Tag Archives: partner

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. 

Ask Mabel: My husband and I fight about folding clothes

Concerned Client: My husband wants me to fold his clothes but not in my way, he wants me to fold them his way. I am not big on folding clothes in any special way. I do it the way I was taught which he thinks is “too messy,” or “incorrect.” That is what I know. It doesn’t bother me that my clothes are folded this way and my kids could care less. I could learn the way he wants me to fold, but it seems pointless to me. He is losing his patience and I am growing frustrated. 

He could just fold his own clothes himself but it takes him a week to get to the basket and by then it is overflowing with clean, unfolded, wrinkled clothes. I at least want to get them into the dresser, out of the way. It makes no sense to me why he is ok staring at a basket of unfolded clothes for a week but not ok with me folding and putting away his clothes. He says he doesn’t care if it doesn’t make sense. He just wants me to fold the clothes his way. He says it is “my job” to take care of the laundry and I should do it “his way.” What the hell? He works full time and expects me to all the stuff around the house, the cooking, the cleaning, and all the laundry to his standards. I am ok doing it my way, but why does it have to be his way? 

Mabel: Before I make the assumption that this is a misogynist behavior, I need to get a bigger picture. What is the implicit or explicit agreement that you currently have with your husband in terms of division of labor (i.e. you take care of all the stuff in the home, while he handles the stuff outside of the home)? Do you expect him to adhere to certain standards when it comes to the yard work? Or taking care of vehicles? Why he expects you to fold the clothes his way may be his way of executing what he thought might be an agreement. Have you ever talked about an agreement of who does what and how? Sometimes couples assume an agreement and really they need to discuss it with each other.

Why is your partner acting distant?

All relationships go through ups and downs. Sometimes your connection might feel off. Your partner feels distant and you aren’t sure what to do, or why he/she/they are feeling so far away from you. Your conversations might be simply transactional— what time do the kids need to be picked up? Will you make it to practice? What are we having for dinner? Etc. 

Before you jump to conclusions about your relationship, have a conversation. Communicate with your partner. Pick a quiet time, free from distraction and talk. Let them know you feel they are being distant and ask them why that might be. It might be something as simple as your partner needing some alone time. Maybe they are stressed from work or other things and need to clear their head. Maybe they feel overwhelmed, smothered, or just plain exhausted. Maybe they need a break from the day-to-day. 

Your partner could also be struggling with depression. It might have nothing to do with you at all, but they just don’t feel themselves making it hard to let you in. By clearing the air and letting your partner know that you are there for them in whatever way they need you, you are helping to open the doors of communication and increase closeness. 

Other reasons your partner might be acting distant could be they don’t feel as close to you anymore. Maybe you need a date night, some time to reconnect. Maybe you need to find a hobby, a tv show, a common interest of some kind to bring you back together for a few minutes a day or a couple hours a week. It can be easy to get caught up in life and lose touch of what really matters. 

There might also be a cycle of avoidance. Could there be serious issues that you keep brushing off? They all come to the surface eventually and need to be addressed. Is there a cycle of criticism that makes your partner not feel comfortable opening up to you? Maybe they feel judged or uncomfortable for some reason.

Much of the problems couples face come down to the fact that they aren’t talking about them. Issues are arising and they are ignoring them. They are thinking maybe if they pretend they don’t exist they will go away. But, if something is really bothering someone it won’t just go away. It needs to be talked about. There needs to be a solution agreed upon or a compromise. The air needs to be cleared. 

If you and your partner are having difficulty communicating, it could be helpful to seek couples counseling from a licensed professional.

When you catch your partner checking out other women…

You are walking down the street with your partner, having a conversation, and you notice their eyes as you pass another woman. They move up and down, maybe you even spot a smirk on their face after they are done checking out the other woman. How does that make you feel? 

You might brush it off and laugh about it, or you might internalize it. You might start to think— what makes her so special? What am I missing that she has? Why is she better than me? You might let it take a toll on your self-esteem. The reality is this other woman says nothing about your identity, about who you are as a person, as a partner, as a woman. She might be attractive, which is why your partner is checking her out, but that does not mean that you are any less attractive. 

You also don’t need to condone this behavior from your partner. It can be hurtful and bothersome. Stand up for yourself. Tell him/her/them how you feel when he/she/they checks out another in front of you. Explain that while you understand they likely do find other people attractive, when they acknowledge it openly in front of you it can be hurtful. Depending on your comfort level, you can also present it in a jokingly way, for example say — “hey I saw that, you think she is pretty huh?” At least that way you open the doors to communication. 

