You are caring, nurturing and want to be the best you in & out of the relationship. But, if your partner is struggling with depression or anxiety (up to 80%) of us do at some time in our lives, it can be a real challenge.
I recommend a three-part approach:
- Having patience with the partner’s depression or anxiety.
- Encouraging engagement in behavioral activities with the partner.
- Avoiding enmeshment with the partner to the point where the woman begins to take on the mood and mind-set of the depressed/anxious partner.
Having patience means not minimizing your partner’s feelings and taking the time to understand exactly what it is that has been causing your partner to become depressed or anxious. Perhaps the problem is situational, such as a job change or a grief-related issue. Or perhaps the problem has been long-standing, such as social anxiety for a number of years.
Being able to listen without judgment is the most important way you can support your partner. Avoiding instruction or criticism is also crucial.
Eventually, though, it is advisable to encourage your partner to engage in pleasurable activities with you. Many depressed people say they no longer “feel” like doing something they used to enjoy, particularly if it is a physical activity. The trap they’ve fallen into is that they don’t “feel” like it because they’ve stopped doing it. If they start up again, with your encouragement and participation, they will likely notice an almost immediate mood improvement, even if only temporary or minor. Encouraging joint enjoyable activities is a quick mood-booster (and also helps with anxiety). What are the things you used to enjoy doing together?
Lastly, remember that misery loves company. Partners often take on each other’s emotions. This is not a bad thing; it’s perfectly natural for people in a close relationship to mirror each other’s feelings. However, be aware of how your partner’s depression or anxiety is affecting you. Is it creeping into your daily life? Is it preventing you from engaging in activities you once enjoyed? If this is happening, it’s important to let your partner know how you have been affected, without blaming, but rather in the spirit of problem-solving together, to battle depression or anxiety as a team.
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