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If you prefer to work through a rough patch on your own, it’s easy to assume your girlfriend feels the same. After all, few people want to have an ugly cry with someone staring at them. Sometimes she needs space. And other times you can heed to the advice blown up on billboards that say things like “If you’re feeling down, I can feel you up.”
In fact, more often than not, if your significant other is suffering from depression, that’s sort of what you should do. Don’t make a move on her—and please don’t use that phrase—but you should definitely thinkg about give her more love, according to new University of Alberta research.
In the study, published in Developmental Psychology, researchers surveyed 1,407 couples about their levels of depression, self-esteem, and feelings of mutual support within the relationship. Through these discussions, researchers found that when one partner struggles through a dark time, the support of the other partner is hugely beneficial—for both.
Researchers found a man’s self-esteem gets boosted from lending supporting and a woman’s perceived self-worth rises, too.
“When we experience stress, especially high levels of stress, we are particularly vulnerable and perhaps that’s why partner support in those times is so impactful and long-lasting,” lead study author Matthew Johnson said in a press release. “Efforts from a partner to help alleviate stress may prevent the development or worsening of mental health problems and, in fact, could help keep the relationship healthy,” he adds.
Even if you’re inclined to let her work through things on her own, don’t falter. Listen to her if she needs to vent, stand your ground if her response is negative, and remember that emotional support comes in many forms.
“When someone is depressed or has low-self-worth, they may lash out,” Johnson said. “A partner offering support reaffirms feelings of depression and helplessness, of the feeling that they have to pick up the slack.”
If this is the case, the researchers suggest offering “invisible support” by helping in ways the might not pick up on and you don’t draw attention to.
“Studies suggest offering support your partner may not even be aware of, but would still be a helpful gesture, like taking care of a sink full of dirty dishes they haven’t seen yet,” Johnson said.