Breaking up is hard to do at the best of times, but when your partner is depressed it seems impossible. Here are a few suggestions for breaking up with someone who is depressed to help you end the relationship gently.
You can’t control how your partner takes the breakup, but you can take care of yourself. Break Up Survival and Recovery: How to Get Over a Breakup by Kathleen Rao will help you deal with your feelings and go through the five stages of grief.
To learn more about your depressed boyfriend, read What Depression Feels Like. That article may help you understand your boyfriend’s mood and feelings, as well as how to talk to him. But don’t let your sympathy for his depression and emotional health affect your decision about breaking up. Don’t stay in a relationship with someone who is depressed because you feel pity or guilt. No matter how loving and kind you are, there is no easy way to end a relationship – but you need to do what you know in your heart to be right. These tips will help you break up with someone who is depressed, and may be helpful for both of you after the breakup.
If you take time to learn how to break up with someone who is depressed, you may find it easier to end the relationship gently. But – and I hate to say this – it will be difficult, no matter how much information you have. Depression is a serious emotional health issue, and it will probably complicate the breakup.
Breaking Up With Someone Who is Depressed
Breaking up hurts no matter how gentle, kind, loving, and thoughtful you are. Even if your partner knows that breaking up is the right thing to do, both of you will still hurt for awhile after the breakup.
Free yourself of guilty feelings
I don’t believe anyone should stay in a relationship out of guilt or fear. If you feel guilty that you want to break up, I encourage you to deal with those guilty feelings. It’s your life, and life is too short to stay in relationships that are unhealthy or abusive! Your first step is dealing with your own emotional obstacles to the breakup.
If appropriate, talk to your partner’s counselor or doctor
Does your partner see a psychiatrist or therapist regularly? It may be a good idea to talk to that person, and let them know that a breakup is in the future. This health practitioner may also help you figure out how to break up with someone you don’t love anymore without making the depression worse.
Take time to think about what you want to say
It takes time and energy to carefully, thoughtfully break up with someone who is struggling with feelings of depression. If your partner is seriously depressed or taking medications for depression, things get even more complicated.
Remember that you can’t control how the breakup is received
This may sound contradictory to my first tip on how to break up with someone who is depressed, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong! Contradictions and paradoxes are part of life. All you can do is prepare yourself to gently, kindly, and lovingly break up. You can’t control how your partner reacts or feels…or what he or she does after the breakup.
Know that breaking up is hard, whether or not depression is a factor
Even if your partner wasn’t depressed, breaking up would still be a huge blog. This may not make it easier, but it’s important to know that depression isn’t the only reason breaking up is hard. Knowing how to break up is complicated for everyone, depressed or not.
Write down what you might say
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You might plan to say something like, “I don’t know how to say this because it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, but there’s something you need to know.” You may not say those exact words when you’re breaking up with someone who is depressed, but it might help you to write your words down in advance.
Don’t let the breakup last longer than it has to
After breaking up, you may be tempted to keep in touch with your ex because of the depression he or she is experiencing. I don’t know if this is a good idea – it really depends on your partner’s mental and emotional health. It also depends on your ability to cope with the fallout.
Own your feelings and actions
Your partner may automatically feel even more depressed and bad about him or herself. Don’t add to the burden by blaming him. Take responsibility for your actions and feelings in the relationship.
Say things that represent how you feel – not how your partner has been acting. For example, “I don’t have the strength to be in a relationship right now, because I feel overwhelmed by my life” might be more effective than “Your depression is an emotional burden that I can’t handle anymore.” Let your partner blame you for ending the relationship. After all, it doesn’t matter whose fault it is, does it?
If you still feel uncertain and anxious about learning how to break up with someone who is depressed, I encourage you to talk to a counselor. The most loving thing you can do is when you’re ending a relationship is take time to proceed carefully and thoughtfully.
What do you think about my tips for breaking up with someone who is depressed? Please comment below. I can’t offer advice, but it may help you to share what you’re going through.
In How to Let Go of Someone You Love, I share 75 ways to cope with a breakup – it’ll help you heal and move forward.
May you find strength and courage as you carefully consider how to break up with someone who is depressed. I pray for wisdom, peace, and freedom for you and your partner.
