Tag Archives: love

support partner with depression

How to support a partner with depression

Being in a relationship with someone who struggles with depression can be difficult. It is hard to know what you can do to help and you may be worried about saying or doing the wrong thing. It can also be difficult to know if what you are doing is helping, causing you to get discouraged and feel helpless.

Depression is a tricky thing. It is an internal struggle, a mental illness that ebbs and flows. People who are depressed have good days and bad days just like everyone else. Those who struggle with depression need love and support from those around them. They need people with knowledge and understanding who can give them grace during bad times.

That being said, as in any relationship, you must take care of yourself too. Make sure you take time to breathe, relax, decompress, and practice self-care. Supporting someone who is depressed can take a toll on you, as a partner, as well. Take the time to recognize your needs.

Here are some ways you can help a partner with depression:

1.) Learn about depression— It is hard to help someone who is struggling with their mental health if you don’t have some knowledge. People who are depressed often have angry outbursts, moments of withdrawal, days when they want to stay in bed all day, bouts of crying, and unexplained sadness. If you aren’t aware of the symptoms then you, as a partner, might get angry, take things personally, or feel hurt. Understanding and making sure you also have a support system is important.

2.) Just be there — Sometimes caring for another is as simple as sitting with them, giving them a hug, rubbing their back, checking on them, etc. You don’t have to do any huge acts of kindness. It is more about showing your support by being present. Letting them know you care about them. Say things like “we will get through this together.”

3.) Encourage treatment — Often those struggling with depression get so down on themselves that they don’t have the energy or the motivation to get help. They might not even know why they are feeling this way, or notice changes in their behavior. As a partner, you can be a voice of reason. You can encourage them to get help, maybe even schedule and take them to the first visit. Tell them what you have noticed and explain to them you want them to feel better. You can assist in the research of mental health options. Let them know you are on their team.

4.) Create a supportive home environment — It is important to recognize that depression is no one’s fault. It is not yours and it is not your partner’s fault for being depressed. Create a healing environment in your household. Make plans to exercise together. Choose a healthy diet plan to help you both feel your best. Limit access to things like alcohol or drugs. Make time for counseling appointments. Create routines and work together to limit overall stress around the home.

5.) Positive reinforcement —People who are depressed often feel the worst about themselves. Everything they do is wrong, everything is bad, they feel worthless. Noticing small improvements and mentioning them to your partner can go along way, “I think it is great you got up to workout this morning,” “I am proud of you for making that appointment,” etc.

6.) Set small goals — Depression is overwhelming and overcoming symptoms can feel like a mountain to climb. Instead of looking at the big picture, focus on the day-to-day. Set small, manageable goals. Maybe it is taking a walk a few nights a week after work, going to bed by a certain time each day, making and keeping an appointment, or even getting out of bed and doing one thing — like making a meal, taking a shower, something attainable.

7.) Know suicide warning signs —It is hard to think about but suicide is a very real result of depression for some people. You must acknowledge the risk and keep your eyes peeled for signs. Talk to your partner about how they feel, is this something they think about? Keep notice of them making plans, talking about death, giving things away, or finding a sudden calm, see other warning signs here.

Supporting someone with depression can be hard on the partner. Make sure, as mentioned above, to take care of yourself as well. You can’t be expected to carry all the burden but you can show those you love that you are there for them. Seeking help from a licensed professional counselor can be helpful for both yourself and your partner. Don’t hesitate to get help. You don’t have to do this alone.

controlling partner

Signs you may have a controlling partner

Toxic relationships can sneak up on anyone. You might enter a relationship thinking your partner is one way and later find out he/she/they have a different side of them you had yet to really see. They could be controlling. 

Having a controlling partner is dangerous and unhealthy. Sometimes, especially when love is involved, it can be hard to see the signs. 

Here are some signs of a controlling partner that you should watch out for:

1.) They want to isolate you from your friends or family — they make you feel guilty for going out with friends or constantly complain about you speaking or interacting with family. 

2.) They are chronically criticizing you— they are always making you feel bad about yourself by picking at every little thing you do, how you act, things you wear, etc. 

3.) Making threats — threats don’t have to be violence-related, those are clear red flags that you should get away. Threats can also include revoking privileges, taking financial access away or getting in the way of time with children, etc.

4.) Making love, affection, caring conditional — it is definitely not healthy for a partner to be saying things like, “we can cuddle tonight if you do the dishes.” Or, “make partner at work and I will really love you.”

5.) Keeping score— if your partner is constantly keeping track of the things you have done wrong, that is not a healthy sign.

