There are a lot of people who tell us that in order to love someone else, we have to love ourselves first. But self-loathing can be a huge aspect of depression, not to mention all the other aspects that can make life difficult for us, let alone a relationship. Depression can manifest itself in so many ways though, not just self-loathing, but even still it can adversely affect intimacy with our partners and make it feel as if we’ve lost our connection to them. So does that mean that we should avoid romantic relationships altogether, that we are not ‘dating material’? Not at all. We have the capacity to love and to be loved, same as anyone else. But depression and romantic relationships sort of share a relationship themselves, as strange as that may sound. Depression can affect the quality of our relationship with our partners and our relationship with our partners can affect the severity of our depression. But all this really means is that we must work a little harder and be a little more mindful than others to make our romantic relationships successful.
For a long time, I was certain that a relationship was what I needed to be happy, to turn my life around. I was lonely and depressed and it seemed like if I just had someone with me, it could mitigate that pain I felt. Romantic relationships became an all-encompassing aspect of my life. I needed so badly not to be lonely anymore that I opened myself up to people who didn’t even care about me as a person. We can spend so much time and energy hoping that someone we feel for is going to change or be able to save us from ourselves when in reality the only person that we can change is ourselves. This is true for those of us with depression and with depressed loved ones. You can only control your circumstances, and no one else’s. The notion that we can be a savior to our partner, swooping down to overhaul their broken lives is quite frankly, romantic. But it’s not realistic. You are special and that’s not defined by your ability to save or be saved.
So, even though I’ve found the one I love, and even want to marry, I’ve had to come to the realization that I am still very much depressed in spite of that. Depression encroaches on our lives and seeps into every part of us. It fills us with constant worry and dread and because it impacts our self-esteem so heavily, the way we see relationships becomes muddled with depression. We constantly criticize ourselves and brood over imagined mistakes, the slightest criticism makes us lash out or recede into ourselves. Eventually, we begin to question the loyalty of our partners and the status of our relationships, we start to loathe our obligations like walking the dog or going to work. Frankly, we start to truly our lives are awful on every level.
When we start to become more aware of this, when we start to see that depression weasels its way into every part of us, then we can start to be mindful of how it affects the ones we love and the world around us. So depression changes the way we interact within our romantic relationships. Constant sadness and feelings of emptiness manifest themselves as becoming withdrawn and in need of constant confirmation from your partner, you might constantly worry about them abandoning you, whereas when you were single you may have constantly worried about always being alone. If you start to notice symptoms like this then its possible depression is hindering your relationship with your partner.
It’s important to realize that as a partner you can support, you can encourage but you cannot fix and you cannot save. But by becoming aware of our symptoms we can save ourselves by talking to our primary care physicians or our therapists and telling them about what’s going on with us. Which isn’t always easy to do at first. It can be difficult to talk about relationship issues, it can feel shameful to feel like you’re hurting your partner. But it’s important to remember that no one would be depressed if they could choose to be otherwise. You did nothing to bring this on to yourself and talking to your doctor is the first step to not feeling this way anymore. And that will give you that tools and the skills to stop depression from hurting your relationship with your loved one.
By: Andre Olden, AiT Contributor