Detail from The Baths at Caracalla by Lawrence Alma-Tadema
“It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” – Stephen Fry
When someone you know is depressed, it’s understandable if you feel helpless. If you’ve never suffered from clinical depression, how are you going to know what to say and do, or how it feels?
Ways to Help Someone with Depression
- Listen. Keep in mind that the person with depression isn’t communicating well right now, and is probably speaking slower and less clearly. Be patient and don’t interrupt. Don’t be judgmental.
- Take care of little tasks like feeding the cat or doing the laundry. (This suggestion applies if you don’t live with the person. If you do live with the person, you probably have to take on all the tasks).
- Remember that the depressed person is not being lazy. Think of when you’re really sick and you can barely get out of bed to go to the bathroom. That’s how someone with depression can feel all the time.
- Learn everything you can about depression. Knowledge is power and understanding.
- Take it seriously if the person talks about suicide, especially if they’re talking about specifics. Call their doctor for advice on what to do, or take them to the emergency room if the threat is imminent. Questions you want to ask that will help the doctor determine the severity of the suicidal thoughts and feelings are:
- Are you thinking about dying?
- Are you thinking about hurting yourself?
- Are you thinking about suicide?
- Have you thought about how you would do it?
- Do you know when you would do it?
- Do you have the means to do it?
- Encourage the individual to get professional help for depression if he or she is resisting.
- If the individual has already started treatment, make sure the depressive is keeping doctor appointments and taking his or her medication.
- Learn about 3 common behaviors in people who are depressed.
Ways to Help Yourself
- Take care of yourself. Depression can be “contagious.” Get out and do something for yourself alone.
- Recognize that your feelings of anger, frustration and helplessness are valid. Talk to a therapist for help in dealing with them.
- If you are in a sexual relationship with this person, don’t take it personally if they have lost interest in sex. Sexual drive is one of the first things to go when you’re depressed. Offer hugging and cuddling without an expectation of sex. Here are 10 tips for staying sane when your partner is depressed.
- Know when to let go. After a certain point, especially if the depressed person is not getting help or taking their medicine, there’s nothing you can do. You have to move on with your own life.
10 Ways to Help Someone Who’s Depressed 5 Things to Do (And Not Do) to Support Someone With Depression 6 Signs of Hidden Depression A Teenager’s Guide to Depression: Tips and Tools for Helping Yourself or a Friend Best Things to Say to Someone Who is Depressed Depression Fallout Families for Depression Awareness Helping a Depressed Friend or Family Member Helping a Depressed Person How Family and Friends Can Help How to Help Someone who is Depressed If You Know Someone Who’s Depressed Loving Someone with Depression – Literally, Darling What to Do When Someone You Love is Depressed What to Do When Your Partner is Depressed Worst Things to Say to Someone Who is Depressed
Night by Edward Robert Hughes
Some people trivialize depression (often unintentionally) by dropping a platitude on a depressed person as if that is the one thing they needed to hear. While some of these thoughts have been helpful to some people (for example, some find that praying is very helpful), the context in which they are often said mitigates any intended benefit to the hearer. Platitudes don’t cure depression.
Here is the list from contributors to a.s.d. (alt.support.depression):
0. “What’s *your* problem?”
1. “Will you stop that constant whining? What makes you think that anyone cares?”
2. “Have you gotten tired yet of all this me-me-me stuff?”
3. “You just need to give yourself a kick in the rear.”
4. “But it’s all in your mind.”
5. “I thought you were stronger than that.”
You might also be interested in How to Help Someone Who is Depressed.
6. “No one ever said life was fair.”
7. “As you get stronger you won’t have to wallow in it as much.”
8. “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”
9. “Do you feel better now?”(Usually said following a five minute conversation in which the speaker has asked me “what’s wrong?” and “would you like to talk about it?” with the best of intentions, but absolutely no under-standing of depression as anything but an irrational sadness.)
10. “Why don’t you just grow up?”
11. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
12. “There are a lot of people worse off than you?”
13. “You have it so good, why aren’t you happy?”
14. “It’s a beautiful day!”
15. “You have so many things to be thankful for, why are you depressed!”
16. “What do you have to be depressed about”.
