I know it’s hard to believe that it’s OK to break up with someone who is depressed but it is. It truly is.
I know that you care for them deeply and you don’t want to see them hurting but that doesn’t mean that staying with them is the best thing for them, or for you, especially if they aren’t doing the work that they need to do to get better.
I 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.
Let me tell you why it’s okay to break up with someone who is depressed. Perhaps understanding will help you make a decision around your next steps.
#1 – They are not your responsibility.
I know that you love your person and that you want to take care of them. And I know that you would do anything that you could do to make them feel better. But what I also know is that it’s not your responsibility to do so.
If someone is struggling with depression, it is their responsibility to take care of themselves. It is their responsibility to notice how they are feeling, to take steps to deal with their depression and to do what they need to do to learn how to live with it.
I know you want to help. And that is admirable, but it’s important that you understand that the person you love who is 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.
#2 – Codependency.
If you are in a relationship with someone who is depressed, and you are doing everything in your power to make them feel better on a daily basis, and they are letting you, you guys are in a codependent 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 are 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.
I know that when I was married and I was very depressed, my relationship with my husband was in rough shape.
Whenever he came home from work and he saw 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, out marriage ended.
So, if you find that you are constantly trying to take care of your person, to help them not be so depressed, and they are letting you, your relationship is becoming increasingly co-dependent and a co-dependent relationship is not a healthy one.
#3 – You are trying to fix them.
If there’s one thing that someone doesn’t need when they are depressed, it’s their person trying to fix them.
What a person who is depressed needs more than anything from their partner when they are feeling depressed is for their partner to accept them as they are in the moment. To recognize that they are depressed, to have empathy for them and to let them know that you are there for them.
Unfortunately, for many people who live with people who are depressed, they don’t understand what the person needs. 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, and 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 to try to support them in the moment.
What this does is it only makes the depressed person feel worse. They know that they are loved, they know they have a good life, they know all of this but they are depressed anyway.
You trying to show your person how good their world is will only make them more depressed.
So, if you find yourself trying to fix your person, perhaps it’s time to let them go. Unless they can do what they need to do to take care of themselves, they will never get better. And unless you can accept that trying to talk them out of their depression is making them feel bad about their depression, your person will struggle, you will be frustrated and your relationship will never be healthy.
#4 – They need to do this work themselves.
Many people come to me wanting to know what they can do to help their person who is struggling with depression. What I say to them is their person needs to do the work themselves.
I know that it wasn’t until I was able to accept that I was depressed that I was able to start working on disorder.
Once I recognize that I was depressed, I took the steps to reach out to a doctor, to get a diagnosis, to start taking some medication and to start doing 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,’ trying to convince me that I needed help. I needed to figure this out on my own and eventually I did.
This is another reason why it’s okay to break up with someone who is depressed. You can’t do the work for them, they need to do the work for themselves. And if they’re not willing to do that, it’s time for you to move on.
#5 – You have your own life to lead.
I know it might seem selfish, but you have one and only life. And if you’re spending it with someone who is depressed and isn’t willing 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.
I know that 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 him 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.
Knowing why it’s okay to break up with someone who is depressed will give you the freedom to make a decision about 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 is enabling them to not deal with their depression, you trying to fix them will only make things worse and they need to do this work themselves.
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 are 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 and if they say they are going to do something but don’t, that’s another reason why it’s okay to break up with someone who is depressed.
If they don’t do the work, why should you?
I know you can do this. I know you want to be happy. And that’s on you…