How to Break Up With Someone Who is Depressed

Breaking up is hard to do at the best of times, but when your partner is depressed it seems impossible. Here are a few suggestions for breaking up with someone who is depressed to help you end the relationship gently.

You can’t control how your partner takes the breakup, but you can take care of yourself. Break Up Survival and Recovery: How to Get Over a Breakup by Kathleen Rao will help you deal with your feelings and go through the five stages of grief.

To learn more about your depressed boyfriend, read What Depression Feels Like. That article may help you understand your boyfriend’s mood and feelings, as well as how to talk to him. But don’t let your sympathy for his depression and emotional health affect your decision about breaking up. Don’t stay in a relationship with someone who is depressed because you feel pity or guilt. No matter how loving and kind you are, there is no easy way to end a relationship – but you need to do what you know in your heart to be right. These tips will help you break up with someone who is depressed, and may be helpful for both of you after the breakup.

If you take time to learn how to break up with someone who is depressed, you may find it easier to end the relationship gently. But – and I hate to say this – it will be difficult, no matter how much information you have. Depression is a serious emotional health issue, and it will probably complicate the breakup.

Breaking Up With Someone Who is Depressed

Breaking up hurts no matter how gentle, kind, loving, and thoughtful you are. Even if your partner knows that breaking up is the right thing to do, both of you will still hurt for awhile after the breakup.

Free yourself of guilty feelings

I don’t believe anyone should stay in a relationship out of guilt or fear. If you feel guilty that you want to break up, I encourage you to deal with those guilty feelings. It’s your life, and life is too short to stay in relationships that are unhealthy or abusive! Your first step is dealing with your own emotional obstacles to the breakup.

If appropriate, talk to your partner’s counselor or doctor

Does your partner see a psychiatrist or therapist regularly? It may be a good idea to talk to that person, and let them know that a breakup is in the future. This health practitioner may also help you figure out how to break up with someone you don’t love anymore without making the depression worse.

Take time to think about what you want to say

It takes time and energy to carefully, thoughtfully break up with someone who is struggling with feelings of depression. If your partner is seriously depressed or taking medications for depression, things get even more complicated.

Remember that you can’t control how the breakup is received

This may sound contradictory to my first tip on how to break up with someone who is depressed, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong! Contradictions and paradoxes are part of life. All you can do is prepare yourself to gently, kindly, and lovingly break up. You can’t control how your partner reacts or feels…or what he or she does after the breakup.

Know that breaking up is hard, whether or not depression is a factor

Even if your partner wasn’t depressed, breaking up would still be a huge blog. This may not make it easier, but it’s important to know that depression isn’t the only reason breaking up is hard. Knowing how to break up is complicated for everyone, depressed or not.

Write down what you might say

break up depression
How to Break Up With Someone Who is Depressed

You might plan to say something like, “I don’t know how to say this because it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, but there’s something you need to know.” You may not say those exact words when you’re breaking up with someone who is depressed, but it might help you to write your words down in advance.

Don’t let the breakup last longer than it has to

After breaking up, you may be tempted to keep in touch with your ex because of the depression he or she is experiencing. I don’t know if this is a good idea – it really depends on your partner’s mental and emotional health. It also depends on your ability to cope with the fallout.

Own your feelings and actions

Your partner may automatically feel even more depressed and bad about him or herself. Don’t add to the burden by blaming him. Take responsibility for your actions and feelings in the relationship.

Say things that represent how you feel – not how your partner has been acting. For example, “I don’t have the strength to be in a relationship right now, because I feel overwhelmed by my life” might be more effective than “Your depression is an emotional burden that I can’t handle anymore.” Let your partner blame you for ending the relationship. After all, it doesn’t matter whose fault it is, does it?

If you still feel uncertain and anxious about learning how to break up with someone who is depressed, I encourage you to talk to a counselor. The most loving thing you can do is when you’re ending a relationship is take time to proceed carefully and thoughtfully.

What do you think about my tips for breaking up with someone who is depressed? Please comment below.  I can’t offer advice, but it may help you to share what you’re going through.

In How to Let Go of Someone You Love, I share 75 ways to cope with a breakup – it’ll help you heal and move forward.

May you find strength and courage as you carefully consider how to break up with someone who is depressed. I pray for wisdom, peace, and freedom for you and your partner.