6.) Does not trust you — your partner is spying on you, reading messages on your phone, following you when you go places, or asking for constant updates on your whereabouts

7.) Not respecting your needs — your partner isn’t allowing you to have alone time, get your hair done, get exercise, whatever it is you need

8.) Jealously — he/she/they is easily made jealous over little things, such as that conversation you had with a coworker, a phone call with a friend, a chance meeting with a neighbor, etc.

These are just some of the signs that you should look out for if you are concerned your partner may be controlling. It may also be helpful to speak to a licensed mental health professional to assess the situation and determine the best course of action. If you ever feel like you are in an unsafe situation, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for help. 

love practice

Love Is A Practice

Love is part of being human but it is not something that just comes naturally, at least that is what one analyst believes. Loving another takes work. It requires effort, discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. Love is not a feeling, rather it is a practice.

Psychoanalyst and social philosopher Erich Fromm outlined this perspective in his 1956 book, The Art of Loving. Fromm thinks of love not as something that is mysterious or magical but rather something that can be analyzed and explained. His theory revolves around the idea that a person cannot fully experience real love until they have developed their total personality. Part of this involves self-love. It means learning how to care for yourself before you can fully care for another. It means taking responsibility for your choices, your decisions, your actions. It means respecting yourself, knowing and being honest with yourself about your weaknesses and your strengths. Truly knowing and understanding yourself means being realistic. A person must learn to love their neighbor with “true humility, courage, faith, and discipline,” he writes. 

Work To Be Loved

He believes that a person cannot fall in love but rather they have to work to be in love. It is not something that happens to a person, but instead is something that is worked at achieving. Fromm argues there are four basic elements to true love: care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge. 

His perspective, while agreed to by some and criticized by others, contains a foundation that is undeniably true across all relationships—you can’t maintain a relationship without putting in the effort. That is the bottom line. It is not smooth sailing all the time. You can’t throw in the towel every time things get difficult. You really have to work at it. It does take discipline, it does take a level-headed mindset and the ability to consider both sides of the spectrum. 

Regardless of beliefs or theories, at the end of the day, I think we can all agree that love is beautiful and as Fromm would say “is one of life’s greatest achievements.” 

How to tell if divorce is the right decision: Part One

This is part one of a three-part series on how to determine if divorce is the right decision for you as a couple. This series will dive deeper into the options couples who are thinking of divorce have and the factors they should consider. 

Making the decision to get divorced can be one of the most difficult decisions a couple can make. There are a lot of factors that play a role and there are many details to consider. Nobody wants their marriage to end in divorce but it is, unfortunately, a common reality these days. If you and your spouse are considering divorce — how do you know if it’s the right path for you? 

Discernment Counseling

When seeing a couple who is considering divorce it is important for us, as counselors, to help not just one partner but both to explore three options. The process is called discernment counseling. Developed by Dr. Bill Doherty, discernment counseling focuses solely on helping couples to decide what they want to do with their relationship. It is unlike traditional marriage counseling, which is designed to save a marriage (but doesn’t work unless both partners are fully on board). Generally, discernment counseling is brief with the goal of getting couples unstuck so they can move forward in whichever direction they have determined to be best for them. 

Making the decision

The first option for a couple to consider is to do nothing. Doing nothing is exactly how it sounds. It means everything stays put. Couples that choose to do nothing will not seek any additional counseling. They simply will keep things as is in hopes that whatever bumps their marriage is facing is just a “phase” that may eventually pass. A couple who chooses to do nothing may not be ready to make the decision of whether or not to get divorced. Maybe they have kids and they are just not ready to put them through that process, or maybe they are holding out hope that things will get better. Whatever their reasoning chances are they may return to discernment counseling at a later date, or decide down the road to seek marriage counseling. 

How long should it take to get over a divorce?

The other day someone asked me how long it should take to get over their divorce?

While I would have loved to give them a simple answer, it is not that cut and dry. The truth is it will take—as long as it takes. Every situation is different. Divorce itself, even if you and your partner agree that the marriage is not working and divorce is the best option, is not easy.

Your marriage ended for any number of reasons that can be hard to accept. Your divorce challenged your innermost voices, it put strain on your self-esteem and turned your entire world upside down. It is not supposed to be an easy thing to recover from. Even if you know in your heart that it was the right choice, it doesn’t mean that you will instantly feel wonderful. 

Your Internal Core

When you got married you expected to be with your partner forever. You made a commitment to each other to care in sickness and in health, to stand by each other in times of stress, and to grow old together. Just the mere factor of that not working out is a huge disappointment. It is a major blow to your internal core as a human being. 

That is not even taking into account things like children, pets, shared possessions—like homes, cars, etc. You are now faced with figuring out a new normal. If you have children you are likely feeling the strain of their own emotional distress. You are trying to make things as easy as possible on them, while it is hurting you to see them hurt. You may have been forced to move out of your home, split up possessions that may have been of high importance to you, and you may be feeling more financial strain than ever before—divorce is not cheap. 

