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Your mental health impacts the quality of your life and relationships. Specifically, depression can make it difficult to connect with others and feel hopeful about your love life. It can also have potentially damaging effects on romantic relationships.
Depression is a mental illness that negatively impacts your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and behaviors. Depression affects how you feel about yourself and others as well as your perception of the world.
While a romantic relationship may offer helpful support and serve as encouragement for individuals with depression, research finds depression may add to relationship distress and lower levels of satisfaction. Often a vicious cycle occurs: depression lowers relationship enjoyment and health, which in turn creates further feelings of depression.
Understanding how depression affects relationships and how to better manage your symptoms and mood are vital components to maintaining relationship health.
Depression affects your energy, mood, perception, and communication. From increased irritability and a negative perception of yourself and your relationship to strong urges to isolate, depression can affect your relationship in varying ways. Here are 10 of the most common effects:
Depression can leave you with less motivation to be social, engaging, outgoing, or talkative. You may want to isolate yourself and avoid spending time with others, including your partner. Tendencies to retreat, avoid, or withdraw may leave your partner feeling hurt or lead to other forms of relationship conflict. Your partner may feel let down if you cancel plans, don’t show up as promised, or if you tend to want to be alone instead of nurture your relationship.
Being constantly wrapped up in your own negative thoughts and feelings interferes with your ability to be physically and emotionally present. Depression impacts your perception of your life and makes enjoyment more difficult.
Often activities that were previously fun may now seem pointless or dissatisfying. You may feel even more upset that your interests or time with your partner are no longer gratifying, creating further feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
This dissatisfaction easily creates problems if you partner struggles to feel heard, valued, and supported. Mutual support, interest, and respect are significant aspects of long-lasting romantic relationships, and depression can make it harder to engage with your partner if you are already feeling empty.
If life is already feeling overwhelming and heavy, you will naturally have less tolerance and may become more bothered or annoyed by small things. You may become overly critical of your partner, more likely to pick fights, and less willing to let things go. Feeling depressed can increase the frequency and intensity of arguments, and relational damage may occur.
If having a sexual component to your relationship is important to you and your partner, not having a sexual desire or facing vast changes in your sex life may cause hurt in your relationship. Your lack of interest may feel like rejection to your partner or a disconnect if you both are not satisfied sexually.
A lack of interest or disconnect makes it difficult to be excited and hopeful about your relationship and where it is going.
While you may want your relationship to go the distance, depression can make your goal seem unattainable or trick you into believing you are not worthy of a loving relationship.
You may feel doubt and confusion about your relationship goals as well as anxiety about where your relationship is headed and how to move it forward.
Feelings of anxiety can cause you to view your relationship and your partner in a more negative light, which may leave you less satisfied and engaged. You may take comments more personally, be more sensitive to feedback, and fixate on small challenges that are inevitable despite your relationship going well.
These feelings can create a harsher, more self-critical inner voice. If you operate from this mindset, you may struggle with low self-esteem or view yourself as a failure, making it less believable that your partner wants to be with you and cares about you.
A lack of confidence and depressed mindset can lead to utilizing maladaptive behaviors as protective mechanisms such as acting avoidant, shutting down, guarding your heart, suppressing your feelings, and putting up walls.
While avoidant behavior in the name of perceived self-preservation may sound logical, it can create further distance and difficulty communicating. Open communication is necessary for conflict resolution, so withdrawing or avoiding only gets in the way of understanding each other, forgiving, being on the same page, and moving forward together.
Often, an attempt to avoid emotions and decrease emotional pain can lead to an increase in alcohol and drug use. But this only provides a temporary band-aid and can intensify depressive feelings. Alcohol and drug abuse can destroy a relationship by further impairing thinking and leading to other behavioral changes. The way you treat your partner and the reckless behaviors that often accompany substance abuse can wreak havoc on your relationship.
Depression is a treatable mental health condition and does not have to ruin your romance. Utilizing healthy self-care practices, relationship skills, and communication strategies will help alleviate the dark cloud depression commonly presents. Here are five ways to deal with depression so it doesn’t destroy your relationship:
How you treat yourself and take care of yourself greatly affects the course of depression. Make a point not to shame or judge yourself for being depressed, and utilize an encouraging and kind inner voice when self-critical thinking patterns emerge.
Reduce negative thoughts and feelings by focusing on what is going well and the aspects of life that bring you joy. Find ways to recharge by participating in daily self-care through healthy eating and a regular sleep schedule. Maintain personal hygiene, mindfulness, exercise, social outlets, relaxation, and other interests.
Sharing how you feel with your partner is especially important when you have the urge to retreat, shut down, or avoid interactions. Communication is the foundation of a healthy relationship and is the means to keeping the connection alive. It is important to remember your partner is not a mind reader, nor is he or she solely responsible for meeting your emotional needs. Communicating how you feel and what you need will help your partner better understand and support you. By keeping the lines of communication open, you and your partner will remain close and connected.
Commit to not taking your negativity out on your partner. Sadness and anger are intense emotions, so it is key to take a proactive, mindful approach and not let your feelings control you. When you are feeling short-tempered or angry, remember to take a deep breath, count to 10, and think before you speak. Then communicate the feeling (I notice I am feeling angry) instead of acting out the feeling (punching the wall, breaking something, yelling).
Focus on sharing feelings in a calm way (I feel angry when…) and move toward solutions instead of assigning blame or lashing out. Also, remember your partner is not your enemy and has insecurities and challenges he or she is managing.
A depressed mindset may trick you into believing the worst about your partner or cause you to focus primarily on negative stimuli, thoughts, or assumptions. You may have to talk yourself out of believing your partner does not care about you, purposefully upsets you, or that your relationship is entirely negative. When you are feeling particularly negative, make a written or mental list of five qualities you admire or appreciate in your partner and five aspects of your relationship you value. Practicing gratitude about your relationship and mindfully focusing on your partner’s positive qualities will help offset the negative spin depression puts on life.
While your partner may offer support and help you handle your sadness, he or she is not solely responsible for your health or happiness. Professional help and mental health treatment may be necessary to better manage and heal from depressive symptoms. Take action while having realistic expectations of yourself, your partner, and your relationship.
If you notice your sadness is worsening, or you have urges to harm yourself, or feel suicidal, do not wait any longer to reach out for professional help. You deserve to feel better, and there is no shame in asking for support. The better you feel about your life and yourself, the more satisfying your relationship will be.
Depression is likely to cause dark moments in your life and relationship. But by utilizing healthy coping skills and healthy relationship strategies you can diminish the darkness and keep your union strong. When you feel alone, remember you have a partner who cares for you. Let the love you have for each other serve as an opportunity for further healing and connection.
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