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41 thoughts on “How to Break Up With Someone Who is Depressed”

  1. My boyfriend and I have been together for more than a year and I’ve been helping him overcome his depression since then. His parents are very supportive and they even participated in one session of my bf’s therapy. However, his parents don’t know what to do and his whole family is counting on me. I’m the only one who can talk to him about his struggles but sometimes I feel that it’s becoming a little too heavy for me as well. Actually, it becomes heavier whenever I feel like our relationship is getting unhealthy. Thank you for this article. It gave me an idea on where to start.

  2. Thank you for posting this. My friend, who I have fallen in love with long ago, keeps showing me signs that he likes me too. Meanwhile he’s in a relationship with this depressed girl. Since he is showing me signs of his affection towards me, I feel like he is being manipulated by her because she is so depressed. I’m powerless, and it’s breaking me up. I don’t know what to do. But thanks to this, I can understand better why he won’t break up with her.

  3. Thank you so much for the information. I have an additional obstacle to my breakup. I have been dating this woman for over two years now, her depression is really wearing me down. Her family has all moved out of state and she continuously says I am the only person left in her world. I feel as though she is guilting me into staying with her. I care deeply for her and I’m really having trouble with this because I don’t know what she will do if I leave her.

    1. Tre

      I am going through the same exact scenario. With all family out of state it does add to the pressure and concern. Have you broken up? How did it go?

        1. I have the same thing…I’m in a situation where my partner mentions suicide everyday…
          Some days I feel stronger than others, but mostly I want to just run away but feel stuck.

  4. Hey, I’ve started dating this person but they are depressed and sorta clingy. I don’t want to break his heart, because I’m his first girlfriend and I don’t want to seem like a total a-hole. But I don’t feel comfortable in this relationship, but I want him happy, but he makes it difficult for me to be happy. The sad thing is I’ve known him for a few years but we’ve only dated for a few days, and I can tell I already don’t like it. I’m willing to give it a few more days make even a few weeks but it’s hard..

    Thank you..!

  5. My boyfriend is also one of my best friends in the world. He bad depression, which I knew about from the day I met him. It was clear as day. I’ve been wanting to break up with him for about a month now, but my problem is that he told me that I’m the reason why he feels so happy, and that I’m like his cure. It just pressures me like crazy, you know? I want us to stay best friends.

    I fell in love with another person. I had said yes to my boyfriend because he had asked me, and I was experimenting with who I like. I didn’t know what being in love truly felt like until I met this other person, and now I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how I can possibly break up with my best friend who also has depression because I like someone else. I feel trapped. Can I have some advice?

  6. Thank you for being here, and sharing your experience with breaking up with someone who is depressed. I don’t have brilliant relationship for breakup advice to offer you, but I wanted you to know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. Your boyfriend, too. Breaking up and moving on – especially when depression and other problems are a factor – is really hard.

    Give yourself time, and surround yourself with people who truly care about you. Make sure your friends are supportive and kind. Don’t waste your time with people who don’t understand or who aren’t healthy. Take care of yourself by tuning in to what you need, and loving yourself enough to care for your needs. That’s the best thing you can do now, as you’re healing from the breakup.

    Take good care of yourself, for you are worth taking good care of.


  7. i broke up with my boyfriend a week ago as his depression completely changed who he was and i felt like i was purely his carer, not his girlfriend anymore. I am 16. However, after we broke up, he started taking drugs again and has become dependent on them (he stopped while we were dating). His friends don’t say anything about it and sometimes encourage it and i feel like if i say anything to him about it, he will ignore me (he didn’t react well when we broke up and although we are still friends, it’s not the same as before). I don’t know what to do because i know eventually that his addiction and dependency is going to control him and what he does…

