Support Your Partner on Their Mental Health Journey With These 7 Tips
Relationships are challenging by nature, but they can become even more challenging when one partner lives with a mental health condition. Watching someone you love deal with the ups and downs of a mental illness is often frustrating and painful–especially when all you really want is for him or her to feel as happy and healthy as possible.
Studies have shown that up to half of all Americans will experience a mental health condition, whether chronic or acute, at one time or another. If your partner has struggled or is currently struggling with the symptoms of mental illness, here are tips to help you support both of you, as well as your relationship, through the ups and downs.
1. Educate Yourself
Many of the symptoms of mental illness are not immediately apparent to those who do not understand the conditions, so it’s important to do all that you can to understand the ways it may manifest for your partner and in your relationship. Whether you’ve noticed he or she is slightly more irritable with you or observed a quiet increase of his or her morning dose of CBG oil, make a note of any common symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping, excessive sadness or worry, mood changes, withdrawal, changes in daily habits or odd behaviors.
2. Practice Empathy
It’s important to remember that your partner doesn’t want to experience these challenges, and that a healthy body, mind and relationship is a goal for both of you. Mental health conditions are frustrating for everyone involved, but especially the person who lives with it. As you research symptoms and illnesses, exercise as much compassion and understanding for the circumstances as you can.
3. Research Soothing Tactics
Mental illness can be incredibly isolating to experience. The more you understand your partner’s condition, the better you can show up for him or her when things get difficult, which can help your partner to feel less alone in what he or she is going through. Look into various support options, such as emotional validation, self-care techniques, meditation, touch therapy, distraction tactics and any other soothing practices that may be helpful.
4. Do Things Together
If your partner’s mental health journey includes a new exercise regimen, lace up your own shoes and head to the gym together. If soothing scents help during bouts of intense anxiety, head to the store to pick out new therapeutic aromas with him or her. Any efforts made to support your partner’s healing journey will speak volumes about your commitment to their well-being and willingness to be at his or her side every step of the way.
5. Practice Active Listening Skills
Perhaps one of the most important things you can do as a partner to someone who lives with mental illness is to develop a solid set of listening skills. Those who struggle with mental health conditions frequently feel misunderstood, dismissed or boxed in by their illness. Seek to know what your partner’s experience is like by setting aside time to ask meaningful questions and leaving adequate space to listen to better understand his or her thoughts and feelings without an intention to solve or respond right away.
6. Ask What He or She Needs
Though much of the time it may seem as though mental illness drives a wedge between you and your partner, it can actually be an opportunity to better understand one another, and can even bring you closer. Start an open and honest dialogue about what may be most helpful for your partner when things start to go downhill. This is a great opportunity for both of you to set boundaries, care plans and clear expectations that will help you be successful as a couple no matter what is thrown your way.
7. Take Care of Yourself
Often, the partner of someone with mental illness can take on many extra household responsibilities and additional emotional labor during times of symptom flare-ups. It can be difficult to remember to take care of your own needs, so make sure to carve time to maintain your own health and wellness. Your well-being as an individual and in the relationship is just as important.