How to support your partner dealing with mental health issues
Whether it be a brand-new love interest or a spouse of decades, the topic of mental health is always a difficult subject to broach. Due to widespread stigma, many individuals don’t feel comfortable talking about their issues or even admitting to experiencing them, especially with a romantic partner.
“Opening a dialogue around mental health with a romantic partner is integral in maintaining a healthy relationship,” says Bridget DeFiccio, LPC, Senior Vice President, Integrated Health Services. “It’s important for both parties to have conversation and understand aspects of mental health which may be impacting communication.”
Society has unfortunately instilled an unrealistic ideal that you should present yourself as perfect as possible to appeal to others. The truth is, learning and supporting your partner’s struggles and setbacks is integral in maintaining a happy, healthy relationship.
Here are 5 tips on how to open the dialogue around mental health and support your partner through their struggles:
1. Start the conversation
If you notice a change in your partner, don’t be afraid to be the one to bring up the topic of mental health. Communication is key in any healthy romantic relationship, and the same applies to communicating about mental health. If issues aren’t addressed, they will likely build up and cause resentment.
2. Seek professional help
Assure your partner that you are taking their issues seriously. If things get to the tipping point, perhaps suggest seeking professional help through a therapist or just visiting their primary care physician. Encourage them to be honest and that seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but rather one of strength. Couple’s therapy is also an option.
3. Ask questions
You’ve likely asked the question, “How are you?” or “What’s wrong?” and received the generic “I’m fine” or “Nothing is wrong”. When it comes to mental health, your partner may be avoiding answering the question truthfully. Show that you care by following up those simple questions with “How are you really feeling?” to show your partner that you genuinely care about their feelings. Asking deeper questions like “How can I help?” or “What kinds of thoughts are you having?” can open the conversation even further.
Listening is just as important as talking when it comes to mental health. Simply sitting back and truly hearing your partner express their concerns can help you better understand their situation. Be empathetic and validate their feelings. If they say, “I feel like I’m not good enough for you,” respond with, “Why do you think that?” rather than, “Of course you’re good enough for me, why would you say that?”
5. Take care of yourself
Practicing good self-care while addressing your partner’s issues is extremely important. You can’t take on all of their problems as your own, but rather stay by their side as you go through it together. Keeping yourself in good physical and emotional health will help you better support them.