  8. I have been with this boy for 3 years, we a pretty close and we see eachother every single night!! However within the past few weeks I had told him I wanted a break and wanted some time alone, he completely freaked out and told me he would kill himself if I didn’t sleep by his side every single night. This continued for a few days. But there is also this boy at my work place that I like. I really like him. I mean, I love my boyfriend, but I’m not happy or in love with him!
    I also feel guilty as during the time I said to my boyfriend that I was breaking up with him, I slept at the other boys house. Nothing happened, it was because I had no key and was locked out. Yet I lied to my boyfriend when he almost found out because if he done that I wouldn’t have liked it! I have almost met with this other boy to discuss feelings and how I am still in a relationship so we can’t carry on until things are sorted yet it just led to hand holding and staring into eachothers eyes for 2 hours! I completely don’t know how to do this! I want to break up with my boyfriend! I have done for so long, even way before the other boy! But he is so depressed and cries and cries and cries until I take him back. Please help :(

  9. I am 14 and I am dating somebody who’s 17 and depressed. He’s the nicest guy I’ve ever met and I love him deeply, we’ve been dating for over a year now. He loves me too but his depression can really bring me down alot. It’s hard cause I am a loner and it’s a long distance relationship. I dont know what to do, I love him and he loves me but my friend tells me this relationship is hurting me mentally, please help me, I don’t want to leave him cause I love him.

  10. Dear Alabama,

    Talk to an adult you trust! It’s important for you to learn how to separate your caring feelings for your depressed boyfriend from your own self-care and emotional health.

    People who are depressed can be helped, but they need professional care. Your boyfriend has alot of mental health issues that he needs help with – but you aren’t the person to do that. It doesn’t matter how old you are or even what education you have; often, the only person who can help someone deal with severe depression and self-harm is a doctor or counselor – or both.

    Talk to an adult. Get help in-person; learn the kindest, most gentle way to break up with your boyfriend and encourage him to get help with his depression.

    Here’s an article that may help you understand his behavior:

    How to Help a Boyfriend Who Cuts and Self-Harms

    And, don’t allow your boyfriend’s threats to control you. He is unhealthy, and he is trying to manipulate you into staying in a relationship with him. Guilt is never a good reason to be in a relationship!

    How do you feel about this – and what is the next step you’ll take?

  11. Im 13 and im dateing a depressed boy. He treats me amazing but he dosent have time for me anymore i think it may have something to do with his depression i was once depressed to because of something that happend a while ago he just found out by one of MY friends and be wont talk to me anymore he says ive been makeing new friends and its good for him to do that but. Sometimes when were hanging out he will try to cut hiself wkth a really sharp stick or even hang hisself with a shirt if i break up with him he could hurt himself and i dont want that but i also dont wanna be scared i dont know what to do im so cumfused i wanna break up with him but he is so fragile i cant. Once i broke up with him a while ago (we are dateing again) amd after that he tried to hurt himself. But i think to him i may just be a distraction. But if i get mad at him or we have fight he hurts himself i cant do that im 13. What do i do

  12. my boyfriend is depressed. took a bunch of his anti depressants and slept for three days. I didn’t know he had done this, I feel drained. I feel depressed now too. nothing I do is right. he tells me I live in a fantasy lamd and not everything is butterflies. he said he resents me cause everything seems easy for me. and its all so hard for him. he hated that I went to on holidays with my mum who just separated from my dad. I just started a new job a new college course and I feel like I have the weight on my shoulders, I need him to be there for me too but he isn’t. last night I got home and be cause I didn’t tell him I was leaving work and on my way home he went off at me. picking on everything. im selfish how hard is it to do what im told. I feel exhausted. he is seeing a new psychiatrist in a week. hes on new meds which I lock away and give him one a day. the gp was like why did u let him take this many at once u should have taken him to the hospital. ummm I didn’t know. I feel like this is all my responsibility, he just moved in a month ago and ive paid for heaps and hes helping sometimes. we have been together 4 months. I want my self back.

    1. I broke up with him after he called me a stupid selfish dumb blonde.. I don’t think hes ever going to move out… im stuck

  13. I’m in a similar situation, except we’ve never lived together but it was in our future plans, well marriage is the plan, but it’s been an on/off relationship since we’ve started dating, he has huge potential but I’m at a point that that is what I’m in love with and not him. I think he has always had a moderate level of depression, it’s hard to get him to see the positive side of things and be hopeful, I’m turning it all to God but I can’t help to feel guilt and unhappiness . He just joined the military as well, to try out for the hardest of all military training and it made it worse since he didn’t do great in only one part of the, he still has a chance to still make it, it’s hard to have him keep fighting, and make him see that he has a chance at looking at things at a different perspective and do it even better! It makes me feel selfish as well but altough I know he doesn’t mean to make me feel bad, he honestly sometimes does. I miss myself at times too, and well our friendship which I though would be the foundation of everything to come.

