January can often seem like a bleak month what with the cold weather and the post-Christmas slump. And if your partner is feeling the effects of the mid-winter blues, how can you help?There are many ways to put them back on the path to happiness, says match.com’s relationship expert Kate Taylor…

Could there be a more depressing season than winter? Money is short and daylight is shorter. The fun of Christmas is past, but any tensions it caused are still very recent.
Ice and snow make travelling treacherous, and New Year’s resolutions can make you feel like you’re never good enough. Ugh! If you’re feeling down, you deserve my sympathy. But if it’s your partner who is feeling sad, maybe you’re the one who needs to give it.

At first, you might not notice that you partner is feeling especially down. It’s easy to assume he or she is just preoccupied, or busy, or tired. But look closer – is your partner sleeping a lot more or less than normal? Is she/he cancelling dates, or turning down chances to pursue favourite pastimes? Does she/he seem to find it harder than usual to make decisions, even small ones such as what drink to have in the pub? Has your partner stopped going to the pub completely, preferring to stay at home instead? Has she/he stopped making any effort with his/her appearance? Stopped answering the phone? Stopped wanting to be intimate?

When you see signs like this, the first thing to do is not to take it personally. You’ll be tempted to, as your partner will act like she/he is losing interest in you, but you must realise that depression is making her/him lose interest in everything. Gather all your self-confidence, and remind yourself of loving words your partner has expressed in the past. Don’t ask for reassurance – your partner might feel that she/he is dragging you down, and even push you away so as not to be a burden. Instead, realise you can be a wonderful source of support, and that your partner needs you at the moment.

Begin by creating a ‘safe space’ for your partner to open up about how she/he is feeling. Don’t be judgemental or impatient, but gently let your partner know that you’re concerned and want to listen. Many people find it difficult to talk face-to-face about their feelings, but can open up more easily when engaged in a shared activity, so instigate conversations when you’re cooking dinner together, or gardening, or in the car. During these conversations, don’t rush ahead to look for a solution to the problems – try to remain silent, so your partner feels she/he has time to talk. If the conversation is hard, look for body-language clues that your partner doesn’t want to talk. For example, she/he might look longingly at the nearest doorway, press his/her lips together, cross the arms, turn away from you, or create a barrier by opening up their laptop, picking up a book or turning on the TV. They might play with their phone, close their eyes, or invent ‘urgent’ errands to run.

If your partner refuses to open up, realise that you can help in other ways. Natural cures for depression include getting exercise, fresh air, a healthy diet and a solid routine – can you include these in your time together? Swap dining out for cooking at home, and include sources of natural anti-depressants Vitamin B6, B12 and Folic Acid in your meals by cooking meals that include eggs, spinach, beef, chickpeas and lentils. Depression rates are low among nationalities that eat a lot of oily fish, promoting researchers to believe that Omega-3s are a natural mood-booster. Try to encourage your partner to eat two helpings of fish a week (sardines, mackerel and salmon are excellent), or to take Omega-3 supplements. Exercise can be part of a date, if you take your partner on long walks or bike rides, to the swimming pool, or to the gym.

Also, try to help by creating a solid routine. Help your partner get up in the morning, and encourage a routine for going to sleep, too. Remind her/him of important appointments, and take up some of the slack with domestic and/or childcare chores. Sometimes a break in routine can help too – sunshine has long been regarded as a mood-lifter, so consider booking a long weekend somewhere warm.

If February arrives and your partner is no closer to feeling the joys of spring, it’s time to seek professional help. Suggest an appointment with a GP, who can set up some counselling or prescribe medication. If she/he refuses, offer to accompany her/him, or speak to the doctor on his/her behalf. Tell your partner how important she/he is to you, and explain how much you’d love to see him/her happy again. This might be the push your partner needs to begin to seek help. Good luck.