When you love someone, and they love you back, it’s a pretty amazing thing! Healthy relationships are built on open communication and trust which means you tell each other the good, bad, and everything in between. But, if you suffer from a mental health condition, it might not be so easy opening up. You might worry about how your partner will react or if it will change the way they look at you. For some, it’s hard even to know how to start the conversation or bring up the topic.
It’s normal to experience fear and worry about how they’ll react to something so sensitive, personal, and possibly unfamiliar. If you’re struggling with your mental well-being or have been diagnosed with a condition such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, the last thing you need is for your spouse to be judgmental or dismissive.
To alleviate some of that pressure, here are a few tips for talking to the one you love most about your mental health:
Find the right time to talk to them
It’s likely never going to feel like the perfect time for you to talk about your mental health. So really, there is no “right” time. But you want to both be in a physical and mental space where they can listen and ask questions. That said, don’t wait until you are in the middle of an argument or when your partner is busy or stressed out.
Be prepared and help them to understand
Help your partner understand how your struggles or condition affects your life daily. Use feelings and words they will understand to help them empathize with what you are enduring. This is especially important if you are dealing with something they have no knowledge of or experience with.
For instance, you might explain your anxiety as a persistent, unshakable nervousness in your day-to-day life. You might tell them how you feel exhausted or overwhelmed much of the time. Or, if you have depression, you might explain how it feels like something heavy is always weighing you down. Explain how your depression makes it difficult to enjoy life and feel happy, even when you can’t explain why.
It can help to write down some talking points first because sometimes your emotions can cause you to forget important bits of information.
Help them understand mental health better in general.
Take this opportunity to de-stigmatize mental health. Remind your partner that mental illness and mental health care are not just for people who have a diagnosis. Everyone experiences anxiety, depression, or other difficult life transitions – including your spouse. You don’t need a formal diagnosis to open up to your partner about what’s weighing on your mind. What matters is that your symptoms affect you enough to bring it up and that you need support to deal with it.
Keep the focus on action and get them involved!
When talking about it with your spouse, explain the specifics of what you’re doing to address your mental health. Whether that’s through medication, psychotherapy, or any other alternative therapies you utilize, let them know that you would appreciate their support along the way too.
Get your spouse involved by letting them know what activities you’ve been incorporating into your daily life that help you. Ask them for ideas on self-care or stress-relieving activities that you can do together. Some ideas include cooking dinner together, watching a funny show, or taking walks outside. By supporting you by doing these simple things together, you can nurture a more fulfilling relationship at the same time.
Finally, make sure your spouse understands that as much as you want them by your side much of the time, it’s equally as important for you to prioritize yourself. Should your partner be critical or dismissive, it may have more to do with their own experiences dealing with mental health struggles. Despite how things go in the first round, give your partner time to take it in and process.
There is always hope, and therapy is a route to consider taking for yourself no matter what!