    1. I’m a 27 year old male. My ex gf left me when I suddenly got depressed. I’m a med student btw. It was a 3.5 year relationship. I had only her. I was away from home and her cuz of my studies. But my only hope, fuel was her after I hit depressed. Yes sometimes we fought. She never compromised anything. After she get in to Uni for higher studies(which also I encouraged her to do) she left me. It happened slowly over 3 or 4 months. She didn’t tell anything straight away. But she made me feel like we have broken up. That 4 months was the worst of my life. I cried alone. I begged her. My studies also stopped at that point. Not she is with another guy. I’m still alone. But I’m recovering from depression. I’m doing the rest of my studies next year. If she stayed with me, we could have solved all this much faster. Anyway her departure made my depression 10000 times worst. So don’t leave your loved one just like that. Cuz u can get diseased one day. Imagine how u feel if this happens to you. I’m still weeping over our love. Still I cannot look at a photo of her. I loved her that much. Tc

      1. Thank you for your reply, I’m glad it was a gentleman perspective as well! Believe me, I do put myself in his shoes,which is why I still have more in me to fight for us, however he has a hard time putting himself in mine. He tells me often that he wants to do more for me and give more, but that eventually becomes insignificant if you do not put those words into action. I don’t know how to make him see that we can be a team, I myself have recovered from depression, it wasn’t severe but it was tough and it just takes a lot of prayer and action to move forward so I congratulate you and will say a prayer for you as well to continue recovering, medical school is a huge achievement and you should be very proud of yourself, there’s times that you have to be your on cheerleader and there’s nothing wrong with that, the more you know and love yourself as an individual the more you can love and receive love from someone else. That’s one of the things that I learned about myself through that life process and maybe it’s just frustrating to not be able to make him see that, the “light at the end of the tunnel” so to speak.

    2. Thanks for the kind words. It’s been nearly 15 months since we have separated but still I can’t get over it fully. Anyway you or she or any girl can do whatever they want in these situations. It’s your own right since you r not married yet. You can walk away easily. But hear me so well sister. I know how helpless I was when she refused me. I was in this dark room crying and crying. So frustrated. My parents were their but not as much as she would be. She was my greatest strength. At least I thought so. I talked about this with my friends and relatives. But I cannot get love from them like she gave me. Can I? No never. I was so helpless.
      Anyway just try to accept the person as who he is first. Then get in that mission of curing him. And that doesn’t need to be a huge mission too. He might be sick. But he will eventually and definitely get better with or without u. And I’m sure he still loves u even though he is ill. Depression is a strange disorder. It’s really hard and you get really isolated in your mind. You feel everything surrounding you are stones. You don’t see any value of anything. But suddenly it’ll come to an end just like mine. I was depressed since June 2014 and I still am but better. We know when we feel better and he’ll tell u that. He must be so helpless in his own mind. So help him. Show him and the world how worthy a person you are. U can walk away anytime and find a healthy guy. But soldiers don’t abandon their war zone or their fellow brothers before the war is over, do they? Show your self who u r. Are you that typical weak woman who give up and runaway from problems. I hope not. Help him. Accept him who he is. Don’t rush things. Just be their for him when he needs him. Don’t run around, shout and be his mother. Be his best friend. Be his strength. Once he get over this depression he’ll repay you. For sure. God bless!

    3. I’m sure u didn’t find a depressed person like he is now when u started loving him. He must have been healthy. Things change in this life so quickly. People get sick, people die and good and bad things happen all the time. It’s a mix bag. We cannot expect good all the time. So keep your word and be their for him when he need you the most. Being their with him and for him just to laugh and have fun is not merely as worth it as what you r doing now. You r sacrificing your life to him. That’s amazing. I know that u know what is right and wrong. So do the right thing.
      Take him to your arms and hold him tight. Just say “I will always be there for you no matter what” and just do that. He will get better soon and he’ll remember your good work for the rest of his life. Don’t lose hope. He will definitely get better sooner than u think.

