How to Support Your Partner’s Mental Health Without Harming Yours
When mental illness threatens the balance in a relationship, the need to stay strong can create an overwhelming burden. As you support your partner's mental health, you can't forget to practice self-care.
How to show support
When learning about your partner's illness, keep in mind that regardless of the diagnosis your partner is the same person. The goal of treatment is to help your partner get healthy so they can better cope.
To help your partner on this journey, adhere to basic ground rules to protect your relationship such as:
- Learn about the illness: Whether it's anxiety, depression or any other mental health issue, your partner will experience good days and bad days. Understanding the symptoms will aid you in realizing when your partner may need space.
- Be emotionally available: While it's understandable to cope with your partner's illness, your partner will likely reach out for support, and it's important you remain emotionally available.
- You are not a therapist: It may be tempting to try and solve your partner's problems, but allow trained experts to do their jobs. Remind your partner you love them and know there is value in just being there.
- You are not a crutch: Just as you cannot fix your partner's mental health, it's not acceptable for your partner to use their situation as an excuse to neglect their role in the relationship. They should be there for you and your needs as well.
If your partner does not make their mental health a priority, this could set back recovery, which could jeopardize your partnership. Offer emotional support and show your love, but don't let your own health take a backseat to your partner's needs.
How to practice self-care
Practicing self-care is something most people struggle with, even in relationships absent mental or physical illnesses. We often feel guilty about putting our needs first, but if you get sick because you have overextended yourself, you won't be of help to anyone.
Remember to take care of the basic necessities, such as sleep, nutrition and mental well-being:
- Identify your risk factors: Take a moment each day to self-evaluate and identify areas to address, such as sleep deprivation, stress, depression or anxiety. This will help you stay focused on your self-care task for the day.
- Reduce your stress: Meditation, breathing techniques or sitting in a quiet space for a few minutes can clear your mind and reduce your stress. Taking on fewer responsibilities may help, and this is where the support from others can be invaluable.
- Ask for help: Don't be afraid to build a support system for yourself. Ask your family or friends for extra support from time to time, so you can better help your partner and occasionally get a break.
- Take time away: Reserve time each day meant only for you. It doesn't make you a bad partner. Rather, it means you are working toward being a better partner.
- Seek counseling: Whether you see a counselor for yourself or perhaps a marriage counselor, you have your own emotions to process, and having a partner with a mental illness does not make your feelings any less valid.
No matter what self-care looks like for you, it's important to allot daily time when you can concentrate on your needs.
You cannot fix your partner
One of the hardest realities partners face is the helplessness of being unable to fix our loved ones. We want to listen to concerns and find solutions, but with mental health, the best thing you can do is be present and offer support.
Sometimes these feelings of helplessness can become overwhelming. If you don't have a ready support system to help you cope, you can find a local support group where you can share your story and find people in the same situation to lean on.
Enjoy the good times
Maintaining mental health is a delicate balance, but with the right care and treatment, you and your partner will experience good times. While it's important to be supportive, it's more important to look after your health so you can be present for these moments and enjoy your life together.