Your partner, who has been experiencing mental illness, just said to you, “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.”

“Excuse me? After all I’ve done for you and all you’ve put me through?”, you think. Next comes: “Wait…what does that mean, anyway?”

It could mean a lot of things.

Let’s take a poll as to what it means when your partner has a mental illness:

A. Exactly what they said: they still care about you, but the romantic spark of being “in love” is gone.

B. They never loved you in the first place, but are just realizing or admitting to it now.

C. They are struggling so much with their mental illness that they are incapable of feeling emotions of any kind, including love. Therefore, “feeling no emotion” = “I must not love you any more.”

D. Your partner is experiencing a major life change with having a mental illness, and is re-evaluating their life, which includes your relationship.

E. This is another version of “It’s not you, it’s me” when someone is looking for an excuse to end a relationship.

We could argue that any and all of the above answers apply, and I would agree with you, but the best answer is C.

Depression is, by definition, a mood disorder. People suffering from it are incapable of experiencing the wide range of emotions a non-depressed person does, and that includes the feelings of love. The neurotransmitters in their brain are not doing their jobs appropriately, which inhibits typical brain function.

In addition, the person who has depression is generally struggling to think rationally, especially when it comes to making big decisions, such as, “Is this relationship right for me?”

On top of that, some people with depression feel so desperate for something to relieve the pain that they start to believe that only something drastic–like ending your relationship–will stop the pain.

Finally, taking antidepressant medications (such as SSRIs) does more than kill the ability to orgasm; they can also contribute to the restricted range of emotions. An article on Psychology Today looks at this topic.

So, now you have the potential logical reasons for why your partner said those words, but you’re still left with the profound hurt those words caused. What comes next?

  • Acknowledge the hurt, both to yourself and to your partner. Depression or not, it is horrible to hear that someone no longer loves you. You are absolutely justified to be feeling a lot of emotions: sadness, anger, and fear, to name a few.
  • Talk to someone about the situation. If you haven’t already been seeing a therapist, now would be a good time. Trusted friends and family members can be a good source of support as well.
  • Help your partner figure out what’s truly going on. In reality, it may not just be the depression talking: remember, all of the options I listed above were viable possibilities for what’s going on with your partner. Once everyone is calmed down from the fallout of the statement, see if you can parcel out what’s real and what’s not. Communication strategies might be helpful; couples counseling might be as well.
  • Assess what you need and make a plan to move forward. If this is truly the beginning of the end of the relationship–or you’re realizing it’s been over for a while–you need to be proactive. In a previous post, I talked about how depression changes a relationship forever. Are you willing and able to adapt to the changes?

It’s never easy to hear that someone does not love you anymore. Adding depression to the mix makes it that much harder, but it is survivable.

If your partner said these words to you during a bout of depression, how did you handle it?

photo credit: pgNeto.