Healthy relationships are built on strong foundations. New relationships actually make changes in our brain chemistry but this only lasts for so long. Maintaining a healthy relationship then depends on respecting each others needs and rights. It's about trust, valuing the other person for who they are, but it's also about understanding the needs of both people to develop and change within the relationship. It's about finding ways to resolve conflicts, negotiating, compromising, and seeing things from each others perspective.
Of course all of the aforementioned, and I'm sure much more besides, assumes a level of equality. When we sign up to a relationship I guess we all expect there will be times when the balance changes. When our partner is ill, or incapacitated, it stands to reason that the burden of certain responsibilities shift. But what happens when the situation becomes more difficult, more protracted, and the things that originally defined the relationship change out of recognition? Can the relationship ever return to what it was?
I recently read an article by a man who, after a long period of mental illness, was recovering well but who now had relationship issues. His dilemma was that his partner now didn't think she could make the transition from being anything more than his caregiver. Despite their continued affection things are now different and within the context of his illness, and the time his partner has spent attending to his needs, he senses her resentment which both he and she struggle with.
It's an interesting issue to explore. I suspect a lot also depends upon how well established a relationship is before illness strikes. In a long-term and well established relationship the resources and resilience are often far better than one that has really only just begun.
Everyone will have a different story and different experiences. Some relationships will have fallen apart during illness, others will weather the storms. Still others negotiate their way through the most miserable and taxing times, only to collapse when the normality they so looked forward to finally arrives. Yes, being a caregiver is an exhausting and often unrewarding role, but having something like a long-term or recurring depression is no barrel of laughs either.
Maybe the question in the title is wrong. Maybe depression neither strengthens nor diminishes relationships, because this suggests an outcome of either one or the other and perhaps it's more complex? One thing is certain, depression will certainly affect a relationship but perhaps in ways that are impossible to predict?
Published On: November 25, 2013