By Ellen McGrath, published on December 1, 2002 - last reviewed on March 30, 2009
Love is as critical for your mind and body as oxygen. It's not
negotiable. The more connected you are, the healthier you will be both
physically and emotionally. The less connected you are, the more you are
It is also true that the less love you have, the more depression
you are likely to experience in your life. Love is probably the best
antidepressant there is because one of the most common sources of
depression is feeling unloved. Most depressed people don't love
themselves and they do not feel loved by others. They also are very
self-focused, making them less attractive to others and depriving them of
opportunities to learn the skills of love.
There is a mythology in our culture that love just happens. As a
result, the depressed often sit around passively waiting for someone to
love them. But love doesn't work that way. To get love and keep love you
have to go out and be active and learn a variety of specific
Most of us get our ideas of love from popular culture. We come to
believe that love is something that sweeps us off our feet. But the
pop-culture ideal of love consists of unrealistic images created for
entertainment, which is one reason so many of us are set up to be
depressed. It's part of our national vulnerability, like eating junk
food, constantly stimulated by images of instant gratification. We think
it is love when it's simply distraction and infatuation.
One consequence is that when we hit real love we become upset and
disappointed because there are many things that do not fit the cultural
ideal. Some of us get demanding and controlling, wanting someone else to
do what we think our ideal of romance should be, without realizing our
ideal is misplaced.
It is not only possible but necessary to change one's approach to
love to ward off depression. Follow these action strategies to get more
of what you want out of life—to love and be loved.
There are always core differences between two people, no matter how
good or close you are, and if the relationship is going right those
differences surface. The issue then is to identify the differences and
negotiate them so that they don't distance you or kill the
You do that by understanding where the other person is coming from,
who that person is, and by being able to represent yourself. When the
differences are known you must be able to negotiate and compromise on
them until you find a common ground that works for both.
Recognize that the internal voice is strong but it's not real. Talk
back to it. "I'm not really being rejected, this isn't really evidence of
inadequacy. I made a mistake." Or "this isn't about me, this is something
I just didn't know how to do and now I'll learn." When you reframe the
situation to something more adequate, you can act again in an effective
way and you can find and keep the love that you need.