Using Detachment When Your Partner is Depressed
The idea that you will always be there for your partner no matter what the circumstances may seem well-intentioned but it is also potentially self-destructive. Your support probably should be limited to the point where reasonable boundaries can be set. If you allow yourself to be pulled along an emotionally downward spiral, as is the case with depression, you do yourself and your partner no favors.
Detachment is a principle as much as it is a technique. It is based on the notion that we can only truly be responsible for ourselves and we can’t solve problems that aren’t ours to solve. Detachment shouldn’t be confused with lack of caring but it does require the setting of boundaries that both of you need to be familiar with. This may seem harsh but it may be of great benefit to the person with depression. If the limits he or she is provided with are reasonable they provide structure and a feeling of safety at a time when things seem to be spinning out of control.
What does all this mean? Well, every person is different and therefore the boundaries you set will be based partly on their behavior and partly on your own tolerance threshold. But, for example, it isn’t a good idea to be emotionally blackmailed. This may be along the lines of “I can’t cope if you leave me alone.” You must get on with your life. If you work, for example, you should continue and the same goes with social activities you value. But you may also want to consider other things like use of bad language or telephone intrusions while you are working.
Detachment is also about learning to let go of control and accepting that the reality of depression is out of your hands. Within a long-term and intimate relationship this may be a difficult thing to achieve. To mentally disengage from situations that are unhealthy for you requires you to recognize the situations for what they are and not be drawn in. For this to happen it requires an understanding that the things said or done by a person with depression mustn’t be taken personally. A depressed partner may point the finger of blame at you but really this is a reflection of how they feel, not the reality of the situation.
By not allowing yourself to be drawn into unwinnable conflicts or situations that disadvantage you may cause some initial tension. Ultimately however you must look to yourself. This can all be achieved within the context of a loving and caring relationship but awareness and flexibility are key.