I know that it might go against everything that you believe in to think that it’s ok to break up with someone who is depressed.
After all, you care about them and hate seeing them suffer. And popular opinion is that we should stand by the side of a partner who needs us.
And, yes, I do believe that this is true, but I also believe that there are exceptions to the rule.
To be clear, I don’t believe we should walk out on a partner at the first sign of depression. I do believe that supporting them can be incredibly helpful. But there can come the point where that depression has a detrimental effect on your life, both as an individual and as part of a couple.
And when this happens, it’s time to consider if you should walk away.
Let me share 5 reasons why it’s ok to break up with someone who is depressed so that you can understand why walking away might be the best thing to do for everyone involved.
#1 – You can’t fix them.
The number one reason that I hear about why people believe that it’s not ok to break up with someone who is depressed is because the partner believes that they can fix their depressed person.
That, if they try hard enough, they will be able to bring their partner out of their funk and that they can both be happy.
Unfortunately, this just isn’t true. It’s hard for someone who has never dealt with depression to understand this but it is a fact. Only struggling person can fix themselves and get out of their depression.
I have a friend whose boyfriend loves her madly, and she loves him back. She struggles with some pretty dark depression, and he tries to fix it when she is there.
He tries to remind her how great her life is. He points out all the friends and family who love her. He drags her out of the house, assuring her that if they stay busy, her depression will pass.
And what happens when he tries to fix her? Her depression worsens. And she gets frustrated having him around.
So, if you can’t let go of your need to fix your depressed partner, know that having you around isn’t help them get better.
#2 – You are becoming co-dependent.
One of the hardest things about managing being in a relationship with someone who is depressed is that there is a tendency for co-dependency.
Co-dependency is defined ‘as a person with an excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one who requires support on account of an illness or addiction.’
Co-dependency is not a good thing, for an individual or a couple.
When one person in a relationship is depressed, co-dependency can often develop over time.
The person who is depressed increasingly relies on their partner to support them while they are struggling. They might need them to take over the work that they usually do. They might not get out of bed for weeks at a time, leaving their partner alone doing things they might do as a couple. They might look to them to make them happy, even for a moment.
The person who is not depressed often loses themselves trying to help their person manage their depression. They might overcompensate for their partner’s depression, always pretending to be cheery at the expense of their own mental well-being. They might let go of friends and family in the hopes that their partner’s depression is not put out in the open. Their work might suffer as they try to care of someone who won’t help themselves.
As time goes on, what started as an effort to support their loved ones, a co-dependent relationship, can become a toxic one, one that is something that sucks all of the oxygen out of the relationship, leaving both people depleted.
So, if you find that you are overcompensating to support your partner when they are depressed, you aren’t helping either one of you.
#3 – You need to take care of yourself.
You know those words of caution that you always hear from a flight attendant – put your oxygen mask on before helping others? That is something that someone whose partner is living with depression often forgets to do.
Much like becoming co-dependent in a relationship, someone in a relationship with someone who is depressed might put their needs on the back burner.
They might try to fix their person, to no avail, making them feel like losers and bad partners. They might abandon their hobbies so they don’t leave their partner alone. They might be willing to let go of intimacy and laughter for the sake of their person.
And doing those things does not a happy person make.
You have only one life to live. If you are living with a person struggling with depression and won’t help themselves, it’s time for you to start taking care of yourself.
If you aren’t doing well, you won’t be any help to your personal and might even make things worse because of your low self-esteem. And being miserable in a relationship is no way to be.
So, if you find yourself miserable and losing yourself, know that to save yourself, it’s okay to break up with someone who is depressed.
#4 – You are making things worse for them.
Above, I spoke about how you standing by your person when they are struggling with depression can be worse for them.
As you try to fix them, you might be making things more complicated for them to manage.
They might watch you lose yourself because of the depression, which will make them feel even worse about themselves, sad that they are letting you down.
They might not seek help because they don’t want you to see them be weak.
They won’t be forced to get out of bed and take care of themselves because you are doing it for them and that will only allow them to sink further into their despair.
So, be honest with yourself. Does staying in this relationship really help your partner or is your staying something that might only be making things worse?
#5 – They are more likely to seek help.
Many people who are depressed have a hard time seeking help.
For some, they don’t see their depression. Others, they believe that they can just push through it. For others still, because their partner supports them, don’t believe that they need to get help.
When their partner leaves, everything changes. When they are alone with their feelings, having to take care of themselves, people with depression are often forced to face the reality of what is happening in their lives.
And this can force them to get help.
I know that, when I got divorced, I was left alone by my ex-husband and the depression that I had struggled with for years got worse. He was gone and I was left alone with my demons. And I realized that everything that I had tried to do for years to manage my depression just wasn’t working.
What happened? I saw that I needed to fix things if I wanted to survive this divorce. So, I set out to do so.
If my husband hadn’t left, if our lives continued on as normal with me barely hanging on and him desperate watching me sink, I never would have been forced to face my issues and work through them.
Today, 12 years after my divorce, I am well acquainted with my depression and know how to manage it. I know that my husband leaving me was the catalyst for my newfound skills.
So, know that leaving your depressed partner might be the best thing that you could ever do for them.
There you are, 5 reasons why it’s ok to break up with someone who is depressed.
Again, I know that it’s heartbreaking to consider letting go. That you love this person and that you want to help them work through this.
But know that sometimes your presence can make things worse for them and that you can lose yourself. That your best intentions are toxic for everyone.
So, consider your role in your relationship. Are you helping your person or are your efforts to fix things counterproductive? Are you becoming co-dependent and losing yourself in the relationship? Is your person not seeking help because of your support?
All of those things, especially combined, are a recipe for disaster and walking away might be the best, most noble thing that you can do!