love languages play a major part in the health of our romantic relationships. once we learn the way our partners love to be loved, it is easier to navigate our relationships and continue to build a strong, lasting bond with one another. for those of us who struggle with depression and other mental illnesses, love languages look different when we are in our mental illness and when we are out of it. my love languages are quality time and words of affirmation, but all five are appreciated when they come from the people closest to me. my partner has done his best to not only understand my depression, but to love me through it all. no matter how deep I fall into it or how long it takes over, he’s right there navigating my depression with me and redefining the languages of love to fit my ilness.
when I’m in my depression, it is so easy for me to feel ‘touched out’. just the thought of someone touching me makes me cringe and if I’m touched when I’ve already reached that point, I become completely irritable. at first, I would just grimace through it because I didn’t want my partner to feel like I was turned off by him, or didn’t want him. of course, he could tell how much it bothered me, and began to feel exactly the way I didn’t want him to. it took a toll on our relationship, especially during the moments when I couldn’t articulate that I was depressed and the way I was reacting had very little to do with him and more to do with my mental, emotional and physical senses being overloaded. until one day, I just decided to be very bluntly honest with him and tell him that there are times that I just can’t be touched, and that I didn’t want him to take it personally. now that he knows the way it effects me, he’ll ask me if it’s okay to touch me, and more importantly, respects when I say no. he encourages me to come and hug him whenever I feel like being loved in that way, to initiate cuddling and sex when I’m in the mood to be intimate.
acts of service
this one is huge for me because as a stay at home mom, the brunt of the housework falls on me. being in my depression makes almost impossible for me to take care of myself, much less anything or anyone else. my partner wakes up at 4am five days a week to provide for our family, it’s more than I have the energy to do on a good day. but when I’m at my lowest point, he jumps right in and picks up the slack. he comes homes home, rolls up his sleeves, and does the dishes. he folds the laundry exactly the way I like (most of the time), he squeezes in a nap and gets dinner started while simultaneously talking our oldest through his homework for the day. & just before he gets ready to shower and head to bed just to do it all over again, he reads our daughter a bedtime story and tucks both of them in. to top it all off, in between all of this, he makes my favorite snacks, brews me cups of tea, and kisses me good morning and good night every day. he is the most selfless person I know, because his love doesn’t falter even when I don’t have it in me to reciprocate the affection.
I’m generally a person that loves to be on the giving side of the gift, there’s something special about being able to brighten someone’s day with heartfelt and thoughtful gifts. knowing that my partner pays attentioin to the random things I say and translates that into something he knows will touch me deeply means the world to me. at the start of the new year, I wrote a blog post about what I wanted to do this year for myself, one of them was trying new wines. one day on his way home from work, he picked up Black Girl Magic Bubbly Red for me to try with a homecooked meal. it was such a simple gift, but he saw me struggling to stay outside my depression and did something he knew would lift my spirits. the last time my depression took over, he bought me a set of sloth pajamas, and when I was in the hospital dealing with the early arrival of our son, he brought me my stuffed sloth and my favorite blanket to get me through those tough days.
words of affirmation
my self esteem teeters a thin line of average-below average, so being affirmed in a relationship is one of the most important things for me to feel valued in my relationship. of course, actions have to align as well, but sometimes it’s just really nice to hear how much my partner cares for me. something as simple as him telling me I look beautiful, even when I’m sitting in two day old sweats and a bonnet. when he randomly walks up to me and tells me he loves me. when he says he doesn’t care if I’m happy, sad, angry, or my mood is unknown, none of it changes the way he feels about me. when he holds me and tells me how strong I am for continuing to try, how proud he is of me for being able to verbalize my depression, and he’s here for whatever I need. when he says we’re partners, we’re in this together. when I’m down, you pick me back, and I do the same for you. that’s what we do. with other people in my life, those have just been words; but with him, it’s the look in his eye that lets me know he means every word.
quality time is hard enough with two kids at home and rotating visitation with our NICU baby, but when I’m in a bout of depression it’s even harder because the only quality time I really crave is with myself. I don’t want anyone to see me struggling, so I spend time alone in different rooms and tell everyone I prefer to be left alone. internally though, I hate the lonliness, hate the deafening silence that it brings along with it. depression is funny that way, it makes you miss the thing you least desire. so he’ll start small, do you want to take a walk with me? & the fresh air is a momentary revival, breaks me out of the trance-like state for a moment and allows me to enjoy his company. other times, he’ll ask me to watch a movie or tv show we’ve been waiting to premiere, or throw on one of my favorites just to see me smile, or cry, because he knows how much I need it. even when my mind is most resistant, there’s something that his presence does for me.
love languages look different for everyone, and we all require different levels of care when we are at our lowest. talk to your partner as best as you can, be as open as you are able to be, and be honest about what you need to not feel triggered during your most emotionally and mentally vulnerable moments. feeling like we are pushing the ones we love away can make it that much easier to believe we are completely isolated, but when our partners know when and, most importantly, how to love us, it’s possible to find little glimmers of light in all the darkness.
the most beautiful thing about love is that it can come from anyone, so if you don’t a partner to lean on when you need some extra TLC, try this with family members and close friends. for those of you who are truly struggling and have no support, feel free to reach out, I’m always here.