If your girlfriend is experiencing depression, that can be very difficult for both of you. Often times your girlfriend may be thinking that there is no way for you to really understand what is going on with her. At the same time, you may be feeling very overwhelmed and hopeless about how to help.
There are many causes of depression, but regardless of the cause, working with a licensed therapist for relationship counseling can significantly help. If that isn't an option for you at the moment, here are some other ways you can help:
1. Use kind words to help your girlfriend with depression.
You may be feeling irritated and frustrated that your partner has depression. Or you might be feeling weighed down by their depression. Both are normal, and both can lead you to get more defensive and express your irritation through criticism. Instead, you'll want to slow down, pause, and use kind words toward your partner. Criticism will push your partner further away from you.
2. If your partner is dealing with depression, make sure to tell then you love them.
When someone is experiencing depression, their sense of self-worth is greatly impaired. Your partner may be feeling like she is a failure, or not good enough, or unloveable. Telling your partner that you love them and think highly of them will help counteract some of their disparaging beliefs caused by depression.
3. Show your girlfriend you love her!
Words are never enough. Your partner is likely longing to know that you care, are there for them, and will be there for them even when they are feeling depressed. Ask your partner what they need, hug them and let them cry, let them come up with the solutions they want, and offer to help in any way you can. Often times they may not need anything from you except to be there with them. Depression is painful, but often what is intolerable is feeling like they are all alone in the pain. Make sure to show them that you will be there for them; your actions should match your words.
4. If your girlfriend is dealing with depression, make sure to take care of yourself.
It's noble that you want to be there for your partner and it's a clear sign you love them. At the same time, caring for someone else can be draining to you. Self-care will be very important. If you don't take care of yourself, your partner may start blaming themselves for you struggling emotionally. The only way for you to be there for your partner emotionally is to make sure you take care of your emotional needs regularly. You can't pour from an empty cup; that will leave both you and your partner feeling unfulfilled.
Elizabeth Polinsky, MSW, LCSW, is a marriage and couple therapist specializing in working with military members, veterans, and their families. Liz is located in Norfolk, Virginia, and provides online counseling services throughout Virginia, South Carolina, and Arkansas. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker Virginia (#0904011022), South Carolina (#11302), and Arkansas (#7735-C). She is also licensed as a Resident in Marriage and Family Therapy in Virginia (#0730000567) under the supervision of Dr. Victoria Holroyd at The Relationship Center at East Beach.
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In Communicate & Connect For Military Relationships, I provide educational tips for relationships, communication, and navigating military family life.