Mental health challenges can impact individuals and their relationships, often placing strain on couples. It is crucial to recognize the importance of addressing mental health concerns together, fostering understanding, support, and resilience. In this blog, we will explore therapeutic approaches that couples can employ to navigate mental health challenges and promote lasting well-being. From communication strategies to seeking professional help, these approaches can help couples build stronger bonds and support each other on the path to recovery.
Open Communication and Active Listening
One of the cornerstones for addressing mental health challenges is ensuring that we have a safe, effective way of communicating with one another; including active listening. If you have read any of my previous blogs, I have spoken about communication and active listening several times! Effective communication is the foundation of any healthy relationship, especially when addressing mental health challenges. Couples should create a safe and non-judgmental space where they can openly express their thoughts, feelings, and concerns. Active listening plays a vital role, allowing partners to empathize and understand one another better.
Open communication includes being attentive to our partners if they open up to us about their mental health concerns. Encourage your partner to share their emotions, thoughts, and reflect back to them with meaning to show you are listening to what they are sharing. Reflecting back can look different but generally entails repeating or paraphrasing your partner’s words to show that you are understanding and validating of their experiences. It is important to avoid interrupting your partner, or offering immediate solutions, as sometimes the simple act of listening can be immensely therapeutic when they are sharing their mental health concerns.
Mutual Support and Empathy
If any mental health challenges arise within your relationship, it is very important for you and your partner to support one another through it. Support can look different within different relationships but ultimately it entails cultivating an environment of empathy and compassion, and recognizing the struggles affect each individual in differently. When you’re supporting your partner it helps when you validate your partner’s emotions and experiences, offering reassurance and understanding. We need to ensure that our partners know they are not alone in their struggles with mental health.
Another way that we can support our partners, and create closeness as a couple, is to create supportive routines or rituals, such as practicing mindfulness or engaging in shared hobbies like sports or walks! Making it a habit to regularly check in on each other’s well-being will foster a sense of togetherness and promote a deeper emotional connection.
Seeking Professional Help
At times, relational challenges will require professional support and intervention from a qualified therapist. You and your partner may feel as though you are at a loss when it comes to a recent mental health diagnosis and this is where the support of an unbiased professional can be extremely helpful. When we seek out the support from a professional, they can provide us with guidance and tools that are helpful for navigating the uncertainties that surround mental health concerns. Therapists can help couples understand the underlying causes and work together towards solutions.
Within the couple’s therapy setting, the therapist offers a safe space to explore how the mental health of both partners is impacting the relationship. Therapists work toward facilitating constructive dialogue and provide strategies – which I personally call tools for the toolbox – for conflict resolution, improving communication, and fostering emotional intimacy. It is also within the therapists’ scope of practice to assist you and your partner in developing coping mechanisms and stress management techniques.
Building Resilience and Self-Care
When supporting a partner who is struggling to manage their mental health, it is essential to build resilience as a couple and develop coping strategies to navigate the ups and downs of the mental health challenges. This includes prioritizing self-care, both on your own – some “me” time – and as a couple. Encouraging activities that promote well-being, such as exercise, adequate sleep, and healthy eating. When we put forth an effort to engage in self-care activities together, it can strengthen the bond within your partnership and provide a sense of shared purpose.
Furthermore, engaging in mindfulness practices, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises, can help manage stress and promote emotional well-being. Of course, everyone has a different means of engaging in self-care and you both have to find what works best within your relationship. It can be helpful to set weekly self-care goals and work to achieve some small victories both individually and as a couple. These small victories can really help to boost the morale and confidence within your relationship. Self-care is a win-win, you feel good, and the positive energy you give off will ultimately help to maintain a more positive energy within your partnership.
Considering all this
As mentioned before, addressing mental health challenges as a couple requires open communication, mutual support, and a willingness to seek professional help when needed. Empathy, active listening, and prioritizing self-care as individuals and as a couple are crucial. By working together, couples can build resilience, promote security, and nurture positive mental health. It’s important to approach mental health as a team, ensuring both partners feel understood, supported, and loved. Together, they can overcome challenges, strengthen their bond, and create a nurturing environment for mental health to thrive.
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Pieh, C., O´ Rourke, T., Budimir, S., & Probst, T. (2020). Relationship quality and mental health during COVID-19 lockdown. Plos one, 15(9), e0238906.