Supporting a Partner With Depression

By Lauren Hasha

I’m a mental health therapist. I’ve also personally battled depression for the past 20+ years. So when I say depression is a thief, I’m speaking from both personal and professional experience. I have seen how it can take the joy, energy, and sense of purpose out of everyday life. I know how it can affect every aspect of a person’s life. I also know how hard it can be to support someone who is living with depression.

Depression may look different from person to person, but at its core the illness often causes people to feel lonely, inadequate, and misunderstood. One of the most prevalent symptoms of depression is a feeling of isolation. At times, people with depression may isolate because they don’t want to inflict their pain on the people they love; other times, it’s because they’ve been hurt by others–well-meaning and otherwise–and aren’t able to trust enough to be vulnerable when they’re depressed.

When someone with depression withdraws from loved ones without communicating why, it leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation. I’ve seen this with my clients and in my own life. One partner may not understand why the other is distant, distracted, or even angry. They may wonder what they did to offend the other person, or they may be frustrated or hurt that their partner has suddenly detached from them.

In an article published by Psychology Today, the author explains how depression can affect our physical bodies as well as our minds. This can include changes in sex drive, sleep, appetite, energy loss, and even physical symptoms – including headaches, stomach pains, and back or neck pain. Frustrated partners may wonder why their loved one is sick, not interested in sex, or disengaged from activities and events.

Expressing my feelings when I am depressed has always been a challenge for me, especially in relationships. I’m afraid of how my words will be interpreted. I’ve been blamed for my depression, told that I am a “negative person.” I’ve felt guilty for not wanting to have sex or engage in social activities while depressed. Mostly, I’ve been ignored or told to take a pill or go see a therapist so I could “get fixed.” I know how hard it can be to navigate a relationship when a partner is dealing with depression.

Being able to talk openly about mental illness is critical for the health and survival of a long-term relationship. Here are some pointers I’ve found may assist in connection, understanding, and support.

  1. Communicate. The importance of healthy, effective communication cannot be overstated. I see this both in my own life and with my clients. Communication is always important, but when you are suffering from depression or another mental health issue, it needs to take top priority. Even the simple statement “I’m depressed” can let your partner know you’re not just upset about traffic or bills. Explaining your triggers, warning signs, and symptoms to your partner can help them better understand your illness and respond in a supportive and productive way.
  2. Have code words. I’ll admit: It’s hard for me to say “I’m depressed.” Those two words stick in my throat like cement. There are so many years of shame attached to them that saying them sometimes feels like I’m giving in to the depression. In this instance, a way to continue communication might be to talk about it without talking about it. Your partner could ask “Is it in the kitchen or the living room?” Meaning, how intensely are you feeling it right now? You might respond that it’s down the street, or at the door, or in the bed. Another way to increase communicate is through more direct questions. When one partner says “I don’t feel well,” the other could ask “Do you mean physically or emotionally?” This opens the conversation up for specifics, instead of one or both partners shutting down.
  3. Be with your partner. If your partner is living with depression, it makes sense that you’d want to jump in and offer advice. However, someone who is depressed often knows what they need to do to feel better, but they don’t have the energy to do so in that moment. In these situations, it is very powerful to simply be with your partner. Accept that this is part of your relationship with your partner instead of trying to change or cure them. Holding their hand, maintaining eye contact, and engaging in active listening can help your partner far more than offering suggestions for things they should be doing. Talking through thoughts and feelings can be effective in reducing symptoms, and knowing that someone loves them even when they feel they are at their worst is both healing and empowering.
  4. Provide the basics. Depression often affects a person physically as well as mentally and emotionally. Basic comforts like drawing a warm bath, providing a meal or a cup of tea, or even giving a back rub for shoulders tight with stress can be huge for someone suffering with depression. Because depression often makes people feel unworthy or unattractive, words of encouragement are also vital. Finding ways to be intimate when your partner is not feeling well shows sensitivity and relieves pressure when they may be feeling inadequate.
  5. Give reminders and encouragement. People with depression sometimes believe the things they are feeling are a result of who they are as a person, which can result in self-loathing. They may feel shame or guilt for not being able to better control how they feel. Remind your partner that their depression does not define them, and that they are separate from it. You might also remind them that depression is an illness, and like any other illness, they are not to blame for getting sick. Try pointing out strengths and past successes, which will serve to empower them and remind your partner that they will eventually feel better again.

While a partner may not be able to take away their loved one’s depression, they can provide the strong support system that is vital to a person’s mental health and sense of self. Through patience, understanding, and open communication, a partner can give their loved one a space to heal and feel safe to communicate what they are feeling. Having a relationship where one or both partners experience depression can be a challenge, but if both are willing to put in the time and effort, the result can be a strong, supportive relationship built on trust and understanding.

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Comments (15)

  1. Kathy

    Thank you for this.
    I’m going to share with my husband. It’s so hard for me to burden him with my difficulties. I’ve been told, by friends and family, that I’m just a negative person. They have no idea how hard I’m fighting. I really appreciate this piece. Thank you.

