When Your Partner Struggles with Mental Health
We create dynamics in all the relationships we have. Relationship dynamics can develop from the ways in which we relate with others and with ourselves. How do we express our feelings? Are there any feelings we tend to express more than others? How do we communicate our needs?
How do we respond to our partner’s feelings? How does our partner express his/her feelings? How do these ways of expressing feelings and needs create the way in which we relate with one another? The latter question refers to our dynamic, such as, do we fight a lot? Or do we remain silent and then explode? Each partner’s emotional and mental state has an impact on the relationship. Our mental state has to do with how we feel about ourselves, what we think about ourselves, how we see others and the world, thus how we interpret what comes from the world and how we respond to it.
Sometimes this dynamic is defined by an inability of one or both partners to cope with a stressful situation formed by one, or both partners. Which can create a dynamic that could lead to a toxic negative cycle. There is extensive research that shows how the mental health of each partner can affect marital satisfaction and also how marital satisfaction can have an effect on mental health. When there is mental illness in a relation (from one or both partners) there is a lower satisfaction with the relationship, and the less satisfied we are in a relationship, the less healthy we are mentally. As we can see, our mental health has to do with how we relate to ourselves in relation to others, how we are able to regulate the energy and information flowing within us and between others. Daniel Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine talks about the ways in which we define ourselves goes beyond our own bodies as it can also be formed by our relationships. We can both impact and be impacted by our relationships, mentally.
Here are 4 characteristics of a healthy mind:
- Are you able to cope with the stressors of life? A healthy mind has resources that allow us to regulate our emotions and not explode or feel completely overwhelmed and disorganized with change.
- It is coherent as it can recognize positives and negatives and find a balance in situations.
- It is energized and has vitality. It appreciates life.
- It is stable. Even though there are changes in life, a healthy brain will allow one to have a sense of stability, and consistency of self.
An unhealthy mind cannot cope with change as it is disorganized and cannot find inner resources to self-soothe and regulate. This inability to self-regulate leads to poor communication, intense reactions, extreme interpretations of what is being said, and falling into a position of the victim.
Many times, an unhealthy mind cannot recognize its inner workings… it is not able to recognize how it works as it has not developed the capacity to look inside and understand how it works. As humans, we have an amazing ability to look inside and think about our thoughts and feelings. We have the capacity to recognize how our mind works. This awareness is critical in determining what is happening inside of us, how we are feeling, and what we need from others and from ourselves. If we are stuck in a relationship with someone who cannot look inside, we need to figure out what has us stuck in such a relationship. Only by recognizing our own inner workings, our individual needs and how this relationship serves us a purpose, we can stop this cycle. Only then we can differentiate ourselves from our partner, see how our reactions feed into one another and recognize how our partner’s mental health impacts us. When we can see that our partner’s response is about their inability to regulate and be aware of their own inner world, then we can begin to realize that it is not about us. It is not that we are not important or not good enough, or that we are a bad person for wanting and needing something different for ourselves. When we realize this, only then we can free ourselves and be able to help ourselves and our partners, and not fall into the negative ending circle that goes round and round and leads us feeling worse and worse about ourselves.
We need to take care of ourselves. We need to be aware of what happens inside of us, what our emotions and feelings are telling us about our needs, we need to be mindful of our insecurities and how this relationship and the cycle feeds into them. We need to be aware of how our insecurities can lead us to respond in specific ways and make certain decisions and choices in life. We need to be aware of how our insecurities play a role in the dynamic we establish, and the type of relationship we are in.
As we start to be better with ourselves, we can help our partner in a very different way. We can be more compassionate towards them and help them find the help they need to be a better version of themselves.
This is a process of growth for all. It is essential that you do the following,
- Learn about the disorder and understand the implications, prognosis, and etiology and see how learning about these aspects has an impact on you and how you see your partner.
- Find groups to talk about your experiences and coping strategies.
- Find therapy to learn about yourself in this relationship and dynamic. Give time to yourself. Take care of yourself.
- Make any living arrangements you need to make to feel better.
About Dr. Castaños:
Dr. Castaños is a bilingual, award-winning Marriage and Family Therapist with 18 years of experience and a Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy. She is world-renowned for helping couples, families, and individuals heal from past wounds, and guide them to establish safe, deeply connected relationships. Dr. Castaños also helps couples that are stuck in negative cycles with issues such as difficulties communicating, loss of passion, disconnection, and infidelity. Individuals with issues such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, anger and PTSD also seek Dr. Castaños for her guidance. Dr. Castaños also works with families who are in business together, helping address conflicts that can interfere with their operations and value.
Written by Dr. Carolina Castaños, Ph.D.