Loving a woman does not automatically endow you with the ability to understand her depression.
By Joseph Rauch
Author's note: Not all women with depression have these issues. In fact, there are many who have none of them. These are issues more likely to affect a relationship when dating a woman with depression.
When you date a woman with depression, build a relationship and fall in love with her, her illness does not seem like a huge obstacle. Unfortunately, loving a woman does not automatically endow you with the ability to understand and deal with her depression.
Keep reading to learn what issues are more likely to surface when dating a woman who struggles with clinical depression and how you should handle them. The stories we heard from women with depression and those who dated them will offer insights as well.
1. More Intense and Frequent Negative Self-Talk
Depression can be a subconscious negative voice in a woman’s head that tells her she is horrible, unworthy of your love. Men with depression experience this, but it tends to be more intense for women because they ruminate on it rather than seeking distractions. This sometimes makes small issues transform into big stressors.
“Little things like you forgetting to call them could make them feel like they are not worthy of love,” said Adam Weitz, a mental health blogger who has been married to a woman with depression for many years and deals with the illness himself.
Weitz recommends being patient and listening without interruption, even when she makes you feel a need to be defensive.
2. The Rumination Can Make them Worry They Are Being Selfish
Once women emerge from ruminating on their depression, they tend to feel more guilt than men. Part of this comes from a stronger need to be supportive.
When Piya Singh struggled with depression while she was dating her future husband, she felt guilty for not having the capacity to help with his problems.
“As bad as it sounds, depression made me selfish and clingy and it took a lot out of my then best friend to cope with that,” Singh said.
Once Singh overcame her issues, she made an effort to be aware of her husband’s problems and support him as he had done for her.
Again, it’s important to be patient with partners who suffer from depression. If they seem to be prioritizing themselves more than usual, know it is the effects of the depression rather than a character flaw. Help them work through it rather than judging or being resentful.
3. Sometimes Hormones Get the Best of People
Rule #1 of not being a jerk: don’t EVER tell a woman with depression she is being “hormonal” or blame an outburst on her hormones. Knowing how hormones can affect depression is different, though.
Hormone imbalances can cause or exacerbate depressive symptoms, according to therapist Candice Christiansen. Men experience this too, but the resulting stress hormones tend to be more intense for women.
There are also situations that exacerbate hormone imbalances such as postpartum depression and pregnancy. These can intensify common symptoms of depression in women such as crying spells as well.
4. Women with Depression Appreciate the Little Things Partners Do for Them
Depressed or not, women appreciate small gestures that show you care. They add up, and some of them can help the woman you love deal with her depression.
“My guy bought me one of those cheapy plastic Sunday-Saturday medication holders,” said Valeri, who spoke with Talkspace about how depression affected her dating life. “I love it, because I can see at a glance whether I’ve taken my pills today.”
It’s not as romantic as flowers, but it’s way more valuable. Think of similar ways to help your partner with depression, and she’ll appreciate it.
5. Women Are More Open to Seeing a Therapist Than Men
Because women are more open to therapy on average than men, encouraging your partner to see a therapist will be easier. It’s still a challenge — something we covered in our first post — but the chance of success is higher.
6. Protecting Your Mental Health: It’s Not Your Fault!
When you date someone, it’s hard not to think their illnesses are your responsibility. If their symptoms and happiness are not improving despite your best efforts to help and support, you might believe it’s partially your fault.
When audience analyst Fred McCoy dated a woman with depression, he was not prepared for it.
“As the relationship went on, she became more and more despondent, lethargic, and distant,” McCoy told Talkspace. He assumed this was because of his shortcomings.
“It is very easy to become enmeshed in their personal issues and begin to believe their depression is a reflection of you and your relationship,” McCoy said.
Separating the idea of you from their depression is the only way to love a woman with depression without resenting her or feeling you are at fault. McCoy urges people to remind themselves it was not her choice to become depressed, too.
Think of it this way: you would not blame yourself if she developed a medical condition. You’d be there to support her.
7. It’s All About Understanding Depression and Working Through It
These scenarios might seem daunting, but they are only something to prepare for. They are not guaranteed to happen. And if they do, it can actually be an opportunity to bond with someone in a special way and build a lasting relationship.
Adam Weitz has been married to a woman with depression for seven years. One of the many reasons their relationship has remained strong is his effort to understand depression and acknowledge when it is impacting their lives.
“Patience and humility” has been crucial for both of them, Weitz said.
“We weren’t going to let the illness ruin our relationship. So every depressive episode, every tear, every suicidal thought, we just fought through them all together.”
Take some inspiration from Weitz and use the knowledge in this piece so you, too, can handle depression and have a happy relationship with the woman you love.
This post is the second part of a two-part series on what to know and do when dating people with depression. The first part on Talkspace.com covers advice for both genders and issues more likely to arise when dating a man with depression.
This article was originally published at The Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission from the author.