Diagnosing relationship depression can be a little like debating what came first, the chicken or the egg. Does your depression (or that of your partner) stem from the relationship itself, or is it a separate entity which is leaking fear, anger and insecurity into an otherwise functional partnership?
The answer isn’t always simple, and depression can creep up on us without rhyme or reason. Additionally, it can erroneously convince us that the root of the issue lies in the relationship, when in fact there is a larger, underlying existential issue exists.
Whatever the case may be (and I’m certainly not qualified to diagnose and treat clinical depression), I have tried to write this article in a way which eases relationship stress on all fronts with a humble sprinkling of easy, down-to-earth tips.
1. Redefine Your Routine
Nothing spells stress more acutely than a stagnant and passive routine.
Dependency and depression can curb our existential appetite, leading to a complacent and ultimately unfulfilling way of life. Sometimes merely becoming objective about our stagnant malaise is enough to motivate us to seek a more rewarding routine.
Putting our needs first is an essential part of long-term relationship success (as is, of course, the willingness to compromise). Occasionally we need to remind ourselves that being fulfilled as individuals is not only distinctly within our control, but it also something that can dramatically improve the relationship itself.[alert-success]Do not allow passiveness or guilt to tear at the seams of an otherwise functional relationship. Be pro-active in finding new challenges and goals for your own sake, and not only as member of a relationship “unit”.[/alert-success]
2. Get Cracking
Attempting to tackle relationship depression head-on can make it an even bigger problem than it was before (it is reinforced). Sometimes the best way to deal with stress is to find solace elsewhere.
Becoming more physically active is a proven way to beat stress. Exercise releases naturally occurring painkillers (endorphins) that not only take the edge off bouts of trauma, but also chemically promote feelings of euphoria and well-being.
It goes without saying that you are also tapping into a slew of other health benefits. No matter how you cut it, physical exercise is a win-win course of action.
3. Talk Yourself Out
Depression is often a catalyst for resentment and anger, leading to impulsive outbursts which can threaten relationships. Rather than waiting for stress to become unsustainable, try developing a habit of open communication.
Understandably, there are times when you’ll want to keep certain kinds of worry and stress from your partner, so tapping into friends and family (those worthy of your trust) becomes a great way to work your way through the logical side of a downward spiral.
Don’t have anyone to talk to? Free relationship hotlines and support groups are one of the least utilized resources available to all of us. Know that these hotlines can provide immense reprieve from stress, and are freely accessible at any given moment in time. You stand to lose nothing and gain everything by giving these outlets a chance. If you need to talk, do it. If you need help, get it.
4. Rekindle Your Social Networks
Relationship depression can also be a sign that you have begun to lose your sense of self. It is common to lose oneself in the perpetually meandering tide of emotional dependence, and forget about other aspects of life that allow us enjoy the present.
Losing touch with our social circles is a quintessential warning sign that we may have lost our grip on our fundamental wants and needs.
The humor, objectivity and distraction that friends and family bring to bear can provide can never be entirely replaced by a relationship — even if your partner is your best friend. These two aspects of life should never cancel each other out, but ideally compliment each other and run symbiotically side-by-side.
If the notion of hanging out with friends seems somehow wistfully alien to you, or the friends that you once had are now nowhere to be seen, I would advise re-prioritizing your daily schedule with rekindling your social networks in mind. Having access to friends and family will always give you an extra option, as well as a safe escape route should relationship stress peak.
5. Take Some Time Off
Everyone needs the occasional siesta from carrying the world on their shoulders. The problem with doing this in a relationship of course, is that our partner might misinterpret our need for personal sanctuary as a dip in romantic interest. Because of the potential for catalyzing undue insecurity, I would advise making sure that, should you take some time off (and you should), you:
- Explain the who, what, where, why and how of your new-found desire for space to your partner.
- Establish the lines of communication (but be firm about needing your time alone) should the need arise.
- Give your partner a time-frame (will help reduce separation anxiety).
Even if you don’t have the luxury of taking a time-out; small, manageable adjustments in routine can lead to great shifts in well-being. Whatever it is that you decide to do, remember to drop the guilt inherent in putting your needs first. If you can’t thrive as an individual, you can’t thrive as a partner. Put yourself first and your significant other will thank you!