photo by Kulli Kittus
by Andrea Blundell
Acting differently with your partner and can’t stop? Or dating someone who is not themselves lately, and wonder if it is depression? What is it you need to know about depression and relationships?
Depressed, or sad?
We all feel low at times. But sadness and depression are not the same.
Depression can of course involve sadness. But when we are sad, we generally know why. And we often feel okay talking about it with people close to us. Eventually, the sadness passes, or we find a solution for its root cause.
Depression, on the other hand, tends to come with a layer of shame. We have dark, uncomfortable thoughts about ourselves and the world, that can see us hiding from others. And we can often not know why we feel the way we do. We can’t seem to get out from under our mood, and it goes on and on, for a few months or more.
The depression and relationships link
A study that asked 135 couples how they felt depression affected their relationships found eight core effects. These were a negative toll on emotions, romance and sexual intimacy, and communication. Then isolation, lack of energy and motivation, lack of understanding, a sense of uncertainty, and a dependency on the relationship.
What might this look like within your relationship?
1.You suddenly aren’t enjoying the activities you usually do with your partner.
You and your partner have always loved a weekly day out in nature hiking, or a night in cooking together. But suddenly it all just feels exhausting. You can’t be bothered. It’s like nothing seems fun anymore, and you just want to sit around and do nothing.
2. And that includes sex.
photo by: Claudia Wolff
Your sex drive has gone on vacation. You just don’t want to. Or you feel unattractive and horrible inside, and like your partner shouldn’t want to touch you anyway when you are so repulsive.
3. Your partner is exhausting you.
You aren’t sure how you ever kept up with all their talking and excitement and planning.
You find yourself struggling to focus on what they are saying. At the moment it all just makes you feel tired. You wish there was an off switch. That you could turn them off, or even just turn off your life for an hour or two.
3. You feel like they just don’t get it.
There is a part of you that wishes they understood you, and the strange things you are feeling lately, but they don’t. In this moment you feel like nobody understands you.
And if you make an effort to explain how you are feeling today to them, they just disappoint you with your lack of understanding. And you then back away, even though you meant to get closer. It’s frustrating and alienating.
4. At times you might lash out and be mean.
You are snappy lately, that’s for sure.
It often follows one of the conversations where you share something private with them, and they don’t understand and you are left feeling lonely. You suddenly just say something a bit too strong, perhaps even mean. You just feel so angry somehow. But just temporarily. Afterwards you feel oddly numb.
5. You feel lonely with them, and without them.
You feel lonely in general lately, as if you are over here and everyone else is over there. And this happens even when with your partner.
But you feel lonely without them, too. And you might be calling them and relying on them more than usual, needing them to be there, even if you are aware you are suffocating them.
6. Or, you are withdrawing from them more and more.
You might feel like nobody really likes you. Or have thoughts about how you are unloveable and flawed. It feels easier and less stressful and bad to be alone.
And you don’t want to go out when they ask. You just don’t feel like it. Staying at home seems a better idea. You might even feel safer at home at the moment, like if you go out it will all just go wrong somehow.
7. You feel bored of your partner or can’t believe you ever liked them.
Depression and relationships can equal a feeling that the romance is, well…. dead.
Sometimes depression can totally change our viewpoint. It can feel like an odd new ‘clarity’ but it’s actually just the depression tricking your mind. You might, for example, decide that you don’t like any of your friends or your partner.
8. You can’t get any sleep when they are there.
Your sleep is worse lately in general. Perhaps you can’t fall asleep, or you have restless dreams, wake up all night, or can’t wake up in the morning. And you feel it’s worse when they are there.
9. You are full of doubts.
How can they really like you anyway? When you are secretly a monster? And unloveable? Or what if they actually hate you? And are only with you out of pity?
Depression makes your thoughts very dark, often full of self-criticism or doom and gloom.
20. You are even perhaps tempted to walk away for good.
If your depression continues, you might start doing things like totally pulling back from others, or cutting people out of your life.
The worse you feel, the more on a certain level you want to go towards others, the more you instead push everyone away and isolate yourself. You can’t stop yourself. It feels bigger than you.
Is it depression, or is it your relationship?
It is important to note that depression can affect our relationships. But the reverse can also happen. The wrong relationship can affect our moods and lead to depression.
It’s important to look at what you were thinking and feeling before your moods started to plummet. Was your relationship fine, or is the truth that it was already faltering?
- Did you already have worries the other person would ever understand you?
- Or concerns about their lifestyle habits that meant you suspected you’d chosen an unhealthy relationship again? Their drinking or drug use?
- Have they been criticising you, or are they themselves moody, but you feel you ‘have to’ stay as they ‘need you’?
- Did you have a feeling you had ‘done it again’, chosen he same kind of messy relationship as always? Or are stuck in some sort of pattern?
A relationship we are in because of obligation or fear, either of the other person or of being alone, or because we are repeating an unhealthy pattern from childhood? It can lead to depression, because deep down we know we are going against ourselves.
If you don’t know if you depression relates to your relationship or just to you, it’s a good idea to seek support. A professional counsellor or psychotherapist can help you get clearer on what you really feel about your partnership, and how to either stop depression from ruining it or find a way to leave it.
Need to talk to someone about your low moods? We connect you to some of London’s most highly regarded and expert talk therapists. Or use our booking site to find registered therapists across the UK as well as Skype therapy you can book from anywhere.
Still have a question about depression and relationships? Ask below. Note we cannot provide diagnosis or free counselling over comments.
Andrea M. Blundell is the lead writer and editor of this blog. She has both been the depressed partner, and been in a relationship with someone depressed. With training in coaching and person-centred therapy, she is also an advocate of CBT therapy, which changed her mood management. Find her on Linkedin and Twitter.