Communicating and responding to an ex suffering from depression is a challenge. Depression creates an additional barrier that makes attracting an ex harder and how communicate and respond can help or worsen your ex’s depression.
Depressed people push loved ones away
Depressed people push loved ones away even when they won’t admit to being depressed. This can sometimes feel like they’re playing games, making excuses and lying or being avoidant (deactivated). It can even feel like your ex doesn’t care at all about you, your feelings and your needs.
Even when you can see that your ex is struggling and suffering, and can empathize, you may find yourself struggling with how to respond and communicate with your depressed ex, especially if they seem angry and get easily irritated by almost anything you or do.
Depression changes the way and ex feel or reacts to a break-up
Whether your ex has an anxious fearful, avoidant or secure attachment, depression changes the way they feel, respond or react to a break-up.
If the depression started before the break-up, your depressed ex may do things do things that make you feel look they don’t care about you or are playing games because they’re trying to push you. They communicate and respond less, or completely pull away from you because depressed people often do not understand why anyone would love or care about them when they themselves do not love or care about themselves. They feel bad (and sometimes embarrassed) about what they’re going through and feel like they’re a burden.
Pushing you away means they don’t have to be a burden to you (and others) and don’t have to be bothered making an effort to communicate or respond.
The break-up triggered not caused your ex’s depression
Most people who are depressed after a break-up most likely had underlying depression before the break-up. The break-up did not cause their depression, the break-up triggered it.
If the depression started after the break-up or if the break-up triggered the depression, your ex may display most of the behaviours of an avoidant after the break-up. They want to be left alone, don’t want to be close to you (or anybody) and keep pushing you away even when common sense says keeping a loved one close would make them feel better.
They also find it hard to love themselves and often say and do things that show that they clearly don’t like (or hate) themselves. And when you try to communicate with a depressed ex, they don’t respond most of the time and don’t let you in.
All these behaviour are very similar to attachment avoidance and this is why most people have a hard time telling whether an ex is being avoidant because they’re an avoidant or behaving like an avoidant because they’re depressed.
How you deal with your ex’s depression can help or make it worse
How you communicate or respond can make your depressed ex feel more isolated and alone (which makes depression feel worse) or make them feel like you understand what they’re going through and are there for them in a non-intrusive supportive and safe way.
For example, when your depressed ex reaches to share something going on in their life that is bothering them or they’re having a hard time dealing with, you may be tempted to say something to make them feel better, give advice on what you would do in that situation, change the topic or make jokes to try to distract them from how they are feeling. Your intentions are good good, but it may not be the right response to someone with depression.
Your depressed ex is reaching to share their emotional experience with you, hoping that you can pick up on their underlying needs, understand their experience and thought processes, empathize and just be heard, listened to, understood and valued.
Watch this video to learn what an empathetic response looks and feels like.
Make sure your depressed ex feels heard, listened to, understood and valued
Understand that your ex may be depressed and that doesn’t mean they don’t love you or care about you any more. In other words, don’t take your ex’s way of dealing with their depression personally. You wouldn’t take it personally if your ex had cancer for example. Depression is an illness. Even though your ex’s depression affects you personally, it’s not personal. They’re not trying to hurt you, they’re trying to survive depression.
The best way to communicate and respond to a depressed ex is show understanding, reassure them you are there for them and allow them to space to deal with the depression.
Check-in every once in a while but don’t try to “get them out of depression” by talking them out of it, sending them articles or videos about depression, making jokes and trying to cheer them up. will make them pull away even further.
Most importantly, be patient and don’t take it personally.