Dating can be difficult; but dating with depression is a whole other challenge. Here, advice to help you navigate the process.
It’s painful to watch someone you care about suffer and not be able to help them. It can be bewildering to listen to the person you admire and value most talk about themselves with extreme negativity, and in a way that doesn’t at all align with how you see them.
Their false but strong belief that they have accomplished nothing or that they have little to live for can leave you feeling helpless, and confused as to how to respond. These all-or-nothing, black-and-white thought patterns often illustrate depressed thinking.
Depression has a loud and convincing voice that dominates the minds of those who suffer from it. There’s little room for reason, which makes it hard for partners to know how to be helpful.
Here are some dating with depression tips to consider if you’re looking to start a new relationship:
Believe in yourself
A lot of guys lose confidence when depressed, but that doesn’t mean that other people don’t want to be around you. There are people out there that want to get to know you.
Know that depression doesn’t define who you are – it’s a health condition (like high blood pressure, for example) and it doesn’t make you any less worthy and interesting than the next guy.
Create or maintain balance
In relationships, we must continually assess whether we should meet the needs of our partners, our own needs, or the needs of the relationship. When we balance this well, we tend to feel fulfilled. However, when one partner is suffering an illness, it’s easy to lose that balance because we want to help our partner feel better.
We put their needs first and forget about ourselves. This is absolutely necessary and appropriate for a while. But when our partner has an illness that doesn’t go away for long periods of time, we have to learn how to balance taking care of ourselves while still being supportive to our partners.
Otherwise, the relationship can become threatened. When you ignore your needs, they don’t go away; they only become greater over time. If you put yourself aside for long enough, you will end up feeling lonely and resentful.
To begin creating more balance in your relationship, you must acknowledge that you have needs and at least some of them must be met. Start to notice how much you’re choosing to meet your partner’s needs instead of your own. Think about when it might be OK to put yourself first, and make conscious choices to promote more balance in your relationship.
ALSO READ: 9 Types of Depression, and What You Need to Know About Each
Trust and Timing
Taking it slow and establishing trust is a wise choice says Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, core faculty member of the Spirituality Mind Body Institute at Teachers College, Columbia University (New York). “The first date shouldn’t be a confessional,” says Dr. Tomasulo, “Take the time to ascertain if both of you are interested in going forward and see how you feel in the presence of the other person. On the second or third date, you can test the waters by bringing up the subject of your depression in a general way.
Depression, and some antidepressants, can cause you to lose interest in sex.
If you are having libido problems that are medication related, talk to your doctor about alternatives that might be less likely to dampen your sex drive.
You can also let your partner know that you care in other ways. If you don’t feel like having sex, let the person know you still find him or her attractive by cuddling or being affectionate.
Encourage healthy behaviours, which are important for them to feel well, says Dr Bobby. It can be as simple as suggesting you two go for a walk after dinner. Or making space for them to journal or meditate.
Just remember to support rather than push. It’s not your job to hound them about if they went to their therapy appointment or took their medication, she says.
Reassess your future
“People can get into situations that are absolutely heartbreaking five or 10 years down the road,” says Dr Bobby. “I often see people fall in love with someone’s potential and they can enter into and maintain a relationship for years, chasing the dream of how great their lives will be when their partner makes changes,” she says.
It is absolutely possible for someone struggling with depression to recover, however, if your partner is not actively seeking help in some way – counselling, medication, lifestyle changes – and you are not happy or its affecting your own mental health, she suggests that you end the relationship or walk away before it gets serious.
Consider professional help
If you’re depressed, dating can magnify some of your challenges, such as fatigue, irritability, low self-esteem, and reduced libido.
The best way to stay strong? Seek treatment, if you haven’t already.
With greater awareness about depression, the stigma of mental illness has diminished somewhat. Therapy and/or medication use is common and often very successful.
More than 80% of people who seek treatment get relief from symptoms.