Regardless, the bottom line is the way you talk to yourself is crucial. Stop putting yourself down because of others. Stop letting other people impact the way you see yourself. You are your own beautiful self, no one can take that away from you. 

Have you ever caught your partner checking out another woman? How did it make you feel? 

Don’t say, ‘He/she/they didn’t mean anything.’

You have had another relationship, unbeknownst to your partner, and he/she/they just found out. You feel your heart beat quicken and that moment of panic sets in. You are in hot water. What do you say? How do you fix this? End this uncomfortable moment? Then it comes out— “that person didn’t mean anything to me!”

Adding fuel to the fire

You look at your partner and instead of those words making he/she/they feel better you quickly notice they seem more upset. I have spoken to many couples about this very sentence. It is upsetting. It is hurtful. No one has ever said, “oh since that person doesn’t mean anything to you, I am ok now.” If anything it makes the whole situation much worse. But why? Why does this single phrase anger people so much?

It is because when you say those words, what your partner is really thinking is: what does that make me? If you can cheat on your supposedly important partner with someone that is meaningless, then this meaningless person trumps your partner. This just makes your partner feel even smaller. Because you made the choice to harm your relationship with your partner by having relations with this other person, you are telling your partner that they do not mean as much as this person. Therefore, making the statement “they didn’t mean anything” is you telling your partner they are meaningless. It is just another way to add insult to injury. 

Therefore, making the statement “he/she/they didn’t mean anything” may get you deeper into hot water. Rather than digging through your brain to say something when the tension is high, own up to it instead. Saying “I am sorry” is a good start. Consider seeking the help of a licensed counselor individually, or as a couple, to help you through this.

Acceptance vs. Tolerance in Relationships

There is a difference between accepting and just “tolerating” your partner. Relationships are hard. You are each your own person, you have your own personalities, your own similarities and differences. 

Love and Kindness

When you accept your partner you are wholeheartedly loving and receiving him/her. Acceptance comes from love and kindness. It comes from the heart. When you accept someone you have tolerance built-in. You are accepting your partner as they are and tolerating their imperfections because you love them and appreciate them. If you agreed 100 percent with everything your partner did it wouldn’t really be much of a relationship. No one is perfect. Everyone does things we don’t like/agree with but when you really love someone you learn how to tolerate those things. At least when they aren’t detrimental to the relationship as a whole. 

On its own tolerance doesn’t come from love or kindness. It is not stopping the other person’s behavior. It comes from external motivation — whether it be to not get into trouble or receive judgment. Tolerating another person often has resentment. It does not come from the heart. It does not come from a genuine concern or care for the other person. It comes from personal fear or gain. If you just “tolerate” your partner or their behavior you don’t really care about the backbone of the relationship, which is acceptance. 

In situations where I see a partner is just “tolerating” his/her partner’s actions, I encourage them to talk about it. To try to work towards acceptance. To minimize resentment, which can overtime build and ultimately destroy a relationship. 

How to be in a happy relationship

Frequently I have clients ask me how to be in a happy relationship. Usually, after much discussion, we come up with the solution to a happy relationship as not being “obliviously comfortable.” The idea is you need to be your authentic self, comfortable in your skin, having the freedom to truly and deeply be you, but you also need to tune-in to your partner. 

A relationship is typically composed of two people, not just one. So you can’t be happy if you are not thinking about the other person. It is just not possible. That means being mindful, not oblivious, to their thoughts, feelings, likes, dislikes, and who they are as an authentic self. You can’t expect them to change to conform to you, although some of being in-tuned to your partner is making sacrifices. There is a difference between sacrificing and making adjustments for your significant other, and changing who you are. 

Being in-tune with your partner

You need to be comfortable to be happy, but that does not mean you will never be uncomfortable…if you get my drift. You need to be able to be you, to feel safe to be you, to not have to hide your inner being, but that does not mean never adjusting to please your significant other. It takes work from both sides to be happy. For example, a wife dislikes sports and a husband dislikes going to concerts but the two of them would like to start doing things together more often. They aren’t getting the quality time they need. So, they make a deal. The wife will go to a sports game or watch a game on TV with her spouse so they can have time together, and the husband will agree to attend a concert with the wife. It is a small sacrifice for the good of the relationship. 

Another example might be the wife gets up early every day to run while the husband chooses to hit the snooze button a 1000 times before rolling out of bed. Instead of making a lot of racket when getting out of bed, the wife gets out quietly and is respectful of the husband. It is about being in-tune with her husband’s need to get more sleep. There are many many examples, but the bottom line is you can’t be happy in a relationship without effort from both sides. You need to open your eyes, your ears, and your senses. No one is the exact same, we all do things a little differently.