In their first year of marriage, Dominic and Amy discovered a lot about each other, as newly married couples do. Amy learned that Dominic was an early bird – really early, getting up to go to the gym at 4:30 a.m., and Dominic learned that Amy needed to check the oven twice before leaving the house to go anywhere. Amy also learned that Dominic loved blasting Italian music on Sunday afternoons while he made pasta sauce for the week.
And while Dominic knew Amy suffered with depression, what he didn’t know was what it was like to live with a depressed person.
Amy gives Dominic credit for “the grace” he’s given her. “I 100% recognize how hard it must be to live with someone who has my disorder,” says Amy, who was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and depression four years before she met Dominic. “There’s so much out there written for and in support of people with depression, which I’m so grateful for, but there’s not a ton of info that’s directed toward people who love people with depression.
“I know how hard it is to live in my head, and even sometimes I forget that because we’re married, because he’s my best friend, because he’s with me every step of the way, he’s kind of living in my head too,” she continues. “Except he’s not. He can hear me and sympathize with me, but he’s not me. He gives so much, and he tries his best, but he’s still not going through what I’m going through
“There are days I get so frustrated because even though I know all of this, it still feels like, ‘Why don’t you get it by now? Why don’t you understand? Why aren’t you hearing me?’”
Dominic sits back and listens to his wife, shaking his head. “I get it,” he says quietly. “She’s going through her own pain, just like I’m going through mine. Relationships, marriages… they’re hard enough. When you introduce depression to it, you’re finding stress that other people don’t.”
Eight years after tying the knot, the couple says that with the help of their therapists, they’ve been able to live harmoniously, despite the challenges with which they’ve been presented. Here are some of the tips they suggest for couples in relationships where depression is present.
Always be supportive. Chances are, you’ve already got this one in the bag. If you’re talking to your loved one about how they feel, if you’re not dismissing their emotions, if you’re ready and willing to just sit and listen, you’re giving a world of support that they need.
Listen up. Speaking of listening… this is a big job, and a very important one at that. Some people with depression aren’t eager to go therapy and talk about how they’re feeling. It might be because they’re ashamed, embarrassed, or generally not talkers. It’s imperative you give your loved one the space to feel embraced and accepted, and a great way to do that is to listen without advice or response. Sometimes, it’s just about being there and not about providing solutions. You may never know how far this goes.
Acknowledge their growth. Depression is often a long-haul illness, and people with depression may not recognize their own progress. (Sometimes, even just getting out of bed is a victory.)
Don’t be overly excited in your praise, but genuinely joyful in pointing out where you’re noticing their improvements. It’s encouraging for them, and you’re helping them see things they may not see themselves.
Learn about depression yourself. You may want to scour the internet for reputable, credible sites where you can learn about depression, or you may even want to seek therapy for yourself. The more you know about the illness, the more you’ll be able to help. Find out what causes it, and how to help your loved one – and anyone else you may encounter – with depression.
Be good to yourself. Taking care of someone with depression doesn’t mean your own needs have to take a backseat. Don’t feel guilty for being happy, and don’t let yourself get run down because you’re putting them first all the time. In order to help others, you have to be fully functional first.
Know when it’s beyond you. Sometimes, in extreme circumstances, there may be nothing more you can do alone – you need professional assistance. If you begin to see symptoms worsen, and are concerned of an impending suicide attempt, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline as soon as possible, or call 911.