Living with a Partner with Depression

Living with a partner with depression can be complicated because it involves taking on so many burdens. They may even be affected themselves by the other person's depressive symptoms.
Living with a Partner with Depression

Last update: 09 March, 2021

Living with someone with depression is never easy. In addition to that, the particular burdens forced on the caregiver can determine the mental health of the person with depression. What’s certain here is that having a partner with depression can be quite a challenge.

In addition, compared to other family members who may have depression, having a partner with depression is considerably more complicated. If you live with that person, or live in close contact with them, then there’ll be many burdens to take into account.

The person may even start to think that their partner’s depression is down to them. They may think they’re to blame in some way. This highlights the “family” nature of depression, which is capable of producing a very negative influence on the family members of those affected by it.

A depressed man.

How to adapt to life with a partner with depression?

Within a couple’s relationship, the practical changes you have to make to cope with the depression have, in some way, to occur in parallel with the development of a new self. This new development allows both the person affected by depression and their partner to begin to move forward in their lives.

Thus, regarding the adaptation to a partner’s depression, experts consider that there are certain phases. These would be the following:

  • The adaptation phase.
  • The recovery phase.
  • Gaining a new perspective.

These phases, as a whole, could allow the couple to gain a new perspective as they accept the depression and integrate it into their relationship. It’s a question of finding a balance where you show concern and love, maintain emotional distance, and limit personal responsibility.

Another very favorable emotional strategy in this type of situation is to be open to receiving support.

Caregiving in the depressed partner

Having a caregiving bond with a person affected by depression is very difficult. It’s a psychosocial and cyclical process that caregivers undergo. It isn’t static and often results in the need for external support.

In the case of couples, couples therapy can be useful in the early stages. This can greatly help the person affected by depression and their partner to understand and make sense of interpersonal changes. It can also be helpful in understanding and anticipating new family dynamics as and when they emerge.

Addressing stigma

Addressing the stigma associated with depression is critical in order to manage both real and perceived structural barriers. There needs to be regular professional support, both for the person affected by the depression and their caregivers, in order to cope with this disorder.

Stigma is often an underlying factor that can hold people with depression back from seeking help. That’s why it’s so important to continue to address this problem until it’s eradicated.

This can help the partner or caregivers of the depressed person to “overcome the challenges”. This may prompt them to turn to professionals for help both for themselves and for those affected by depression.

Self-compassion and self-care

The caregiver of a person with depression needs to reach a certain point of self-compassion through self-care.

This can help them to accept their partner’s illness and caring for their own emotional needs as they move on and begin to accept the new life challenges that caring for a depressed partner or family member can bring (1).

Two people hugging.


Several studies have shown that mindfulness (which includes self-compassion training) can be a favorable option for those who live in close contact with people with depression.

Mindfulness can help and encourage people who live with a partner with depression to move towards a sense of security regarding their role as caregivers.

It seems clear that more research is needed on the topic. However, the conclusion we can draw is that it’s important for the caregiver of the person with depression to be aware of their own psychological needs, as well as the support that those around them can provide.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

    1. Priestley, J., & McPherson, S. (2016). Experiences of adults providing care to a partner or relative with depression: A meta-ethnographic synthesis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 192, 41-49.
    2. González, L. A. M., Romero, Y. M. P., López, M. R., Ramírez, M., & Stefanelli, M. C. (2010). The experience of family caregivers of older people with depression. Revista da Escola de Enfermagem da USP, 44(1), 32-39.
    3. Harris, T. J., Pistrang, N., & Barker, C. (2006). Couples’ experiences of the support process in depression: A phenomenological analysis. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 79(1), 1-21.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.