Navigating the Storm Together: How to Support Your Partner Through Their Mental Health Journey
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Have you ever felt yourself caught in the dilemma of desperately wanting to help your partner facing mental health challenges, but being unsure how? This is a scenario that many of us can relate to—it’s a tough spot that often tests the strength of relationships. In times when your partner is struggling with their mental health, you need to know how to navigate this situation and help them in the ways they need. This blog post will explore the strategies you can use to support your partner during this tough time while keeping your connection intact.
People throw around the phrase “take care of your mental health” a lot, but what does this mean? Mental health is a multifaceted aspect of our overall well-being and encompasses emotional, psychological, and social dimensions. Mental conditions such as anxiety, depression, and trauma—just to name a few— manifest differently in each individual, which makes it important to address your partner’s struggles open-mindedly and be willing to learn and adapt to their needs. Understanding the basics of mental health is very helpful, but only goes so far…let’s break down the other important aspects you should consider when caring for a partner with mental health concerns.
The Importance of Communication
Committing to having open and honest communication is the golden rule when it comes to strengthening any relationship, and only becomes more crucial when helping your partner with their mental health. Initiate conversations about their feelings in a calm and non-judgemental way, making it clear you are there to listen without offering unsolicited advice or solutions.
Active listening is required to have an effective conversation on mental health. Pay attention not only to what your partner is saying but also to their verbal cues. Allow your partner to express their feelings without interruption and create a safe space for them to be open and honest without fear of you judging them. You’d be surprised how much of a difference this can make in encouraging someone to open up to you!
Educate Yourself on the Specifics
Mental health can get complicated. It is important to understand the nuances of what your partner is dealing with to the best of your ability. Although you won’t be able to step directly into their shoes—or their brains, in this case—-you can educate yourself about their condition(s), causes, treatments, and strategies to alleviate symptoms. You can watch videos and read articles from people with lived experience with these conditions in order to gain more insight. This knowledge will not only help you comprehend your partner’s experiences better, but also allow you to provide more informed support, and even advice if they ask for it.
Practice Patience and Empathy
The worst thing you can do when speaking with someone who is struggling with their mental health is put more pressure on them or dismiss their experiences. This is practically the equivalent of holding up a big, “I don’t care!” sign in front of your loved one who needs help and support. Instead, practice patience and empathy. To practice patience and empathy with your partner, try your best to understand that healing mentally takes time and support. If your partner broke their leg, you wouldn’t rush them to heal and not help them get around, would you? It’s the same for mental health! Make sure your partner knows that being around you is a safe space for them to talk about their feelings, and that you will be there for them every step of the way.
Encourage Healthy Habits
Practicing habits that improve your mental and physical health will not only make you feel great, but it may influence your partner to join in. Before your trip to the gym, ask if your partner wants to tag along. If you are doing yoga or meditating, talk about how effective it was to your partner, and send them a link to a guided meditation or yoga exercise they can do themselves. There are plenty of healthy habits you and your partner can practice together and have fun while doing, like cooking a healthy meal, practicing self-care with some face masks, and even just having an open and honest conversation about your days.
Recommend Professional Help
Although it is amazing for you to be there to support your partner through their journey with mental health, it is also important to recognize when a professional stepping in may be beneficial. Encourage your partner to seek therapy or counseling if they haven’t already. You can still support them while they are seeing a professional—offer to assist in finding a therapist for them, or even accompany them to appointments if they are comfortable. A mental health professional can provide insight they are trained to give, and ones that you may have never even thought of, that can help your partner tremendously. They may also help alleviate some of the responsibility you hold in supporting your partner.
Take Care of Yourself
Your partner may be struggling, but that doesn’t mean that your mental health should take the back burner. Helping someone with their mental health while your own is not at its best can feel draining, and often leads to burnout or even resentment. You don’t want either of these things, especially in a partnership. If you find that supporting your partner is becoming taxing to your mental health, prioritize your well-being and set boundaries. There is nothing wrong with saying “no,” in a polite way. Your partner may need to rely more heavily on a professional or another loved one for support, and you may need to, as well. This is completely okay! If your partner has your best interest in mind, they will understand and want you to get the help and support you deserve.
In conclusion, supporting your partner on their mental health journey is an ongoing process that requires patience, understanding, and commitment. Your support can mean so much for your partner and may help improve their overall well-being more than you imagine. Remember, though, to always take care of yourself on this journey, and that your support and advice cannot replace that of a mental health professional. Good luck!
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