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  2. Lee

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  3. Lee

    The best way to change what emotions your experiencing is to take responsibility for your own emotions, your words scare me at the end when you express “they are not to blame for getting sick” what a unhealthy sentence to say to someone because this may permanently put them in disrepair because they will never take responsibility for their own emotions, Although I loved when you suggest “drawing a warm bath” for a loved one which I think is a beautiful way to show a loved one you care for them. I like and dislike what you said, sometimes I get scared when I think of the professional mental health sector because I truly know a pill can not fix a “broken” heart that hearts and minds mend with kind words and actions and not pills which for the most part don;’t lead a patient to full recovery, “Just Like a Pill'” by Pink expresses that “Just like a pill instead of making me better you keep making me Ill'” and I should know man, I trusted the mental health faculty and toke every pill they offered to no avail, you see at best pills for depression or other mental health problems either physical sedate the patient which then their problem is “gone” because their too drugged to experience their own emotions or the pills have a placebo effect on the patient because once the patient believes the pill is helping then its that actually belief that they are receiving or being helped that is helpful.
    As too not fixate your thoughts just to my words I share begrudgingly this article at which does support my thoughts but I think it may complicate what I’m trying to express which is children are conditioned by the people they are born around, and that parents pass on any errors in thought or false realities they believe in, a simple one most participated in was many said “there is nine planets,” but now they say their is 8 which most parents just believe this without questioning which is dangerous because this is how any false beliefs are pasted down to our children.
    With Love,

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  4. Mark

    Hello thanks for this article.
    My wife is hospitalised and due to come home Monday.
    I have supported her though a suicide attempt but I am depressed myself now and we had a row yesterday.i am upset that this will spoil her recovery and I feel terrible now do you think it’s wrong for me to feel so angry ?

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    1. TWLOHA

      Hi Mark,

      Thank you for reaching out. We are so sorry for you and your wife are going through a difficult time. We are glad that you have each other.

      The emotions you are feeling are valid, please know that. We hope you will reach out to our team at so that we learn more about your story and offer you some encouragement.

      With Hope,

      Reply  |  
  5. Weizhou

    This is the best advice I can get. My wife is suffering depression for a decade, with highs and lows. I tried to take burdens from her by covering as much as possible house work and kids, by giving suggestions and advice, and by encouraging social life. But apparently the best thing I should do is the least I have done, i.e. giving more time for listening and enough patients for talking her feelings without getting upset or giving more advice. I would love to see some more practical advice to help her through. Thanks a lot.

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  6. Rick

    Thank you!!! A million times!!! Thank you! The girl I’m dating most recently was diagnosed with Manic Depression and for the life of me I did it all wrong early on. My personality is that of always trying to fix things for the better, Not understanding that this is not something I can fix, but rather contribute to her “fixing it” herself per say. She gets so down on herself and has most recently said to me that me and my daughter don’t deserve this. And that breaks my heart because I love this woman already even tho she has fallen in love with me. And since this is all new to her, she doesn’t know how to handle it just yet, so therefore she’s in a state where she doesn’t even love herself right now. This article has given me so much clarity as to what I need to do as her partner! Thank you!!!

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  7. Apple

    Thanks! This was very helpful!

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  8. Ashley

    Thank you! Just recently my husband has not seen a doctor to get checked out but has opened to me he feels depressed. I’ve done some research on line to see how I can be my husbands support system and I’m willing to try anything to save us. I’ve learned to reassure him and not to blame his outburst. Anything I can learn from to do better for him I’m all game. No lie it has been a struggle. I’m still here!

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  9. Sena

    Thank you for helping me to understand my boyfriend better. I suspect he’s lived with depression for a very long time, but hasn’t opened up to anyone, apart from me 3 weeks ago.
    I’ve felt utterly helpless because I don’t know how to support him. This article has made me understand so much. I’ve had a couple of depressive episodes, nothing like what he’s going through.
    In his case it is Situational Depression or Adjustment Disorder, and his triggers are death, serious illness in friends resulting in death, his daughter moving away, and verbally abusive relationships with his children’s mother’s.
    He recently said himself that he needed to see someone (a therapist) to speak to. I found that very brave, since he has never been a fan of telling others your business. Once again, thank you for clarifying this illness.

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  10. Amy

    This is a wonderful article, but what do you suggest if a spouse/boyfriend doesn’t understand what is going on? I have tried to explain how over-bearing my emotions can sometimes be to me and how frustrating it is that I can’t always control them, but he just doesn’t understand. He takes every one of my “bad” days personally. He fully believes that I am lying about what I am upset over, and he often tells me that I need to just “get over it”. What can I do to try to help him understand me rather than making every “bad” day worse by starting arguments?

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  11. Leo

    It was helpful to read your post. My partner has been suffering with depression for a year and a half now and I am at my wits end. I feel as if I am trying my beat to help but nothing seems to help and it feels as if I make things worse. I try to remind myself it is not personal but it gets harder and harder every week that goes on. He is angry at everything and everyone. It’s difficult to have a pleasant conversation without setting him off on an angry tangent. It seems that I make him feel like I am trying to make it about me but all I really want is to help and take on the burden and say “I am sorry” but he interprets it as I am making it about me. How do I help without him thinking I am making it about me? That is not the intent. What are some strategies to not take the anger and frustration he expresses personal? When it happens I often get quite and don’t talk and it makes it worse. Thank you for reading.

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      Hi Leo,

      Thank you for being honest and reaching out to us about your and your partner’s struggles when it comes to dealing with mental illness. We would love to offer you some support and we hope you’ll email us at so we can connect you to resources and provide you with encouragement.

      With Hope,

      Reply  |  
  12. Kalpesh

    Dealing with depression for long time not getting help from love one. World are just selfish

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      Hi Kalpesh,

      We’re so sorry to know that you have not found the support you’re in search of from your loved ones. We hope you know that you are not alone and that there are others who would be honored to provide you with the encouragement and support you deserve. Would you email or team at so we can learn more about your experience?

      With Hope,

      Reply  |  
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