17. “Happiness is a choice”
18. “You think *you’ve* got problems…”
19. “Well at least it’s not that bad.”
20. “Maybe you should take vitamins for your stress.”
21. “There is always somebody worse off than you are.”
22. “Lighten up!”
23. “You should get off all those pills.”
24. “You are what you think.”
25. “Cheer up!”
26. “You’re always feeling sorry for yourself.”
27. “Why can’t you just be normal?”
28. “Things aren’t *that* bad, are they?”
29. “Have you been praying/reading the Bible?”
30. “You need to get out more.”
31. “We have to get together some time.”
32. “Get a grip!”
33. “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
34. “Take a hot bath. That’s what I always do when I’m upset.”
35. “Well, everyone gets depressed sometimes!”
36. “Get a job!”
37. “Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone.”
38. “You don’t *look* depressed!”
39. “You’re so selfish!”
40. “You never think of anyone but yourself.”
41. “You’re just looking for attention.”
42. “Have you got PMS?”
43. “You’ll be a better person because of it!”
44. “Everybody has a bad day now and then.”
45. “You should buy nicer clothes to wear.”
46. “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
47. “Why don’t you smile more?”
48. “A person your age should be having the time of your life.”
49. “The only one you’re hurting is yourself.”
50. “You can do anything you want if you just set your mind to it.”
51. “This is a place of BUSINESS, not a HOSPITAL”; after confiding to supervisor about my depression
52. “Depression is a symptom of your sin against God.”
53. “You brought it on yourself”
54. “You can make the choice for depression and its effects, or against depression, it’s all in YOUR hands.”
55. “Get off your rear and do something.” -or- “Just do it!”
56. “Why should I care?”
57. “Snap out of it, will you?”
58. “You *want* to feel this way.”
59. “You have no reason to feel this way.”
60. “Its your own fault.”
61. “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
62. “You’re always worried about *your* problems.”
63. “Your problems aren’t that big.”
64. “What are you worried about? You should be fine.”
65. “Just don’t think about it.”
66. “Go Away.”
67. “You don’t have the ability to do it.”
68. “Just wait a few weeks, it’ll be over soon.”
69. “Go out and have some fun!”
70. “You’re making me depressed as well…”
71. “I just want to help you.”
72. “The world out there is not that bad…”
73. “Just try a little harder!”
74. “Believe me, I know how you feel. I was depressed once for several days.”
75. “You need a boy/girl-friend.”
76. “You need a hobby.”
77. “Just pull yourself together”
78. “You’d feel better if you went to church”
79. “I think your depression is a way of punishing us.” —My mother
80. “Sh*t or get off the pot.”
81. “So, you’re depressed. Aren’t you always?”
82. “What you need is some real tragedy in your life to give you perspective.”
83. “You’re a writer, aren’t you? Just think of all the good material you’re getting out of this.”
84. This one is best executed with an evangelical-style handshake, i.e. one of my hands is imprisoned by two belonging to a beefy person who thinks he has a lot more charisma than I do: “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.” This has actually happened to me. Bitten-back response: “Who are ‘our’? And don’t do me any favors, schmuck.”
85. “Have you tried camomile tea?”
86. “So, you’re depressed. Aren’t you always?”
87. “You will be ok, just hang in there, it will pass.” “This too shall pass.” – Ann Landers
88. “Oh, perk up!”
89. “Try not being so depressed.”
90. “Quit whining. Go out and help people and you won’t have time to brood…”
91. “Go out and get some fresh air… that always makes me feel better.”
92. “You have to take up your bed and carry on.”
93. “Why don’t you give up going to these quacks (ie doctors) and throw out those pills, then you’ll feel better.”
94. “Well, we all have our cross to bear.”
95. “You should join band or chorus or something. That way you won’t be thinking about yourself so much.”
96. “You change your mind.”
97. “You’re useless.”
98. “Nobody is responsible for your depression.”
99. “You don’t like feeling that way? So, change it.”
Version 1.7 April 29, 1995
Best Things to Say to Someone Who is Depressed
Depression is real, and if you are fighting it you are not alone. Depression seems to have been the bane of many of life’s great leaders. In the Bible, Moses, Elijah, David, and Job all had to deal with it. In the secular world, Sir Winston Churchill used to call depression his ‘black dog’, and Ernest Hemingway referred to it as ‘the artist’s reward’.
