I recently caught up with a friend who, over wine and with the TV rolling in the background, divulged to me some of her recent troubles in her romantic relationship. She and her boyfriend had recently moved in together, and their dating bliss was cut short by a cruel winter and a sudden shift in attitude around the house. With winter came a cold shoulder, early bedtimes, and an ever-present silence in their home. This shift scared her and tested their relationship tremendously, and it wasn’t until she came upon the name “seasonal depressive disorder” did she have some identifier as to what had been plaguing her relationship.
After some brief conversations on this subject with her introverted, manly-man boyfriend, he, too, agreed that the cold had bothered him so much so that his general mood and attitude had been shifted. The rift had driven them further apart and space needed to be created in order for moods and behavior to start fresh. With warm weather came a semi-return of their usual selves, but the relationship was not as hunky-dory as it had been before.
As she discussed this with me, I wondered why it had been difficult to find material online, or people she knew around her, that had gone through similar things in their significant relationships. Though lots of diagnostic information and general advice can be found on this subject, none of it spoke to her and her generation — millennials that would ideally be enjoying some of the best years of their lives.
I did research on my own to see what I could find on the subject, and though I read pages and pages of articles I found more solace tucked away in the comments on forums on online articles that graced the topic. However, three large themes emerged in the realm of why depression impacts millennials and their significant relationships. In these cases, there are straightforward answers and suggestions provided to help solve them, but nothing worth change comes easily.
Because they are lonely.
Loneliness (which can be experienced even in relationships) is a driving factor in millennial depression. Loneliness can often feel debilitating and fruitless, but seeking other solutions outside of “going out to meet people” can help in these cases. Loneliness can often lead to negative physical behaviors, such as over-drinking and smoking. Even though being in a relationship can seem as though you’re taking “being alone” out of the equation, sometimes it can be the opposite. Because relationships take daily commitment and hard work, if one person decides to check out, it can leave the other person in despair.
Exercise can boost spirits and release endorphins, even if only a couple times per week. From personal experience, listening to a book on tape, podcast, or music out loud in your home, at your desk, or while commuting can help stave off the lonely blues. You can also journal, try something new (classes, restaurants, etc.) and give yourself some breathing room to adjust.
New female roles make bridging the gap difficult.
New advances for women in their professional and personal lives often challenge traditional female roles in relationships. In the past, the clear gender roles left women by the sidelines, professionally, which is — finally — starting to change. But that sentiment can be hard to break, and both you and your partner might have preconceived notions about who does what in the relationship. Everyone brings home their own work stresses, but if you and your partner are on different pages about what “should” be difficult for the other, contempt and miscommunication can definitely creep in.
Open communication is always your best bet. Take a long look at your expectations for yourself and your partner, and then have a conversation about it so you can both be on the same page and support each other better.
Heavy comparisons thanks to social media.
Social media can be one of the largest triggers of depression. Dependency on Instagram to pass time or entertain us only shifts our frame of mind to pure comparison. The quote “comparison is the thief of joy” rings true here. Social media can not only be draining but also cause you to over-compare yourself to others’ “highlight reels” of their life with their partners.
A few things you can do…
- Set a timer and limit yourself to scrolling
- Hide your apps in a folder so you’re less likely to get to them
- Download a time-tracker app like Moment to really time how long you spend scrolling through the ‘gram
I hope, on behalf of all millennial women and men, that more avenues of communication and connection can open up in this space, and that whatever stigmas exist surrounding this issue dissipate with time. Millions of young people suffer from depression and similar illnesses — and this doesn’t stop when love enters the picture.
It is important to know when to seek assistance outside of what you can give. If you’re feeling depressed, know that you’re not alone and you will not feel like this forever. We recommend reaching out to your doctor or setting up an appointment with a licensed therapist or counselor. Getting help is a sign of strength, and you deserve to feel well.