It can be an illusion that only individuals get depressed. However, little do people realize relationships can get depressed too. According to the Mayo Clinic, depression is “a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.” There are seasons in relationships and marriages that go through a similar experience.
How can you tell if your relationship is experiencing depression?
1. Does the relationship no longer feel interesting? Instead of the rush that you used to feel when they call you or the urgency to get home to be with them, you begin to look for ways to delay. You may not send the call to voicemail, but you will let it ring out, simply to avoid talking to them. You have no desire to be bothered with your significant other in any way. This may also manifest itself at home where conversation is to a bare minimum.
2. Does seeing other couples make you sad, angry or worse, numb? Often times there is a slight reaction when seeing other couples active, happy, and living life to the fullest. It is not that you do not want happiness for others but you may just want to know why the same seems to be eluding you which can further lead your relationship into a depressed state.
3. Does it hurt emotionally (or even physically) to be intimate with your significant other? Often when there is no interest in the relationship, even the thought of being touched in any manner by your partner can be painful. A hug could even manifest feelings of pins and needles.
4. Do you think that you would be better off if the relationship was dead? Sometimes it just feels easier to throw in the towel than to work through the issues that may be causing the depression. It is imperative to be able to differentiate what doom from gloom. Are these issues that cannot be resolved? Or must they be worked through with a therapist, counselor or coach? If the issues are more doom than gloom, then you both may have to reconsider the next steps.
Now for clarity, it is important to understand that a relationship can be depressed even if the individuals within the couple are not. That is an important distinction to make because although the relationship can be affected by another’s depression, the methods of healing may be handled differently. When one person is depressed, the therapist may want to work with them more individually. Whereas, when the relationship is depressed, both parties become responsible for its healing.
There are four (4) things that can be done if you feel your relationship is depressed:
1. Get proper assistance. Avoid involving a lot of outside people, including social media, in your relationship problems. You may need to invest in a therapist, coach, counselor or mediator. Although your good, good girlfriend may want to help, if the recovery process is not handled properly, it could lead to death of the relationship or marriage.
2. Start dating again. Let me offer clarity, start dating EACH OTHER again. Take a trip. Go out to the movies. Find something that you always wanted to do with each other but never had the time, then make time to do it. Although it may be easier to seek someone else to fix what ails your relationship, cheating does not help. Now if you are in a consenting non-monogamous relationship, i.e. open, polyamorous, make sure that you do not use your other consenting partner as a scapegoat to further check out of your primary relationship. It will defeat the purpose and in the long run, create more problems.
3. Draw from the deposits. No, this is not about money. This is about the deposits in the bank of your relationship. The hard part will come in if you have nothing to draw from, which may be part of what created the depression. It is important to create memories that serve as reminders for when those not-so-great moments arise. Let’s keep it real: There WILL always be not-so-great moments but they can be manageable if there is something more positive to draw from.
4. Be honest with one another. Talk about what may have caused the relationship to become depressed. Be open to hear what your partner has to say, without judgment or defense. It can really hard to do that but the only way to reach the core issues are to honestly take about what caused the relationship to become depressed in the first place.
The important thing to remember is relationship depression can be worked through. Although the thought of it can be alarming, the truth is that relationship depression is not always noticed when it happens, especially if it only occurs for a short period of time. Sometimes it may last a couple of weeks and other times it can go on years. It is a period that arises in many relationships but it is only detrimental if one or both parties have decided to not participate in its healing, which will not only cause the depression to last longer but eventually harm everyone involved.