5 Reasons Why It's OK To Break Up With Someone Who's Depressed — Even If It's Difficult

Photo: getty
comforting depressed partner
Heartbreak

It may be hard to believe that it’s OK to break up with someone who's depressed or is dealing with mental health issues, but it is. It truly is!

Yes, you care for your depressed boyfriend deeply and you don’t want to see him hurting but that doesn’t mean staying with him is the best thing for him — or for you — especially if he's not doing the work that he needs to do to get better.

I would know. I had been depressed in my marriage and I know now that staying together because I was struggling, but not getting help, was the worst choice that we could have made.

Perhaps understanding why will help you make a decision around your next steps.

RELATED: How To Cope When Your Partner Is Struggling With Depression

Here are 5 reasons why breaking up with someone who's depressed is OK, even if it's difficult.

1. They are not your responsibility.

Yes, you love your person and you want to take care of them. You would do anything that you could do to make them feel better. But it’s not your responsibility to do so.

If someone is struggling with depression, it's their responsibility to take care of themselves. It's their responsibility to notice how they're feeling, to take steps to deal with their depression, and to do what they need to do to learn how to live with it.

You want to help and that's admirable! But it’s important that you understand that the person you love who's dealing with depression needs to take care of themselves.

You can’t do the work for them, no matter how much you want to and how much you try. You're only going to feel helpless. 

2. You're getting more and more co-dependent. 

If you're in a relationship with a depressed person and you're doing everything in your power to make them feel better on a daily basis and they're letting you, you guys are in a co-dependent relationship.

Much like enabling an alcoholic, you doing all the work to take care of your person during their depressive periods isn’t helping anybody.

You're probably finding yourself increasingly frustrated that your efforts aren’t making a difference and your person is probably becoming increasingly reliant on you to make them feel better in the moment.

This is co-dependency.

When I was married and was very depressed, my relationship with my husband was in rough shape.

Whenever he came home from work and saw that I was depressed, he would go out of his way to be careful. He would go out of his way to be helpful. He would go out of his way to be complementary.

While it worked for me in the moment, it didn’t help me in the long term. As a result, he became increasingly frustrated and I became increasingly reliant on him and that wasn’t helpful for either one of us.

Eventually, our marriage ended.

So, if you find that you're constantly trying to take care of your person, help them not be so depressed, and they're letting you, your relationship is becoming increasingly co-dependent and a co-dependent relationship is not a healthy one.

3. You're trying to fix them — and you shouldn't.

If there’s one thing that someone doesn't need when they're depressed, it’s their person trying to fix them.

What a person who's depressed needs, more than anything, is for their partner to accept them as they are in the moment. To recognize that they're depressed, to have empathy for them, and to let them know that you're there for them.

Unfortunately, many who live with depressed people don’t understand what they truly need. Instead of being willing to accept them as they are, to have empathy for them, the person who is not depressed just tries to fix that person.

They try to talk them out of their depression. They try to convince them of how good their life is, how happy they are, and how many people love them.

They try, in vain, over and over and over, to fix the person instead of trying to support them.

This only makes the depressed person feel worse. They know that they are loved and that they have a good life — they know all of this but they're depressed anyway.

Trying to show your person how good their world is will only make them more depressed.

RELATED: 5 Things To Do (And To Not Do) When Your Spouse Is Feeling Depressed

4. They need to do this work themselves.

Many people come to me wanting to know what they can do to help their partner who's struggling with depression. What I say to them is that their person needs to do the work themselves.

It wasn’t until I was able to recognize and accept that I was depressed that I was able to start working on it. I reached out to a doctor to get a diagnosis, started taking some medication, and did the things that I needed to do to live a successful life.

Today, I take my meds faithfully. I do yoga, eat well, get enough sleep, spend time with those I love, and get massages every month. All of those things help me manage my depression.

It’s not cured but it’s under control.

I never could have done this work if I had someone there trying to "fix me." I needed to figure this out on my own and, eventually, I did.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Join now for YourTango's trending articles, top expert advice and personal horoscopes delivered straight to your inbox each morning.

5. You have your own life to lead.

It might seem selfish, but you have only one life to live. And if you’re spending it with someone who's depressed and unwilling to do anything about it, then you should seriously consider moving on.

Can you imagine spending the rest of your life as it is right now, living with a person who is depressed?

Someone who doesn’t want to do anything? Who isn’t interested in sex? Who doesn’t take care of themselves? Who doesn’t want to go out with friends? Because this will be the rest of your life if you stay.

When my ex-husband finally broke up with me, he was able to lead the life he wanted. He wasn’t held back by my depression and my paralyzing social anxiety.

While I was very sad that he left, devastated, in fact, I know that his moving on was the best thing for both of us because he was able to find happiness and I was able to have the space to do the work that I needed to do to get well.

It's OK to break up with someone who's depressed because it gives you the freedom to make a decision about your next steps.

The important thing here is that if your person is not willing to do what they need to do to get past the depression, then there’s no reason for you to stay.

They are not your responsibility. You staying in the relationship is enabling them to not deal with their depression. And you trying to fix them will only make things worse.

Most importantly, you have a life to lead. Don’t let your life be bogged down by someone who doesn’t want to help themselves.

If you're lucky enough that your depressed person is willing to do the work that they need to do to get better, then by all means stay.

But, remember, a promise isn’t action, especially if they say they're going to do something but don’t. That’s another reason why it’s OK to break up with someone who's depressed.

It may seem cruel, bu if they don’t do the work, why should you?

RELATED: Why I Divorced My Depressed Husband

Mitzi Bockmann is an NYC-based, certified life and love coach. Let her help you find, and keep, love in this crazy world in which we live. Email her at mitzi@letyourdreamsbegin.com and get started!

This article was originally published at Let Your Dreams Begin. Reprinted with permission from the author.