President Abraham Lincoln battled depression and suicide all his adult life. There were times when for his own safety Lincoln would not allow himself to carry a knife, for fear that he would hurt himself, or worse. Read about Lincoln turning to the Bible to relieve his depression. Let the Scriptures help you just like they have helped so many of us. Sometimes depression can be a purely spiritual thing, read this – Depression Is a Spirit – It Must Be Fought with the Word of God.
Depression is the physical and emotional result of hopelessness – the ‘feeling‘ of hopelessness. We live in a world devoid of hope, and depression is the emotional product of that reality. The only thing that will actually change one’s life sufficiently as to destroy the cause, mechanics, and effects of depression is God’s hope and His word of hope. The answer is to get God’s hope back inside of you.
Hope will let you again see the ‘future positive possibility’ of your life. Without seeing it you will have no motivation or strength. The good Word of God, and the good word of others to you, can change the outlook and condition of your heart. Fight for God’s outlook with all you have. Fight it with the Word of God. (Also, confess the scriptures on Hopelessness.) Anyone who is among the living has hope.
God’s hope encourages, motivates, and keeps you on the road to faith, peace, and victory. And if you suffer from deep ongoing depression, get help. And please read this – Helping Others Is God’s Prescription for Depression. Send me a comment, we love you and we want to help you. You are important and you have value. You are not alone. With God’s help, you will climb out of this hole.
Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down (depression), but a good word cheers it up. Proverbs 12:25 Holman Christian Standard Bible
These scriptures on depression will give you hope and will build your faith. Confess and meditate on them to win the fight against depression. The key is not losing Hope. Allow the hope of God to seep back into you. Remember, there is a real Person (God) behind each and every one of these promises. He promised them to you for a reason – to help you.
Deuteronomy 31:8 – The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
Deuteronomy 33:27 – The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.
2 Samuel 22:17-22 – He sent from above, he took me; he drew me out of many waters; (18) He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them that hated me: for they were too strong for me. (19) They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the Lord was my stay. (20) He brought me forth also into a large place: he delivered me, because he delighted in me. (21) The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness: according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me. (22) For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God.
2 Samuel 22:29 – You are my lamp O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.
Ecclesiastes 9:4 – Anyone who is among the living has hope.
Psalms 9:9 – The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
Psalm 27:14 – Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.
Psalm 31:22,24 – You heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help… Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.
Psalm 34:18, 19 – The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (19) A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.
Psalm 37:23-24 – If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumbles, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
Psalm 43:5 – Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God.
Psalm 55:22 – Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.
Psalm 62:5 – Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.
Psalm 126:5 – Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.
Psalm 143:7-8 – Answer me quickly, O Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I’ll lift up my soul.
Psalm 147:3 – He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Psalm 145:14 – The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.
Proverbs 12:25 – Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down (depression), but a good word cheers it up.
Isaiah 26:3-4, Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusts in Thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength. (Perfect means complete. If I keep my part of the promise by staying steadfastly focused on the Lord Jesus Christ, He will keep His promise to give me His perfect peace. See also Philippians 4:6-7 below)
Isaiah 35:10 – And the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away
Isaiah 40:31, But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Isaiah 53:4 – Surely he took up our sicknesses and carried our sorrows.
Mark 9:23 – Everything is possible for him who believes.
Romans 4:18-22 – Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, so shall they seed be. (19) And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about a hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: (20) He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God. (21) And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able to perform. (22) And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.
Romans 15:13 – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
II Corinthians 7:6-7 – Nevertheless, God, that comforts, those that are depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; (7) And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more.
Philippians 4:6-7 – Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
James 4:8 – Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
James 4:10 – Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
2 Peter 2:9 – The Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials.
1 Peter 4:12 – Dear Friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.
1 Peter 4:13 – But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed
1 Peter 5:7 – Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Read how Lincoln Turned to the Bible to Manage His Depression and other articles: Scriptures Against Hopelessness – Scriptures Against Worry – New Testament Scriptures on Faith & Believing – Do God’s Promises Cover What You Want?