Support Your Partner’s Mental Health Needs
A healthy relationship can provide both individuals with mutual support, encouragement, and love to help each other physically, mentally and emotionally. Healthy relationships allow both partners to be heard and understood without judgement while building mutual trust and respect. Suffering from any health condition can be a cumbersome experience that is difficult to discuss with your partner. When it comes to mental health, it can be particularly difficult to express your needs without feeling judged. However, having a loving partner who is willing to listen, could be the support that you need to manage your symptoms and aid in your journey to recovery. Know that it is possible to cope with a health condition while engaging in a successful long-term relationship. With millions of individuals experiencing mental illness at some point in their life, therapy is an underutilized resource that could help you grow in ways you could never imagine. It’s true that seeking mental health treatment is stigmatized but living your best life and building resilience is far more important than any stigma.
If you suspect that your partner has or is coping with a mental illness but is having a hard time disclosing it to you, be sure to be supportive anyway. Or if your partner has recently had this conversation with you, and you are unsure of how to approach the situation, here are a few ways to talk about the subject. Before approaching the subject, be sure that the timing is right. For your partner to open up about their feelings, they must feel safe and supported in order to have a productive conversation that will help you understand each other. Another tip is to avoid judgmental reactions and to really listen to what your partner is saying. Listen to understand your partner’s experiences, rather than listening to respond. Ask them how they feel, how long they have been experiencing those feelings, and how you can make them feel supported. If you know they need help and are struggling to take the first step, offer to help them find the right therapist and accompany them to their first visit. Moreover, offering help is different than taking the first step for them. The purpose is to build healthy habits, so making the effort on their behalf may lead to codependent behaviors.
Keep in mind that you cannot force anyone to do anything they do not want to do. Do not get frustrated with your partner if they are not willing to commit to therapy at first. If you can’t get your partner to commit to therapy, you can seek therapy yourself to see where you can improve in your approach or improve your understanding of your partner’s struggles. This will bring you a place to see where you can improve your relationship and what changes you can implement to bring about positive outcomes in your relationship. At the very least, seeking therapy yourself will give you the opportunity to learn how to better support your partner and help you stay healthy as it can be hard to witness your loved one struggle. Remember, that this is their journey, and your role is to support them the best you can. Remind them that you love and care about their health and well-being, but do not become upset or make them feel unsafe. Taking the first step is difficult, so commend their efforts, even if it is just opening up to you about their feelings. Healing and growing into your fullest potential takes time and patience but is worth every bit of effort.
Written by Mashal Rezai
Intake Coordinator, Balance Treatment Center