That’s according to the American Psychological Association. Mild depression affects even more. If you suffer from depression, you may struggle with the notion of sharing your life with a partner and wonder whether it’s even fair to date someone and impose your “baggage” on them. Let’s delve into how to handle dating with depression.
Everyone Has Baggage
It may be a criminal record, a serious health problem, a recurring anxiety or paranoia, a dysfunctional family dynamic or a past credit problem. We’re all flawed creatures trying to make our way as best we can in the world. And, when you get close to someone, you’ll want to disclose these truths to them. In fact, sharing your secrets with someone is part of building trust and — ultimately — a healthy relationship.
Depression is a serious illness but it’s a treatable one, and it doesn’t mean that all your potentially great relationships are doomed.
“It is absolutely possible for two people to have a relationship when one of them lives with depression,” says Heather Cobb, spokesperson for the National Mental Health Association (NMHA). “Most people who seek treatment do get better.”
Shouldn’t I Be Up Front?
Would you start a first date by telling the potential lover about all of the past unhappiness and struggles you’ve experienced in life up until now? “Hi. I’m Kelly. I have no credit rating, my last boyfriend is in prison, and I just got over a wicked addiction to meth.” Check, please!
Yeah, it’s better to reveal information gradually as we build relationships, much like peeling back an onion. Telling a partner about a diagnosis of depression is no different. And waiting until the moment is right doesn’t mean you’re conniving. It means you’re considerate and careful.
When Should I Tell?
The time to tell someone about your depression is either when your condition gets in the way of the relationship or the partnership starts to become serious. So, if you get knocked on your ass by depression and have to cancel a Friday night date, tell him or her what’s going on.
But do it in person, not via email or over the phone, as this lets them know that you are serious about the relationship.
Equally, if you are shacking up or getting married, best to come clean about the depression, even if you haven’t experienced any bouts since you started dating, as there may be times when your partner will need to stand by and support you, and they have a right to know what they are signing up for.
Once your partner is aware that you suffer from depression, don’t try to hide it. This will only lead to misunderstanding and hostility. Twenty-three-year-old Jason dated a depressed woman for two years. “I think for most people, it’s not depression per se that turns someone off. It’s the effects of it.
For example, in a relationship, I need and want that companionship and that feeling of being wanted/desired by the other person. However, when she retreated back into the depths of her depression, it also caused her to excise me and I felt like trust was lost and that she didn’t care about me anymore and I couldn’t deal with that emotionally.”
Makes You Stronger
If you do open up about your depression and let your partner help you in whatever way they can, it may actually strengthen your relationship in the long term. Thirty-three-year-old Susan is married to someone who suffers from ongoing depression. “Actually, interpersonal relationships — real, healthy ones marked by trust and intimacy — are probably the most powerful buffer against depression.
You should definitely try to find someone. You may even find someone who’s been depressed themselves… it’s not that uncommon, you know.” Psychotherapist Dr. Samuel Gerstein, author of Living Your Dreams: Doctor’s Orders, agrees but with a caution. “Don’t date for the purpose of overcoming depression, but developing intimate relationships may help overcome depression.
Normal People Are So Boring
“Trust me, there are people out there who I have no interest in dating,” says 40-year-old Mark. “Self-assured people who know what they want, who do not carry a lot of baggage, who have a positive outlook on life, etc. It’s all so oppressively fake.” Some people don’t want to marry the high school cheerleader, pop out a few kids and then live happily ever after. They know that life is messy and that people are messier. And the truth is that the messiest are often the most interesting.
Or, as 23-year-old Bindi puts it, “Tangentially, I would have nothing to do with the sort of person who has a laundry list on their personal ad that includes things like ‘confident, self-assured people who know what they want, who do not carry a lot of baggage.’
That’s a person looking for a low-maintenance thing to fill a slot, as if shopping for a car, rather than an organic mesh of two people. Good luck making a connection with that kind of wanker. I’ll take depressed to oblivious any day.”
Dating with depression isn’t easy. It can certainly create challenges in your relationship, but so can any number of quirks, illnesses or wonky personal histories. “We’re all unique,” says Dr. Gerstein, “and someone out there will be attracted to that uniqueness, so long as you be yourself.”
The bottom line is that it is entirely fair to play the dating game if you suffer from depression. Let someone fall in love with the unique person that is you, and share of yourself.
Ultimately, you will both figure out if it doesn’t work — for depression or any number of other reasons. And, like any other relationship, it’s better to say goodbye if you can’t overcome your problems. “Staying in an unfulfilling relationship will not help a person with depression feel better,” says Cobb. “It’s best to be honest, even when it may be time to call it quits.”
By Kelly Jones
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