Loving someone who has depression can be a challenging but rewarding experience, especially for those of us suffering from the condition. It’s likely to be the most intense relationship a guy will ever find himself in, and while there will be no shortage of tough stuff to deal with along the way, we hope it’ll be worth it. If you want to be with us, here’s what you need to know:
We usually listen more than we speak. This isn’t necessarily because we don’t want to talk about our problems — we do seek comfort from you, but we’d rather hear about your issues and put you at ease than burden you with the doom and gloom in our own minds. Instead of pulling you down with us, we want to be there for you and make sure that you’re taken care of emotionally. Misery may love company, but we would never want you to be miserable with us.
Sometimes we can be very selfish. Although we put a lot of effort into making sure you’re happy, sometimes we get sucked into the black hole of depression and can’t find a way out. We’re so stuck in our heads and focused on trying to get out of it that we forget about you and only think about ourselves. It isn’t that we’ve stopped caring about you; we’re just too distracted by our own demons.
We’re more empathetic than most women. Generally speaking, women tend to be the nurturing and sympathetic type that are always ready to help. However, sympathy and empathy are entirely different qualities. Most women are sympathetic toward others, but women who have experienced depression or other similar mental illnesses truly understand emotion in a way that someone who hasn’t been through that can’t. We’re more tuned in to how others are feeling, and we act upon that with genuine care and concern.
Our emotions tend to control us. Mood swings are common with various types of depression, so please stop assuming “it’s just PMS”. We work hard to not let our feelings run our day-to-day lives, but it’s hard to do that when we’re always feeling either everything at once, or nothing at all. If we’re upset, it probably has less to do with you and more to do with whatever’s going on with us internally. Learn to recognize the difference, and maybe you can help us cope by finding a way to soothe us.
We get burnt out easily in social situations. It’s not that we don’t like your friends or that we don’t want to spend time with them. Depression has led us to a more introverted lifestyle, and we just can’t handle so much socializing without some longer breaks to recharge. It’s one thing to feel lonely by yourself, but adding in a room full of people increases that loneliness tenfold — the whole “lonely in a crowded room” thing is real. And sometimes being around people who seem happy makes us even more depressed.
The appreciation we have for you is immeasurable. The fact that you see what depression does to us but you stick around speaks volumes about how much you care for us. Knowing we have support even on our worst days is comforting. If there’s one thing that keeps us pushing forward through the storm, it’s your love for us. We find strength in the knowledge that someone loves us enough to deal with our highs and lows, and all the chaos in between. Finding a way to show how much we appreciate you for that is nearly impossible.
We often require extra care and attention. Depression constantly whispers in our ear that we aren’t smart enough or pretty enough or funny enough. It never takes a break from telling us that we just aren’t enough. Because of that, we seek reassurance that our depression is lying to us. Depression feeds off of our fear that we aren’t good enough for you, so we need you to remind us more often than usual that we are.
Occasionally we just need a day or two apart. Although we can be a little bit needy, we also need some space once in a while. Just like too much social time can be overwhelming, too much time together can burn us out. We enjoy being with you, but there are going to be days when we need to shut ourselves off from the rest of the world and retreat into our own space for a bit. Sometimes our depression can be unbearable, and we’d rather deal with it alone than put you through hell with us. Don’t take it personally, because we’re trying to do you a favor.
We express our love through the little things. Putting effort into everyday tasks is easy to most people, but when we’re dealing with depression, the everyday things are the most difficult. Cooking, cleaning, even showering — all of these things (and more) are exhausting for us. Rather than grand romantic gestures, expect smaller gestures like bringing home your favorite candy from the store, or putting away the dishes. Know that if we actually get out of bed on our bad days, it’s our way of showing you that we care and that we’re fighting because we love you.
There will be days, weeks, months when we don’t love ourselves. It’s hard to love someone else when you don’t love yourself the way you should. It’s even harder to believe that someone else could love us when we can’t love ourselves. Please understand that on the days we don’t love ourselves, we need you to love us more to compensate for that. We know it’s stressful to attempt to prove to us that we’re worthy of love when we’re consistently in denial that we deserve it, but once that feeling of unworthiness goes away, the amount of gratitude we’ll have for you will be unparalleled.
We are constantly overanalyzing. Remember how depression likes to whisper in our ear about not being good enough? Well, sometimes the whispers turn to screaming, and we start to believe it. We wonder if that last argument was more than just bickering — depression screams that you were picking a fight because you want to break up — and then we jump to the conclusion that you not only want out of the relationship, but that you never really loved us to begin with. This constant overanalysis of every detail transforms a small argument into a blowout, and never ends.
Thinking about the big picture is not uncommon for us. All the time we spend alone in our thoughts is perfect breeding grounds for not only overanalysis, but also conceptualizing the big picture and how our relationship fits into it. We avoid relationships that don’t make sense, because we have a deeper understanding of life than those who are blissfully unaware of how the universe works. Being so emotionally aware of ourselves and others makes it possible for us to weed out potential partners, and find someone who’s capable of handling us, depression and all.
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