All of these things make getting over such a thing extremely difficult. Don’t try to rush your heart. Instead, take comfort in knowing that you will find that new normal. You will. You will be able to move on. Your kids will be ok. You will find that happiness, that relief, whatever it is that you need. You will. In time. These things take time. 

Counseling services are always there for you if you need an extra set of ears to bounce things off of, or if you need guidance in how to move through this major life change. 

Surviving Valentine’s Day Post-Divorce

The day of love is here, but you aren’t feeling it. You recently got divorced and want to forget this day even exists. And maybe that is what you do, maybe you distract yourself with something else. Valentine’s Day can be a hard day for anyone not in a relationship but especially for someone who recently got out of a marriage. 

Create a new normal

Maybe burying yourself under the covers of your bed looks really good right now. I get it. But, I generally don’t encourage avoiding situations. This day might be hard but doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of it. Avoidance just pushes away feelings that will show their face later down the road with more strength. 

Rather than avoiding the dreaded Feb. 14, embrace it in a different way. You can celebrate Galantines Day, as it is often called, and treat your friends to a special date. Share a moment with the girls and relish in how loved you are. If you have kids, treat them to a special dinner. Embrace the day as a time to show love to those in your life, not just a romantic partner. 

Try something new

Take it as an opportunity to do something you wouldn’t have been able to do before. Make a new normal. Maybe you love Thai food but your ex did not, take yourself shopping and buy yourself something special, get your hair cut, your nails done, or get a massage. Use the day as a day to love yourself. Recognize that the most important person in your life is you. You deserve to take care of yourself, to treat yourself, to show yourself how much you are loved and how much you deserve. 

Call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Take yourself to a movie, do something special for someone else, whatever it is that makes you feel good. Read a good book. If the idea of being out with other couples just makes you cringe, then don’t. You don’t have to expose yourself to uncomfortable situations. Rent a movie, order in food. The bottom line is to ask yourself what matters to you? What is something that would make you feel good? Then do it. 

If you are feeling particularly down, take a moment to think of five things you love about yourself. Write them down, repeat them to yourself. You do you. Make this day about love, loving you, loving your friends, your family, your pets, whoever has been there for you. You will get through. Tomorrow is a new day. 

boundary title

Boundaries and Relationships Intersect

Boundaries in any relationship — whether between family or a romantic partnership— are extremely important to maintaining a healthy, happy relationship. That being said, there are logical and illogical ways to set a boundary. 

boundary graph

Let’s talk about Joan (a fictional client). Joan is very close with her father who lives in another state. They have always talked frequently, sharing news of their days. Joan recently got married and is beginning her life with her significant other, but Joan’s dad’s (we will call him Joe) calls are getting more frequent and are beginning to cause issues in Joan’s marriage. Joe is calling Joan every morning before she goes to work, waking up others in the home, and every evening. He is hurt when she doesn’t answer and begins to worry if she is ok—sending her multiple texts and calling repeatedly. Joe just loves his daughter and misses her, but Joan is feeling smothered and overwhelmed. She is trying to build a new life with her husband and her dad is making it difficult for her to do that. How should she approach this sticky situation?

Joan could call her dad upset and ask him to stop calling her and stop texting her nonstop. She could ignore her feelings and struggles and keep letting the calls come in, while building resentment against her father. These are opposite sides of the spectrum. One is establishing a boundary but in a major, and hurtful, way. The other is failing to set a boundary at all further harming the relationship. 

A more logical way to establish a boundary would be to come up with a happy middle ground. She can explain to her dad that the frequent calls are playing a toll on her marriage and instead offer to call her dad on her way home from work a few times a week. She can explain to him that while she still loves him dearly, and he will always be her dad, she also needs to work on her marriage. By setting a boundary like this she is maintaining the integrity of the relationship. Her dad might be disappointed at this news, but he will likely be able to get over it and understand.

Boundaries are all about protecting yourself, your relationships, and living your happiest, healthiest life. If you need help with establishing a boundary, seek help from a licensed mental health professional who can help to guide you. 

Grudges vs boundaries: the powerful difference

Grudges and boundaries can often be perceived as similar — but they are so very different from each other. 

Grudges are a form of punishment. It is constantly holding something over another person’s head, not letting them recover for a past failure, it is not accepting that people can grow and learn from mistakes. Grudges are toxic to relationships. We are all human beings, meaning we are all going to do things that others are not ok with at some point or another. When a grudge is established it leaves the other person stuck, unable to recover from that action or actions that injured the relationship in the past. It is a lack of forgiveness and acceptance. 