      1. Hey piyath, was wondering how u were doing? I’m a fellow med student with the same issue, only diff is I’m a girl. I feel like my bf is at wits end dealing with me and my depression, and the thought of him leaving me terrifies me. Did u ever feel like life wouldn’t go on without ur gf? I’m having trouble coping, I see signs that he will probably leave me soon.

  14. Sometimes you just realise that you can’t go on another day and that is when you don’t really have a choice but to move away from them.
    I love my boyfriend of three years with all my heart, we have both said we’re soul mates.
    The problems in our relationship have come to a head, and I am ready to let go even though it will hurt me a lot. Actually it would probably hurt him more because he has PTSD and gets severely depressed. I feel I can’t go on yet I feel trapped by our love now.

  15. My partner is dealing with depression. He says it stems from his job, but I noticed a change long before he started working there. Our relationship has been so strained over the past 3 years that I don’t know what to do. I love him but I feel like the fire is gone. His mood swings make me feel like I can’t be myself and be open with him. He isn’t emotionally stable enough to handle my feelings or even my opinions. I have tried to break up a few times over the past year, but we always end up getting back together. We live together, but no children. In theory it should be easy to go but I feel guilty wanting to leave while he is emotionally unstable. What do I do now?

  16. My girlfriend of 3 years use to be so happy and full of life yet she is letting depression get the best of her and every day she gets worse. She is sucking the life out of me. Even my mother advices me to leave her so we may both recover to who we were seeing how even i am starting to be hit with depression. I am more prone to be angry then i was before and hate most social experiences where 3 years ago i was ultra social. I dont want to leave her because im afraid she’ll do something stupid and although we technically have broken up before we always end up right back. I want to leave but i can’t i always end up coming back yet even i myself know the dangers of returning.

  17. My husband of ten years is clinically depressed, and abusive. I left him in the house that we bought, using my deposit, after he threw me across our bedroom and into a wall. I took my 22 month old and three year old with me.

    I tried again, as he said he’d changed. But he’s so depressed and his life has just spiralled into horror without me. Whenever i try to leave him, he tries to kill himself. Literally hospital admissions. Then i take him back.


  18. My girlfriend and I have been together for almost a year we got into the relationship way to fast she is 20 almost 21 and I am 26. She doesn’t really tell me details about her and her childhood, her friends but she always asks me who I’m hanging out with. Her last girlfriend cheated on her. She has depression and anxiety, she’s going through some problems with her car, paying the bills and was recently kicked out and living with a friend. She always says that she has no friends . She’s now working two jobs and wants to move in to a place together. I don’t know what to do. I always try to help her when she needs it. I’ve given her a lot of my money to help her with bills about 500 dollars in less than a year we’ve been together. She wants me to rent a car for her but I don’t really want to because it’s illegal. I just don’t know what to say when I break up with her.

  19. I’ve got a bit of a different twist. I know my girlfriend is depressed and she’s the one who thinks we should breakup because she’s not “the girlfriend she knows she needs to be.” When we met she was different–happy, upbeat, motivated, etc. some bad things happened to her and I noticed a change in her mood which made want to try to be there even more for her. I know I can’t change her but I also know that I still love her. I believe while this maybe a lifelong challenge for her there is hope and I accept that she might never be the same but I still love her enough to want to be with her. Am I crazy? Most people would’ve bailed by now but I have no intention of doing that just because she’s depressed. The thing that hurts the most is her comments about how she’s knows I’m not satisfied and if be happier with someone else. I don’t want anybody else. This girl is amazing but can’t see it for herself. What do I do?

  20. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thank you for sharing how difficult it is to break up with someone who is depressed, especially after being together for so long. It’s complicated and sad to detach from someone you love at the best of times, but a depressed partner does make it more painful.

    I pray for wisdom and healing in your life. May you reach out for the peace and freedom that God offers, and turn to Him for clarity and insight. May you take time to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and allow His peace to infuse your body. I pray for strength and courage as you move forward in your relationship.

