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The Winter Issue

My Partner and I Both Have Depression, Now What?

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Relationships can certainly be rewarding, but they're not always easy. They often require a lot of time, effort, commitment, and compromise from both partners. Most people face relationship challenges at some point or another.

However, living with depression can make dating and relationships even harder. The American Psychological Association (APA) notes that having a mental health condition yourself, or being with a partner who has a mental health condition can make relationships more complex and challenging.

On one hand, there may be a sense of comfort in knowing that your partner is aware of the condition and its effects, and understands what you're going through.

On the other hand, worrying about your partner's mental health and trying to support them while caring for your own can be stressful. There may be times when something you're experiencing can affect the relationship and trigger your partner, or vice versa.

For instance, if you're feeling low or tired, you may prefer to be alone and withdraw from your partner instead of spending time with them. However, your partner may feel rejected by this and experience feelings of insecurity and anxiety as a result.

If you are in a relationship where you and your partner both have depression, you may wonder whether this is a common dynamic and how to navigate it. This article explores the causes of this situation and suggests some coping strategies that might be helpful if you and your partner both have depression.

Is It Common for Both Partners to Have Depression?

It’s not at all uncommon for two people in a relationship to both have depression, says Claudia de Llano, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist.

Research estimates that approximately 1 in 6 adults experience a depressive episode at some point in their lives; therefore, it's possible for two people in a partnered relationship to both have depression at the same time, says David Klemanski, PsyD, MPH, a psychologist at Yale Medicine.

De Llano explains that this dynamic can come about in multiple ways:

  • Gravitating toward a partner with depression: As relational beings, we tend to attract people with similar traits. This includes people who are emotionally in the same developmental space as we are. So, someone with depression may gravitate toward someone who has depression and feels the same emotional resonance. However, it's important to note that this dynamic is complex, and this is not always the case for everyone with depression.
  • Triggering depression in a partner: Sometimes, when one partner has depression, the other partner experiences the struggles of living with someone dealing with the resulting emotional instability. This can have a profound impact of stress on the relationship and, if not adequately supported, can trigger depression in the other partner.

For instance, if you meet someone who also happens to be living with depression, it can take some pressure off you to disclose that you have depression or explain what it feels like. You may be more at ease with them and get along with them better if you don't have to worry about being judged for having a mental health condition. As a result, you may find yourself in a relationship with a partner who has depression.

On the other hand, if you're already in a relationship with your partner and one of you starts to experience depression, it can also affect the other partner and may cause them to develop depression. In fact, if you and your partner live together with other family members, it can affect the whole family in some form or another.

Unique Characteristics of This Situation

A situation where you and your partner both have depression can offer a unique set of characteristics and challenges.

The major "benefit" of this situation is that both of you can understand the symptoms and effects of depression your partner may be struggling with, says Dr. Klemanski.

Having firsthand knowledge of depression can create a tacit sense of empathy that can help with the journey of managing depression, says de Llano.

Your partner understands the struggle of depression and knows it can be debilitating, intrusive, or even unpredictable.


In addition to empathy and understanding for the other, you and your partner may also recognize each other's depression triggers, develop an awareness of oncoming episodes, and take steps to mitigate them, says Dr. Klemanski.

Challenges of This Situation

On the other hand, if both partners are deeply entrenched in their depression without proper therapeutic support, they may struggle to be fully emotionally available to each other, says de Llano.

Dr. Klemanski notes that depression can pose several challenges for couples, which can sometimes include:

  • Relational difficulties or discord
  • Dissatisfaction with the relationship
  • Impaired interpersonal functioning
  • Decreased communication
  • Increased withdrawal from each other
  • Reduced romantic and sexual intimacy

A 2015 study notes that in partners who both have depression, an increase in depressive symptoms in one partner is closely followed by an exacerbation of the other partner’s symptoms as well.

How to Cope If You and Your Partner Have Depression

Dr. Klemanski shares some coping strategies that can be helpful if you and your partner both have depression:

  • Maintain individual resources for care: Ensure each of you has your own resources for managing depression, including psychiatrists, psychologists or counselors, and support systems via family and friends. This is similar to the instructions we receive when we fly: ‘Put your own mask on before helping others.’ Both of you have to take care of yourselves so that you are in a healthy position to help each other.
  • Follow regular routines and schedules: It’s helpful for both of you to maintain regular daily routines that include work, healthy meals, exercise, hobbies, and social activities. 
  • Find ways to prevent withdrawal: Depression can cause you to withdraw from people, your partner included. Thus, it may be helpful for both of you to mitigate your tendency to withdraw from each other proactively. For example, finding small ways to remain engaged in the partnership can be helpful, such as going for walks together, sharing meals, leaving brief notes for your partner, or finding other activities you both enjoy.
  • Monitor depression triggers: Work on your self-awareness and take note of antecedent instances. Learn to recognize triggers to your and your partner’s symptoms of depression. Be aware of aspects (such as situations, thoughts, feelings, or behaviors) that can exacerbate either of your symptoms and adversely impact the relationship.
  • Work on your relationship skills: Depression can affect your ability to regulate and communicate your emotions, making things harder for you and your partner. It’s essential for both of you to learn skills to manage intense emotions and find ways to prioritize healthy communication.
  • Don’t take on your partner’s depression alone: Avoid, to the extent possible, solely taking on the burden of your partner’s mental health. Encourage reliance on support networks and professional help. Create healthy boundaries to maintain perspective on the role of depression in your lives and relationship. Remember that you are not responsible for fixing them or making everything better.
  • Take responsibility for your mental health: Similarly, it’s important that you don’t put the burden of your mental health entirely on your partner’s shoulders. Your partner is not responsible for meeting all your emotional needs, and you are responsible for your own mental health, happiness, and well-being.

Remember that you are not your depression. Your partner is not their depression. Your identities are deeper than that, and the more effort you put toward understanding how depression impacts your dynamic, the better you will be able to navigate it.


A Word From Verywell

Having depression, and being with a partner who has it too, can create a shared sense of empathy and understanding between the two of you. This can help you support each other and navigate the condition together.

However, depression can sometimes be rough on relationships and take a toll on you and your partner. De Llano recommends creating a plan for coping with depression—individually and as a couple—so you are both aware of each other’s triggers, coping strategies, treatment goals, and persons to contact for support, treatment, and emergencies.

10 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Sanjana Gupta
Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.