During our lifetime some of us are lucky enough to find that person we want to share our world with. It is a beautiful thing to connect with a person on such a deep level and build a life together. As most of us know, any relationship often comes with speed bumps and hurdles but what if one person (or both) in the relationship suffers from a mental health condition? This can really throw a spanner in the works and can make or break a relationship.
When one person is affected by their mental health it can cause major strain on the relationship making it hard to maintain those fundamental aspects of the partnership. Although the person suffering does not intend to create conflict, it can easily develop by large amounts of attention going towards finding a resolution and unfortunately leaving the other partner feeling rejected.
Without each partner having gone through their own self development it can be incredibly hard to be strong enough to hold up the partner suffering and maintain humility, commitment and apathy throughout. A wedge can be placed between the bond, slowly creating distance and inevitably the closing of a relationship.
Having been with my current partner for years, filled with several hiatus’ due to mental health issues on both sides, I can say that without being OK with yourself and liking the person you are, what you’re doing in your life and where you’re headed, the timeline of a relationship can be dramatically hindered. It is 100% your responsibility to look after yourself in your relationship and in my opinion, the right person is going to be there with you, growing along with you.
The first steps to follow when mental health issues come up in the relationship is to be open about it and voice what is going on. If you’re unable to do this first step, then it would be smart to work out what is stopping you from having this important conversation. Is it a fear of communication? Do you not feel comfortable and safe enough to talk about how you feel? I am NO relationship counsellor (haha seriously far from it) but communication is KEY to any relationship, without this fundamental part thriving in yours then it's worth thinking about why it isn’t.
Second step - get serious! Mental health is no joking matter and even if your partner dismisses their feelings as “no big deal”, it’s important to dig deeper and spend time creating a safe space for communication so your partner can feel comfortable enough to open-up. This of course goes for the person reading this and you’re the one suffering in the relationship, get serious about your own mental health and allow your partner behind your walls so they can support you the best they can.
This next step is probably the hardest and it really all depends a lot, as mentioned before, where you’re at in your own self-development journey. If you are with someone who is currently suffering with their mental health, you have to try and remember that you are you and your partner is them, yes there is a bond but at the end of the day, you are both living your own lives and are fortunate enough to intertwine them to some degree. If you can get less caught up in feeling like you need to FIX everything and be your partners therapist, the better chance you will have at keeping your own sanity and that of your partners. As mentioned above, support is essential, but support should not be mistaken with being a self-proclaimed therapist. Leave that to the professionals, which might I add is a really great thing to try and encourage your partner to do! It’s also worth mentioning to see your own therapist during this time to help with supporting your partner and supporting yourself!
If you are finding it hard to sustain the relationship you’re in due to your partners poor mental health, it’s important to assess the following; are you able to seek your own help in becoming a stronger support person for yourself and your partner so the relationship can stay afloat during this rough time? Being able to understand your partners current condition makes it easier to see through the moments where they may raise their voice, not acknowledge you, not communicate properly, isolate themselves etc. Having the ability to recognise that their behaviour is a side effect to their mental health state and not a personal attack on you will really help with not only the relationship longevity but your own mental health. It can be really hard going through this with someone you love.
If you’re the one struggling in the relationship, it is so crucial to keep bringing everything back to yourself and not attempt to try and change everything on the outside to fix what is going on inside. This is one of the hardest things to do because as human we act on emotion, when we feel fear, sadness or anger we want to attach it to something physical to help in defining our own struggle. If you can try and let go of this and stay as present as you can, knowing that continued self-development will create new brain pathways, slowly overwriting negative old ones, you will withhold from throwing away things in your life that perhaps you may not ever get back again.
It can feel like things are never going to get better, but this really is the perfect opportunity to strengthen the relationship you have with not only your partner but yourself. Education is key, the more you’re aware of what your partner is experiencing the better chance you have at saving the relationship! The more you’re in tune with your own mental health if you’re the one battling with your head, then again, the better chance you have at saving the relationship! Work together, and not against each other. For me, going through this with my partner has only strengthened our bond and created a far more transparent relationship.
Remember, time heals all wounds. Be patient, everything will always work out the way it’s supposed to.