How Talking About Your Mental Health With Your Partner Can Improve Your Relationship
It can be difficult to open up and talk to your partner about your mental health, especially if you just started dating. You might worry that they'll see you differently, that the news will change your relationship, or that they might not be very understanding. But keep in mind, there are so many positives to being open and honest about anything you're struggling with — including improving your bond as a couple.
You shouldn't say anything before you're ready, of course. But if the timing feels right, and you'd like your partner to know, focus on these positives as a way of building up your confidence. And then decide on a time and place to have the conversation.
"[It] may be easier if you invite them to a therapy session or to your psychiatrist appointment," licensed marriage and family therapist Dr. Racine Henry, PhD, LMFT, tells Bustle. "They may have questions you don’t know how to answer and/or hearing the same conversation from a professional could give them a better understanding of what you are going through."
If your partner is supportive, and your relationship is healthy, you may notice that talking about your mental illness turns over a new leaf in your relationship, by providing a space for understanding, support, and trust. Here are a few more positives that can come about, once you decide to share, according to experts.
1. It Can Lead To More Trust
Feeling comfortable and safe enough to talk to your partner about your mental health shows a level of trust that's hard to deny. That's because "talking about your mental health is an act of vulnerability and in sharing this information with your partner, you’re showing that you trust [them] and are able to be transparent about all the various parts of you," Dr. Henry says.
Many couples, once they make mental health a part of their everyday conversation, begin to feel like they've truly got each other's backs.
2. They Can Offer Their Support
Whether you're making a few healthy lifestyle changes, seeing a therapist, or beginning medication, letting your partner know about it all can be beneficial to both of you.
"Having a partner who knows your mental health struggles allows [them] to support you in your treatment progress," Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "While your partner should never act as a therapist, [they] can support you in the plan and goals you formulate with a professional counselor."
You may even find that your partner enjoys providing support, in whatever way they can. As Dr. Henry says, "Your partner will hopefully become well-versed in how your mental health impacts your daily functioning. They will know what your medications are, when you should take them, they can support your therapeutic process, and just simply be there for you."
3. It Can Help Them Understand You On A Deeper Level
Opening up about your experiences with mental illness can prove to be quite meaningful, in that it helps your partner understand the "real" you. And that'll strengthen your connection tenfold.
As Bennett says, "Making yourself vulnerable and having a partner embrace that vulnerability and support you can be an amazing bonding moment to make you closer as a couple."
4. It Creates Space For Them To Open Up
"By initiating a conversation about what you are going through, your partner can reflect on their own mental health and perhaps feel safe to be open about what potential mental health concerns they may have," Dr. Henry says. "They may have had a friend or family member who also has mental health concerns and now see you as a safe person to talk to about that." And that can take your relationship to a whole new level.
5. It Creates A Sense Of Cohesion In Your Lives
If you've been on the fence about it, consider how good it'll feel to get this proverbial weight off your chest.
"Talking about your mental health with your partner may not only improve your relationship, but have positive effects on your mental health," licensed psychologist Dr. Danielle Forshee, tells Bustle. Once you say it, you can relax, and may even notice that your relationship improves.
"Overall, sharing intimate details of our lives with our partner creates a sense of integration and cohesion, which are necessary for a strong foundation," Dr. Forshee says. "In doing so, this also provides your partner an opportunity for you to be heard and understood, which is an essential human need in relationships, and creates emotional cohesion."
6. It Can Make It Easier To Have Deep Conversations
Even if you don't reveal everything you've ever been through during your first conversation — and really, you shouldn't expect yourself to — having that first chat can and will lead to more conversations. And ones that get increasingly deeper.
You may even notice this opens the door to deeper conversations in general. "When you bring up something like depression or a phobia, there are often more questions and doubts," Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle. But the sooner you can get used to discussing such things, the healthier and more meaningful your convos will become.
7. It Can Help Prevent Misunderstandings
When you're partner isn't on the same page as you regarding your current health status, they may not understand when you aren't feeling well. And you may notice that your relationship begins to suffer, as a result.
"Covering it up takes a significant toll on you, is very stressful, prevents you from living authentically with your partner and frankly is not fair to them," Dr. Klapow says. "If you are going to share your life with someone that means giving them enough information about you to allow them to help you, to support you, and to know what to do when you are doing great and not doing great."
Only you can decide how and when to tell your partner about a mental illness. While they may not "get it" at first, this can be an important step in a longer conversation that not only helps them understand what you're going through, but may even help bring you closer together.