Boundaries are an act of protection for your personal self and the relationship you are in. They are away to help keep the relationship on a positive track so neither partner gets burnt out or overwhelmed by past issues. It involves growth, acceptance, open communication, understanding, and in some cases compromise.

Boundaries are about love

Grudges often lead to burn out because they are established by internalizing strong feelings and not determining solutions to move forward. It is like stepping on a piece of gum and not being able to move forward without that bump on the bottom of your shoe. A boundary is wiping that gum off, accepting the evidence that it was once there, but moving forward without that bump. 

Maybe your partner forgot about an important dinner which left you feeling upset and hurt, a grudge would mean you are always bringing it up every time a dinner is planned and you are overwhelmed with worry that he/she/they will forget. A boundary would be telling your significant other how upset you were, finding out what happened to them and why they missed the dinner and then figuring out how to make sure it won’t happen again. Maybe they need a morning reminder, or an alarm on their phone, whatever it is work together to solve the issue rather than tucking it all away.  Grow and learn together and you will be making your relationship stronger.

You Can Love Someone and Still Have Boundaries

Just because you are in love does not mean you have to let everything go. Love can—and should—involve boundaries. You and your significant other are still two separate people with different needs, wants, expectations. Boundaries are healthy.

Boundaries often have a bad rap. They can be perceived as pushing away the other or creating distance. That is not the case at all, the healthiest of relationships have boundaries. A relationship isn’t a free ride in another person’s life. It does not entitle one person to treat another a certain way. Establishing boundaries can very much be an act of love. It is a way to get deeper in the intimate details of your significant other’s personality and needs. It is opening the doors of communication and being honest with each other. 

Boundaries are a way to love yourself

Boundaries are a way to love yourself, to make strides in your life to take care of you and what you need, and they are also a way of loving another. There is the saying “I love you too much to let you act like that.” Think about your children and when you have had to punish them for hitting a sibling, or stealing from a friend— you are establishing a boundary by telling them you are not ok with that. Similar things can happen in a relationship—maybe you have a partner who frequently takes part in unhealthy behaviors or is short-tempered. By communicating with your partner that these behaviors are things you are not comfortable with and you will not stand by and be part of them then you are doing some good for yourself and for your partner. You want to see them live their best life. 

We all have limits

We need each other but we all also have limits. A boundary can be as simple as establishing a time to be by yourself. Maybe after work you are stressed and just need to unwind in quiet, so you lock yourself away to watch a few minutes of TV or read a book and you ask your partner to leave you be during that time. Maybe you have a longstanding tradition with a family member that is special and your significant other suddenly wants to be part of it, and you explain that this is something that is important to you and this family member—a tradition of sorts. Maybe its a food that you don’t like and you ask your partner not to prepare that item for you personally any more. Or maybe it is down to how your clothes are folded or a chore around the house is performed. If you are not ok with it, it is ok to tell the other person to leave it be and you will take care of it. 

When setting boundaries with your partner be calm, open your heart and mind to what they have to say, and establish greater respect for both yourself and him/her/they. When we keep our mouths shut and just “go with it,” or try to be “above” by not saying anything we are quietly building up resentment that will eventually explode into an argument or even the end of the relationship. Before things get to that point, speak your concerns, let your partner know what you need and acknowledge that they also have needs. 

What are some boundaries you have set with a partner?

‘I just want someone to love me’

“I just want someone to love me.” Let’s think about this phrase for a minute. I hear it quite often. 

While it might seem harmless on the surface, is it really? It’s true—everyone does want to be loved. Everyone wants to feel cared for, appreciated, and truly madly loved. But this method of thinking about it is dangerous. This thought process could be what is leading some of us into bad relationships. 

We are thinking we want this one thing so badly that we are losing touch of the process of connecting with another. We are losing ourselves. We are desperate to be loved by another that we are jumping into any old relationship and staying in it—whether we are happy or not — because we want to feel loved. We want to be loved. 

Fill your own bucket

Are you relying on someone else to fill your bucket? What about you? What about your goals, your hopes, and dreams, the stuff that makes you special. You need to work on filling your own bucket and finding that love inside you so you are not so reliant on others. Learn to love yourself. It can be a difficult thing to do but it is crucial to your happiness. The only person you can ever truly rely on in life is yourself. You need to take care of you, to trust in yourself so that you can find that true connection with another. 

It is amazing what can happen when we love ourselves. The relationships we get into are healthy ones, they are beneficial to us and truly meaningful. They are not born out of desperation or need but rather true attraction and connection. So rather than relying on others, we need to start relying on ourselves. Fill your bucket. Do what you need to do for you before you go hunting for love.