Family Planning Isn’t a Condom and a Pamphlet (linked article)

This blog is primarily aimed at presenting my own work, but an article recently shared with me by a friend resonated with a number of my own feelings so closely that I decided to put a link to it here. Sharyn Astyk is a foster carer who writes the blog Casaubon’s Book, and the article discusses in a very compassionate way a number of issues that underlie reproductive choices and decisions about family size, particularly for disadvantaged women.

Family Planning Isn’t a Condom and a Pamphlet by Sharyn Astyk 23 Feb 2012

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Caring for a depressed partner – it’s not all about you

“I tried to nurture my boyfriend out of his depression – it only made things worse”

The article linked above featured on 5 February on the SBS Australia website. It describes the anger and resentment felt by the author toward her depressed boyfriend because of his inability to meet her needs in the relationship.

As someone who has been the depressed ‘dumpee’ in this situation, I will say that there is nothing more cruel and selfish than having your partner make your depression all about how it affects them, and using this an excuse for infidelity or abandonment.

You can’t ‘nurture someone out of depression’, but neither should you just leave them to sort it out all on their own. Social contact and feeling loved and cared for are basic human needs, and for a depressed person having those needs met can literally mean the difference between life and death. I’ve spoken more on this topic in a previous post about suicide prevention.

It wasn’t the author’s ‘nurturing’ that made her boyfriend worse, it was the accompanying pressure and resentment that she piled on him. Sure, it’s often a thankless task to be caring for a depressed partner, but the humane and adult way to manage this situation is to realise that you need to take responsibility for looking after yourself and arrange to have your emotional needs temporarily met by people other than your partner (such as friends and family), and to offer your partner as much love and support as you are able (including rallying as much outside help as you can get) even if they don’t seem to respond much at the time. They’ll certainly remember it afterwards. And I would hope that they’d be prepared to reciprocate if the situation were reversed.

If you decide at some point that you just can’t do it any more, that is a valid decision to make. You are also human, with limits to your internal resources. But you should own that decision and let it be YOUR burden, not just one more thing to resentfully heap on your depressed partner.