Relationships With Depression: 10 Ways to Support a Partner Who’s Depressed

a couple and their kid together

Verywell / Ellen Linder

If you are in a relationship with someone who has depression, you are likely struggling with a mix of emotions and lots of questions. For instance, you might wonder:

  • What does depression feel like for my partner?
  • What can I do to help support them?
  • How can I take care of myself?
  • Will their symptoms impact our relationship and, if so, how can we navigate any issues together?

All of these questions are normal and it's understandable that you'd want to support your loved one to the best of your ability.

While your questions are valid, it's also important to understand that every person's experience with depression is unique so here are a few things you can do to help your loved one and yourself.

Learn More About Depression

You can support your loved one by learning everything you can about depression, including its causes, symptoms, and treatments. Ask your partner's doctor for some sources that provide the facts about depression, or do your own search. Start with these reputable sources:

Understand What Depression Really Means

There are many myths about depression. For example, depression is not simply the result of laziness or weakness. Your partner's pain may not "just be in their head." Depression doesn't need a reason. If you are unfamiliar with depression, challenge preconceived thoughts, ideas, and stigma by educating yourself.

It's especially important to validate your partner's feelings and experience of this very real and biologically based illness. Know that just like any other illness, it can be treated.

Suicide is also a very real risk of depression, so it's important to keep your loved one's environment safe (such as removing any alcohol, drugs, or guns) and to take it seriously if your loved one is feeling suicidal.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Practice Self-Care

It can be very stressful coping with another person's depression. It's OK to take some time out for yourself. Self-care is not selfish. In fact, you'll both be better off if you carve out time to safeguard your mind, body, and spirit with habits like:

Caring for yourself might also mean knowing when it's time to say goodbye. Certainly, this decision should be weighed carefully (and ideally, discussed with a mental health professional). But if your or your children's emotional or physical well-being or safety is at risk, you may need to walk away.

Seek Therapy

When someone you care about is depressed, it's OK for you to feel frustrated, angry, and upset. It is very important, however, that you don't allow these feelings to fester and grow.

Therapists, counselors, and support groups are not only for people with depression. Seeking professional help for yourself can help you feel supported, vent your frustrations, and make you more aware of your own emotional needs.

Therapy can also provide answers to any questions you have about coping with the depression of a loved one. Even if you don’t go the mental health professional route, it’s important to lean on your support network during this difficult time.

Be There for Your Partner

One of the most important things you can do for someone who is depressed is simply to be there for them and verbalize your support. Hold them close or just listen while they share their feelings.

Offer to help them with making appointments or doing some of the daily chores that they are struggling to keep up with. Let them know that you are there for them in whatever way they need while they make their recovery.

Don't Take Your Partner's Depression Personally

Depression can make people behave in ways that they normally wouldn't when they are feeling well. They may become angry, irritable, or withdrawn. They may not be interested in going out or doing things with you like they used to. Your spouse or significant other may lose interest in sex.

These things are not personal, and they don't mean that your partner no longer cares for or about you. They are symptoms of the illness that requires treatment.

Help Out With Chores

Just like when a person has any other illness, they may simply not feel well enough to take care of paying the bills or cleaning the house. And, just like with any other illness, you may have to temporarily take over some of their daily chores until they feel well enough to do them again.

Encourage Your Partner to Seek Treatment

Treatment is vitally important to recovery from depression. You can help your loved one by helping them keep up with taking their medication and remembering appointments.

You can also help them by reassuring them that asking for help is not a sign of weakness or something to be ashamed of.

Offer Hope

Offer your partner hope by reminding them of their reasons to keep living, whatever they may be. Perhaps it's their children, a beloved pet who needs them, or their faith.

These reasons, which will be unique to the individual, can help them hold on a bit longer until the pain subsides.

Demonstrate Your Love

Depression can make a person feel like a burden and unworthy of love and support. Proactively counteract those thoughts by telling and showing your partner that you love them.

Let them know that you understand that depression is affecting their thoughts, feelings, and behavior and that you (still) love them. Reassure them that you are here to support them in their journey to get better.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you have a healthy relationship with someone who is depressed?

    Yes, you can have a healthy relationship with someone who is depressed. Open communication is of utmost importance. Communication will allow you to learn what your partner needs in terms of support and you'll also have the space to let your partner know how you're feeling as you support them. It's important, however, that your partner seek treatment for their depression so that they can also learn how to manage and cope with their symptoms as it's not your responsibility to take that on. It's also not only your partner's job to educate you about depression—but you can also get support, guidance, and tips on your own accord. Overall, if you and your partner are putting in the work to best understand one another, you can have a healthy relationship. You can also enlist the help of a relationship counselor.

2 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.
  1. Dean J, Keshavan M. The neurobiology of depression: An integrated view. Asian J Psychiatr. 2017;27:101-111. doi:10.1016/j.ajp.2017.01.025

  2. National Institute of Mental Health. Depression.

By Nancy Schimelpfening
Nancy Schimelpfening, MS is the administrator for the non-profit depression support group Depression Sanctuary. Nancy has a lifetime of experience with depression, experiencing firsthand how devastating this illness can be.