• Relationships can be challenging when one or both partners are dealing with mental health issues.
  • Effective communication and conflict resolution are often hindered by mental health struggles.
  • Emotional distance and misunderstanding are common in relationships affected by poor mental health.
  • Seeking therapy can provide tools and strategies for supporting a partner with mental health concerns.
  • Knowing when to walk away from a relationship affected by mental health issues is crucial for personal well-being.

Relationships can be tough enough to navigate without one or both partners suffering from faltering mental health. While it’s easy to feel overwhelmed at the thought of identifying and understanding mental health dynamics in a relationship, it’s very doable. 

A great first step is to practice mindfulness skills and strategies, which help bring awareness to your actions and the actions of others. And of course, it’s always helpful to work with a couples therapist or individual counselor to encourage accountability, growth, and continued self-development.

Learn more below about how to support your mental health needs and those of your partner while you’re in a relationship.

How Does Bad Mental Health Affect Relationships?

Bad mental health can significantly impact relationships in various ways. Here are some of the most common effects:

  • Communication barriers: Mental health issues can create obstacles in effective communication between partners.
  • Increased conflicts: The stress and misunderstandings stemming from mental health problems can lead to more frequent arguments.
  • Emotional distance: Mental health struggles can cause one or both partners to become emotionally distant.
  • Lack of understanding: Partners might struggle to understand each other’s needs and feelings, leading to misunderstandings and resentment.
  • Secondary stress: One partner’s mental health issues can cause stress, anxiety, or depression in the other, further straining the relationship.

Recognizing these impacts is the first step in addressing them and working towards a healthier connection—not a toxic relationship.

What Kind of Problems Can Depression Cause in Relationships?

Loving someone with a mental illness isn’t always challenging, but it can be due to various factors. It’s important to remember that both you and your partner are doing the best you can under difficult circumstances. 

Compassion and understanding go a long way in maintaining a supportive and healthy relationship despite the challenges you may face, which include:

  1. Emotional instability: Mood swings and emotional instability can create unpredictable and stressful situations.
  2. Communication issues: Mental health issues can make it difficult for the person to express their needs or understand their partner’s emotions.
  3. Dependency: There may be periods when the partner with mental illness becomes overly dependent, causing strain on the other partner.
  4. A lack of self-care: Either partner may struggle with maintaining or developing a self-care routine, which can impact the relationship dynamic and mental health.
  5. Stigma and misunderstanding: Society’s stigma around mental health can add pressure and misunderstanding, complicating the relationship further.

Maintaining a relationship where mental illness is a factor requires empathy, understanding, and a willingness to seek and provide support.

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When Should You Walk Away From Someone With Mental Illness?

Everyone has their own boundaries—so it’s up to you to decide when it’s time to end a relationship. However, you may consider walking away from someone with mental illness if:

  1. The relationship is abusive: If there is any form of abuse, whether emotional, physical, or verbal, it’s crucial to prioritize your safety and well-being.
    *If you are experiencing intimate partner violence and feel you or a loved one is in danger, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline—they can give you immediate support and resources while helping you stay safe. You can also always call 911 for emergency and urgent assistance.
  2. Lack of effort: If the person is not seeking help or making any effort to manage their mental health, it is negatively affecting your life.
  3. Constant distress: If the relationship causes continuous emotional distress and impacts your mental health negatively.
  4. No improvement in relationship dynamics over time: Despite efforts and professional help, if there is no improvement or willingness to change, it might be time to consider ending the relationship.

Is It Okay to Break Up With Someone Because of Mental Health?

Yes, it is okay to break up with someone because of mental health, especially if the relationship is causing significant stress or harm, or is beyond repair despite efforts to address the issues. Prioritizing your well-being is essential, and sometimes ending a relationship is necessary for both parties to heal and grow.

Strategies for Supporting Your Partner’s Mental Health

Many strategies can be helpful for you in supporting your partner’s mental health. One of the best ways to start is to have an open, supportive, honest conversation with your partner regarding how they best receive feedback and if they would like for your conversation to be one that’s focused on listening/supporting or is more of a constructive conversation around problem-solving. 

This makes sure that they’re communicating their personal wants and needs and that you’re in an open space to receive them. Making sure that you’re listening to them and are not distracted, are repeating back to them and/or writing down what they said, and are proactively making time and space for these conversations are some great strategies to allow your partner to discuss with you ways that you can best support them.

What Are Some Communication Tools for Couples Facing Mental Health Challenges?

Some great communication tools for couples facing mental health challenges that are impacting their relationship involve the use of “I” messages. “I” messages focus on describing how an objective demonstrated behavior that you’ve observed in your partner makes you feel without placing blame on the other individual.

For example: 

“I feel upset when you cancel our plans at the last minute because it makes me feel unimportant. I would appreciate it if you could let me know in advance if you need to change our plans.”

This message communicates the speaker’s feelings and a specific behavior they would like to change, without accusing or blaming the other person. Communicating in this fashion enables you to express yourself clearly and directly without hurting your partner or contributing to any feelings of defensiveness they might have.

Make sure that when you communicate with your partner, you are not distracted by your phone, a task, a chore, or another person. Give your partner the gift of increased intimacy by engaging them with your full attention.

Seeking Professional Help: Therapy and Counseling Options

Couples counseling offers professional therapy to address mental health issues and improve relationship dynamics for couples. Therapists can help couples develop effective communication skills to overcome barriers and reduce conflicts. 

Counseling sessions focus on resolving conflicts healthily and constructively. Therapy provides a safe space for individuals to express their feelings and receive emotional support. Therapists offer strategies to manage stress, anxiety, and depression that can affect relationships. 

Additionally, education and guidance on mental health issues foster understanding and empathy between partners. Encouragement and tools for self-care are provided to improve overall well-being and relationship satisfaction.

If you or your partner are seeking professional support in managing the effects of mental health conditions or everyday stressors, reach out to your local office or schedule online here.