In a relationship, anything that affects your partner also affects you — which includes mental health. Whether one or both of you struggle with a diagnosis of a mental illness, it can create extra stress within the relationship. Instead of piecing together tips from self-help articles or books, check out the guide below to strengthen your relationship and help get you two through tough times.
1. Renew Your Support
It isn’t easy to face life’s challenges when you don’t feel supported. Your partner should be there for you no matter what, and vice versa.
The next time you and your partner get a moment alone, talk about the need for more support or express how you have their back. These words of affirmation remind both of you that there is always support available, if needed. If one partner is struggling and does not feel supported, be sure to express this (communication is key, see #3).
2. Address Problematic Habits
Problematic habits keep mental illnesses front and center in relationships. Sometimes they’re sneaky and don’t appear to be bad at all. Your partner might stay up all night to finish a project because their anxiety drives them to be a perfectionist. They think it helps them, but it makes their anxiety worse.
You could also have these habits and not realize it. If you have an eating disorder, your thoughts might dismiss your hunger before you can remind yourself that your body needs proper nutrition to function.
Writing is a simple way to catch these habits and stop them for good. Find a new notebook you love and start a mental health journal where you log your daily experiences. After a few days or even a week, you and your partner can reflect on your entries. Use them to pinpoint which habits hurt your mental health so you can defeat them together.
3. Improve Your Communication
You might be uncomfortable addressing mental health in your relationship because it feels like an unsafe topic. Insecurity grows stronger when your communication falls apart.
You may need to improve your communication skills together before addressing whatever mental illnesses you face. After you give yourselves time to learn how to listen and connect again, talking about your struggles will feel like a safe and necessary discussion.
4. Create a Support Plan
There are two kinds of support plans that may improve your relationship. First, you and your partner should know how to take care of each other when things get tough. If you feel your depression dip into a tough few days or weeks, your partner should learn to step in if you need help with daily tasks.
Sometimes mental illnesses keep people from asking for the support they need, but strategies will ensure that you and your partner always know how to help the other person.
You should also form a second kind of support plan. Define your personal limits and recognize when the other person approaches them. That’s when you can help each other get professional assistance and avoid straining your relationship.
5. Avoid Subscribing to Stigmas
People subconsciously hold onto stigmas about many things, so double-check that neither of you subscribes to any about mental health. One, old stigma is that men don’t ask for help with their mental illnesses and shouldn’t talk about them — luckily, this idea has begun to be destigmatized.
Cleveland Cavaliers center and power forward star Kevin Love recently discussed his midgame panic attacks to dismantle the stigma that athletes don’t deal with mental illnesses. When you take apart these underlying, outdated beliefs in your relationship, you will both feel more comfortable asking for help when you need it.
6. Practice Self-Care
You might struggle with stress or anxiety if you do not take care of yourself. It can happen to anyone, so join forces with your partner to start healthy self-care practices that relax and recharge your mental well-being. Habits like eating a healthy diet, sleeping every night and exercising will improve your outlook on life and give you the confidence to address your mental health needs.
7. Find a Therapist
No one has to reach a specific breaking point to start working with a therapist. It’s always a good idea to check in with a professional counselor if you or your partner need help. You could even find someone who will work with you in group sessions so you learn how to cope in ways tailored to your needs.
Keep an Open Mind
Maintaining an open mind is the easiest way to ensure that these tips continue to address mental health in your relationship. Constant attention to yourself and your partner’s needs will foster a healthy environment so you can thrive together — no matter what challenges you face.