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How Mental Health Affects Relationships

How we think and feel affects our behaviours and choices – many will agree. Feelings of sadness, pessimism and anxiety can manifest into exhaustion, restlessness, loss of appetite or over-eating and even chronic aches and pains. The mental strain an individual experiences during this time becomes a real problem not just for the person going through the mental and physical challenge, but also for their partner. considers how mental health can impact on your couple relationship…

People suffering depression often become withdrawn from loved ones, and can also become more negative towards their partner.  Mental health issues can place relationships under increased strain and stress. However, there are a number of things couples can try to reduce stress and show support for each other.

High levels of stress often accompany mental health problems, and both members of a couple may become increasingly stressed due to the strain on the relationship. Despite the negative impact of mental health issues on a relationship, there are some practical ways to try to improve the situation. Some small but effective things to try include going for a walk together, sharing a diary of things you are both grateful for that you update daily or as often as you can, and trying to cook healthy meals together (NHS, 2010). Here are a couple of other things you could do…


A key area that couples can work on is communication. Research suggests that confronting a partner over changes to their behaviour as a result of a mental health issue (e.g. becoming withdrawn, negative, irritable) can cause them to feel worse and less capable of overcoming their problems, and those of the relationship. Approaching the topic of mental health requires partners to be sensitive, open and patient. Ways to improve communication include listening to your partner more, encouraging them to talk about what they are experiencing, and acknowledging their feelings. Confronting partners about changes to their behaviour or personality can cause them to feel more hopeless and less capable of changing behaviour or working on the relationship (Baker and McNulty, 2015). Thus, it is important to be sensitive and understanding when engaging with your partner about their behaviour and mood.

You could start by talking to us on our online forum, from the 26,000 thousands dads on forum – you’ll probably come across someone who has been in your shoes but a little further in the journey to be able to offer you support.

Maintaining Independence

Partners, albeit with good intention, may inadvertently stop their loved ones from making progress, for example reducing a social obligation like visiting family by telling them they don’t need to go. Although this certainly may be necessary in some cases, it is better to talk with a partner and try to identify a way to deal effectively with the underlying problem or worry.

Protecting your partner is a sign of a healthy relationship, but over-protection can be dangerous, so be careful when actions lead to a reduction in social obligations and consider the long-term impact of taking over a partner’s tasks or responsibilities. While these actions are generally well-meaning, they may risk isolating those who are experiencing mental health issues, or causing them to become over-dependent on a partner. Focusing on problem-focused support, such as improving communication, can be a better approach for the couple as a whole (Bodenmann et al, 2008).

Research and Therapy

Other ways to show support can include reading up on a diagnosis and treatment and understanding that there could be a number of side-effects that will impact the relationship. Communicating openly with a partner about these can help lessen their worry during a difficult time.

Couple therapy may also be a useful option for some couples. Research suggests it can help couples identify areas to work on together and ways to support each other. This can help towards recovery and can also be useful longer-term if any issues return in the future. You could support your partner who is experiencing a mental health issue by attending medical appointments with them and making an effort to learn about any treatment they may undertake. Some medications can result in side effects that may further impact on the relationship, such as reduced sexual desire (Kennedy and Rizvi, 2009). Continuing to communicate and learn about these side effects can help reassure a partner who may be worried about this. Therapy can often help couples identify strategies for supporting each other during difficult periods. This is often achieved by identifying ways to improve communication and intimacy, which can facilitate recovery (Goering et al, 1992).


Didn’t find what you were looking for? Check out these other help and support articles:










NHS (2010). Couple Therapy for Depression Competency Framework. Available from:

Baker, L. R., & McNulty, J. K. (2015). Adding insult to injury: Partner depression moderates the association between partner-regulation attempts and partners’ motivation to resolve interpersonal problems. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin41(6), 839-852.

Bodenmann, G., Plancherel, B., Beach, S. R., Widmer, K., Gabriel, B., Meuwly, N., … & Schramm, E. (2008). Effects of coping-oriented couples therapy on depression: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology76(6), 944.

Kennedy, S. H., & Rizvi, S. (2009). Sexual dysfunction, depression, and the impact of antidepressants. Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology29(2), 157-164.

Kennedy, S. H., & Rizvi, S. (2009). Sexual dysfunction, depression, and the impact of antidepressants. Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology29(2), 157-164.

Goering, P.N., Lancee, W.J., Freeman, S.J. (1992). Marital support and recovery from depression. British Journal of Psychiatry 160:76–82.



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