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How to Cope with a Partner That is Struggling with Mental Health

Jan 30, 2024 | Adult Treatment, Anxiety, Communication, Depression, Emotional Breakdown, Family Issues, Helping a Loved One, Mental Health

Throughout our journey of love, we often find ourselves facing challenges that test the strength of our relationships. One common challenge is dealing with a partner who is not taking care of their mental health. When someone we care deeply about is struggling with their emotional state, it can be an emotionally taxing situation. However, with the right strategy in place, you can navigate this difficult terrain together and offer the support your partner needs. In this blog, we explore a few different strategies to cope with a partner who isn’t prioritizing their mental health and offer insight into what might be going on.

Why Do Some of Us Struggle with Mental Health?

Most people are bound to experience some tumultuous periods in their lifetime. With this comes the risk of experiencing poor mental health for either a short or long period of time. This could be a result of the loss of a loved one, a major life change, losing a job, or any other life disturbance. In addition to this, some people are either born with or develop a mental illness later in life. For these people, other interventions are often needed in order to experience improvement.

Seek to Learn More About Their Struggles

Understanding mental health is the first and most important step in helping your partner. Educate yourself about different mental health conditions, their symptoms, and potential triggers that can make the condition worse. By learning more, you can demystify the challenges your partner is facing and develop empathy towards their situation. Attending doctors’ appointments and learning about medication that might help their condition is another excellent way to learn more and help. Knowledge is a powerful tool that can help you respond more effectively and compassionately.

Allow for Open and Non-Judgmental Conversations

Creating a safe space for open dialogue is important in all relationships, but especially so for those handling mental health challenges. A great way to get started is to approach your partner with empathy and without judgment each time you converse. Gently express your concerns and let them know you’re there to listen and support them when they need it. You can also encourage them to share their feelings regularly. Sometimes, just knowing that someone is willing to listen can be a huge relief.

Practice Patience

Patience is key when dealing with a partner struggling with mental health, as hard as it may be. Understand that healing takes time and setbacks are a normal part of the process. Getting frustrated or angry is likely to do far more harm than good. Instead, be patient with their progress and consistently show empathy towards their struggles. Let them know that you’re by their side, no matter how long the journey takes.

Help Them Find a Therapist

While you can provide love and support, the help of a mental health professional is non-negotiable when it comes to addressing deeper issues. Gently suggest seeking therapy or counseling when the situation allows for it. For those that might be hesitant, you can try to emphasize that therapy is not a sign of weakness, but a proactive step towards improving their life. Other ways you can help are to offer to help them find a suitable therapist, go with them to appointments, or even try out couples therapy to show solidarity.

Lead by Example

Taking care of your own mental health sets a positive example for your partner. Show them the importance of self-care by practicing it yourself daily. Unfortunately, when we don’t take care of ourselves, we are rarely any good to others. Plus, your positive habits may inspire them to take similar steps. A great way to practice this is by exercising often, even if it’s just a walk around the park. Make sure to cook healthy meals at home as well. Over time, these practices may become automated for both you and your partner. 

Make Small Gestures

Sometimes, simple gestures can make a really big difference. Offer to help with daily tasks like cooking, cleaning, or running errands when your partner is having a hard time. These small acts of kindness can alleviate some of their stress and show that you’re there to lighten their load.

Avoid Being the “Fixer”

While your intentions are pure, it’s important to recognize that you can’t “fix” your partner’s mental health issues on your own. Avoid pressuring them to change or constantly offering solutions. Instead, focus on being a supportive presence and listening without judgment. Sometimes we simply need a shoulder to cry on rather than a fixer.

Create an Environment That Supports Them

Work to build a supportive environment at home by creating routines that put your partner’s mental well-being first. You can prioritize activities that promote relaxation, like watching a movie or going for a walk together. Spending time out in nature is especially helpful for improving mental health, in addition to the physical exercise component. On top of this, remove things from the environment that might be detrimental to their mental health. An example of this could be alcohol, especially for those experiencing anxiety or depression.

Respect Your Partner’s Boundaries

While your support is valuable, your partner may need space at times. This is perfectly normal and there is no need for alarm. Try to respect their boundaries and let them know you’re there when they’re ready to talk, whenever that might be. Give them room to process their feelings without feeling overwhelmed by your attempts to intervene. Some people do well when they are able to sort through their thoughts independently. The comfort of knowing that you will be available when they are ready is invaluable to those struggling.

Get Help for Yourself

Supporting a partner dealing with mental health challenges can take a toll on your own well-being, and fast. It’s essential to prioritize your mental health as well in order to ensure you have a high quality of life. You might consider seeking your own therapy or joining support groups for partners of those with mental health issues. Taking care of yourself also helps to make sure you’re in the best position to offer support to your partner.

Coping with a partner who isn’t taking care of their mental health is by no means easy, but putting in the effort to support them is one of the best courses of action to take. Your presence and willingness to stand by their side can make a massive difference in their life. As a couple, you can navigate the challenges and grow stronger, proving that love truly can conquer all obstacles, including those of the mind.

New Dimensions Can Help!

New Dimensions provides outpatient counseling programs for adolescents and adults who are struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues.  To learn more about our services, including Psychological Testing, Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP), Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP), and Interventions for Substance Abuse, contact us at 800-685-9796 or visit our website at www.nddtreatment.com.  To learn more about individual, family, and couples counseling visit www.mhthrive.com.

References

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  • Downward, P., Rasciute, S. & Kumar, H. Mental health and satisfaction with partners: a longitudinal analysis in the UK. BMC Psychol 10, 15 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-022-00723-w
  • Mokoena AG, Poggenpoel M, Myburgh C, Temane A. Lived experiences of couples in a relationship where one partner is diagnosed with a mental illness. Curationis. 2019 Sep 19;42(1):e1-e7. doi: 10.4102/curationis.v42i1.2015. PMID: 31588763; PMCID: PMC6779990.
  • https://www.verywellmind.com/coping-with-a-mentally-ill-spouse-2302988