Romantic relationships can be complicated and involve a lot of effort and compromise. To maintain a healthy relationship, both partners need to display effective communication and conflict resolution skills. This can be even more difficult to do when you’re combating mental health issues. While having a partner can provide comfort and security, it can be stressful to navigate mental illness and dating if your partner has no knowledge of mental health disorders or is struggling with their own.
Romantic partners can positively or negatively influence each other’s mental health and overall well-being, but it isn’t impossible to maintain a healthy relationship with a mental illness. Explore the effects of mental illness on relationships and how you and your partner can support each other.
Having a Mental Illness and Dating
Dating can be fun and exciting, especially in the beginning when you’re just getting to know each other. As the relationship progresses, you may start to feel more comfortable opening up and being vulnerable with each other. However, it can be daunting to share your mental health issues with another person if you aren’t sure how they’ll react because of the stigma that’s long been associated with mental illness.
According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, Americans are developing more positive views toward mental illness, with 87% of respondents declaring a mental health disorder is nothing to be ashamed of. While this is great news, 86% of respondents still believe the term “mental illness” carries a stigma, and nearly 40% admit that they’d view someone differently if they knew that person had a mental health disorder.
It’s understandable why some people may be afraid to tell a romantic partner about their mental illness. That said, this is information that should be shared before a relationship gets serious. You don’t want to be with someone who won’t be understanding or empathetic toward your needs. It can also prevent conflict and misunderstandings from occurring early on because your partner will know why you respond to situations in a certain way and how they can help.
How to Maintain a Healthy Relationship With a Mental Illness
Whether you have a mental illness or are dating someone who has one, the beginning stages of the relationship may be the hardest. This is when you’re starting to build trust and understand each other’s needs, preferences and desires. It may take extra effort to learn how to communicate with and support each other, but if you’re able to get past these initial hurdles, you can build a strong, long-lasting relationship that’s fulfilling for both partners. Here are a few tips on how to maintain your mental health and relationships in a healthy way.
Maintain Healthy Communication
Open and honest communication is a key factor in any relationship, but it becomes especially important when mental illness is involved. If you have a mental health condition, downplaying your symptoms or how your partner’s words and actions affect you can cause dissatisfaction with the relationship or even worsen your mental health. Your partner won’t be able to understand your mental illness or know how to help if you don’t talk about it. Being honest can prevent conflict and bring you and your partner closer.
Provide Emotional Support
Romantic partners are supposed to provide emotional support during stressful and difficult times, including when one partner is struggling with mental health challenges. When someone has a mental illness, some days are going to be tougher than others, which may test your patience and cause feelings of frustration, anger or irritability. While these feelings are valid, being positive and supportive during these challenging times may be enough to lift your partner’s mood and help them through a bad mental health spell.
Whether you’re the partner with a mental illness or not, setting boundaries to preserve your own health and well-being is crucial to maintaining a healthy relationship. There may be days when your mental health is particularly bad and the best thing for you is to take a step back and engage in self-care activities or visit with family and friends alone. It’s important to inform your partner that the distance isn’t because of anything they’ve done; you simply need time to clear your head.
Self-care activities can be helpful for both partners because they give you a healthy outlet to reduce stress and unwind. Each partner will likely have specific activities that work for them. If you’re supportive and respectful of your partner’s self-care routine, they’ll feel more comfortable sharing it with you and will likely return the favor and be supportive of yours. You may even find self-care activities you enjoy doing together, such as hiking, watching a favorite show or going to the gym.
Encourage Professional Help
Depending on the severity of a partner’s mental illness, they may need more help than you can give. This doesn’t mean you failed at being a good romantic partner. Mental health disorders are medical conditions that affect a person’s mood, thinking and behavior. Professional treatment, such as therapy, counseling or medication, may be needed to help your partner maintain their health and well-being.
In this case, the best thing you can do is encourage them to seek professional help and be supportive throughout the treatment process. Entering treatment can be intimidating and overwhelming, especially if it’s their first time and they don’t know what to expect. Having someone who cares and is rooting for them can make it less daunting.
It can be hard to know the best way to support your partner if you’ve never experienced mental health treatment. You can offer to bring them to their first appointment or ask how their therapy sessions went once they get home to show them they don’t have to go through it alone.
Find Mental Health Treatment Today
It can be difficult to navigate mental illness and dating without the right diagnosis or treatment. If you or a loved one is struggling with your mental health, don’t wait to seek help. Restore Mental Health offers professional support, from therapy to medication to treat numerous mental health disorders. Contact us today to speak with a trained counselor and get the help you need to lead a fulfilling life.