6 Ways To Be A Supportive Partner to Someone With Seasonal Affective Disorder

For some, the winter months bring to mind cuffing season and cuddling inside. But if you're dating someone with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), the cold weather can also test your relationship. Of course your partner can't control how they feel, but there are steps you can take to support them during this time.

I talked to licensed New York psychologist Dr. Gregory Kushnick about the effects that SAD can have on a romantic relationship, how you can be the best possible partner to someone who experiences this mood disorder, and what you should do if you suspect your significant other might have SAD. Understanding that your SO will require some extra TLC while temps are low is the key to being a good partner to someone with SAD. Communicate openly with your partner to ascertain what they need from you. Work to maintain a healthy balance between validating their experience and encouraging their recovery. Sometimes, simply being there for your significant other can help them feel better.

Winter can be taxing for someone who suffers from SAD or who has depressive symptoms of any kind. Any support you can offer your partner during these months will be appreciated!

1. Try not to have unrealistic expectations.

People who suffer from SAD tend to have less energy and sleep more than usual when it gets cold outside. Do your best to put their needs before your own during the winter months — maybe you cut your binge-watching session short to just one episode and have lights out before midnight.

2. Don't blame yourself.

You shouldn't feel responsible for all of your partner's emotions. "Understand that your partner could feel better one day and much worse the next," says Dr. Kushnick. "The challenge is to avoid blaming yourself for changes in your partner's mood." Researching the disorder and talking about it with your SO may help you to realize what you can and can't do to aid in relieving their symptoms. And if you can't tell if your partner's acting down because of something you did or how they're feeling in general, just ask.

3. Practice patience and understanding.

Let your partner know you're there for them by being patient and compassionate. "The slowdown in overall physical activity can affect closeness and excitement about the relationship, the frequency of sex, the amount of time spent on mood management, and getting on the same page," says Dr. Kushnick. If you start to feel frustrated with your partner, try to remind yourself that these consequences are no one's fault.

4. Suggest physical activities.

Rigorous physical activity can boost the mood of someone with SAD, according to Dr. Kushnick. If your partner is feeling poorly, ask them to join you at the gym, go for a run, or take a workout class. Spending time together while exercising is healthy for your individual bodies and minds, as well as for your shared relationship.

5. Get creative.

Another way to combat SAD is by writing in a journal or engaging in other creative activities, says Dr. Kushnick. While your partner can do this on their own, creativity can boost your mood as well. So why not suggest an artsy date night? Take a painting class or enroll in a writing workshop together. This unique shared experience will make you both feel better.

6. Encourage them to utilize additional resources.

If your partner has been diagnosed with SAD, or suspects they may have it, you might consider encouraging them to seek out a mental health professional. Psychotherapy can have a positive impact on SAD, depending on the severity of the condition. "It can be quite helpful to receive guidance in planning out your strategy for coping with SAD and having a professional assist you in monitoring changes in mood," says Dr. Kushnick. "If you have an extreme case, it would be wise to get a psychiatric evaluation to see if medication is needed and visit your primary care physician to rule out other health conditions that could be responsible for a dramatic change in mood."

While a therapist can help your partner deal with the symptoms of SAD, you can provide a different kind of support. With these tips in mind, your relationship shouldn't suffer this winter.

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