never heard from him at all and I thought, here we go, I’ll be going alone. He rang me the day before we were due to go and he was ok. He told me that he had been depressed that week and that he had managed to snap himself out of it. Well the holiday was a disaster. From day one he kept losing his temper with my kids, not something he has ever done before. He kept threatening to go home. It’s like he was panicking to get away using any little thing as an excuse. I and he never argued once but he really had it in for my kids. Eventually he lost his temper with them and was really nasty to them, shouting and swearing over not very much at all. We decided to go home a day early. He couldn’t get packed quick enough. Me and him were still fine, we didn’t fall out once over it. The journey home was ok, we were fine together. When we arrived home, we unpacked the car and he just grabbed his bags, said he couldn’t be in the same house with my kids a minute longer and went home. He said he would ring me the next day but he never. That was 8 weeks ago. I rang him, text him and went to his house but he never replied to anything. He wouldn’t open the door. He shut out his best friend too but as he has to work with him sometimes, he had to contact him once or twice. I send him an e mail or FB message once every few days or so to tell him that I understand and that I love him and I’m here for him when he’s ready. I lost my mum 2 weeks ago, he has always supported me through it but he only managed to send me a text to say he was sorry and that he wasn’t in a good place right now. He left flowers and a card at the crematorium.

    This time seems worse to me. He does usually make some contact but when he does, the problem never gets mentioned he will almost change the subject. I really don’t know how to cope with this at the moment. I want to, I am a strong person and he knows that. But I get mixed feelings. Does he really love me; did he just think he did? Does he want me to be here for him or would he rather i just go because he believes he is no good for me. He has had a very troubled past involving being hurt by and ex who took his child away from him and has made the last 15 years impossible for him to have contact. This seems to be the root of the depression. He told me that he has been hurt 3 or 4 times in the past, most likely because the women couldn’t take this behaviour. He is struggling with earning a living at the moment because of health issues but he really works hard to build his career. I want to be here for him. I love him very much and when things are ok its wonderful.

    Do you think he believes I am going to stick by him? I will, for as long as it takes but how can I prove that to him if he won’t talk to me or see me? Is he trying to forget me? He has not once said that he wants to end anything so I am trying to take that as a positive. It’s almost like he has just forgotten everything, we had so much fun together and I know he was really happy with me. Maybe he thought that being with me had put an end to his depression and when he realized it hadn’t he withdrew into it again?

    Any thoughts or advice would be very much appreciated.