  21. I have lived with a depressed significant other for over 20 years. The first few years together she would rebound and be great for months, then a big depressive episode, new meds & everything would be OK. We were raising her 7 year old son and had a daughter together. I don’t believe she can control how severe her depression is, it’s primarily chemical in nature and she is resistant to most treatments (she has also had electric shock). Finally, 2 years ago after years of going back and forth, I decided we had to split – part of the reason was our daughter, in her teens, had become severely depressed as well. Fortunately, our daughter, after 2 years of different therapists and meds is doing great – my s.o. is the same, maybe even worse as she resented the time I spent with our daughter – and I admit spending more time with our daughter as she was young and needed to get treatment ASAP and get support from me as my s.o. was too depressed to give it to her. This summer, as our daughter has graduated from high school, she and I moved to be close to the college she is attending and I literally set up my former s.o. in an apartment, fully paid for, for a year. Our daughter has a much better relationship with her because she can choose not to see her when depression has the better of her, but I continue to be pulled in by guilt at leaving someone who can’t seem to fend for themselves. It’s still a struggle, but for the first time in over a decade I finally have started feeling like myself and not a 24/7 caretaker – I will always love her as someone who I spent years of my life with, however, I am too defeated to continue a path where I no longer existed.

  22. I don’t know how to effectively break up with my girlfriend she just has too much negativity and I can’t really handle it. You have tips on letting her down easily?

  23. My s.o. has been diagnosed with M.D.D., anxiety, OCD, and so many other things. They have attempted suicide more times than I know before we got together 2 years ago. Then they got better for the first few months then tried to commit suicide again a few months ago. Before and since then, every time they get depressed, they threaten to kill themselves. I used to get so worked up every time but lately I’ve gotten used to it. Every time they threaten that, I feel a piece of myself “dying” I guess. This relationship is not good for me and I need to get out. And then they say I’m the only light in their life and they may as well be dead without me. This relationship is poison for us both but I’m certain if I leave, they’ll die. I do love them with all my heart but I can’t take this anymore and I don’t know what to do when they’re still marriage-serious about this relationship.

  24. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thank you for being here, and sharing your experience. I can’t give advice on how to break up with someone who is depressed, but I do have a few questions for you to think about:

    Have you talked to a counselor or someone you trust about your partner’s emotional health? It’s really important to get advice in person from someone who can help you.

    What is the first healthy step you can take towards healing your own issues? For instance, if you’re feeling sad or depressed because of your girlfriend’s depression, how can you get help for yourself?

    What can you control or change in your life, to help you deal with this?

    Take time to think about these questions – and write down your answers. This might help you see your relationship in a different light, and figure out what your next step should be.


  25. My girlfriend has bipolar disorder and she is getting worser and worser and I don’t want to hurt her, I don’t feel loved anymore and she says she loves me doesn’t act like this at all.
    I want to break up with her.. she makes me sad..
    She al

  26. I have to break up with my girlfriend, who is severly depressed. We got into the relationship too fast before we could really connect, and I dont know what to say to her to get out of it. I care for her, but not the way she needs me to

  27. My boyfriend and I have been seriously dating for two and a half months. I used to be able to hey him see that not everything is bad or calm him during a panic attack but he has no goals and I feel like by staying with him I’m giving up my chance at life. he’s always mad he directs it at me always and I try to tell him things that could help but he esn’t listen. he’s bossy and downright mean. But when we make up after almost daily fights he tells me he can’t see life without me.

    1. I totally understand that, I’m going through the same thing. I’m just so scared about what breaking up will do to him.

    2. I’m a depressed person. My gf left me while I’m suffering. Plz don’t do that to ur boy. It makes things worse for him. He loves u more than ever. He has plans. The thing is he is temporarily out of hope. It’s not permanent. Just show ur love. He’ll get better soon. He isn’t weak. He is a fighter. Appreciate him and love him unconditionally. This is the time to show the world how human u r. He needs u more than ever. Trust me.

      1. I agree with you I’m 13 and I have a boyfriend who I love and he is depressed and all I want to end the relationship but I am waiting until he’s better

  28. Thanks for your thoughts, Peggy. Your comment has inspired me to write a post about dealing with the unknown after a breakup. That’s huge, and it’s often a huge obstacle when we’re facing a break up – even if it’s with someone who is not depressed.

    In peace and passion,

  29. Breaking up IS hard to do under any circumstances. Attachment, time, love, struggle, the known vs. the unknown, fear of being alone, it’s all there. Laurie – you bring up some excellent tips to end a relationship with someone who is depressed. Go gently and with compassion.