A recent study found that those suffering from a mental health disorder are more likely to experience divorce.
From phobias and anxiety disorders to depression and substance abuse, there are myriad conditions that can affect one’s mental health. When these take hold, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy marriage.
The disorder becomes the elephant in the room and the third wheel on every date.
Still, you don’t have to become part of this statistic. Couples counseling exists to help partners work through their issues, find common ground and devise a plan to move forward.
Are you or your partner in the throes of mental illness? You aren’t alone. Around one in five Americans experiences it in a given year. That’s close to 44 million people or 18.5% of the country’s population.
Talking about the issue to a medical provider and licensed therapist is one of the first and most important steps you can take toward recovery. It’s even more poignant if your partner is by your side.
Today, we’re sharing a few reasons why couples therapy is a smart move to make when you want to push through the stronghold of mental illness and come out on the other side happier than ever.
Ready to learn more? Let’s get started.
1. It Isn’t Just For Married Folks
The traditional image of couples counseling is a married couple on a couch, sitting opposite a therapist, nodding in an armchair with a clipboard.
Though are instances in which this scenario is accurate, the scene is more flexible than you might think.
Put simply, couples counseling helps you work through issues you’re experiencing with any partner in your life. This might mean attending with your co-worker, your estranged sister, your child or your best friend.
Why would you want to go this route?
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry cites that children who grow up with a parent suffering from mental illness are more likely to develop one themselves.
When you’re suffering from a mental health disorder, your parenting abilities are impaired. The same goes for your professional capabilities, your ability to be a good friend, and your patience and empathy as a romantic partner.
Marriage counseling is one aspect of couples counseling, but it isn’t the only way to go. When you attend with anyone in your life who you feel you’ve drifted away from, you help bring visibility to your issues and discover ways to address them.
2. Couples Therapy Offers a Captive Audience
Sometimes, you just need a sounding board.
Talking about mental health concerns in your relationship gets those issues out in the open, dissuading them from pestering beneath the surface.
If you aren’t the one suffering, it can be difficult to relate to your partner. Likewise, your partner may resent you for not sharing those struggles or accuse you of being unsympathetic.
Even if these disagreements begin tiny, it doesn’t take long for them to snowball. Before long, communication can break down altogether, exacerbating feelings of isolation and loneliness often associated with mental illness.
In turn, this solitude plays a negative role in your mental health. Case in point? One recent report found a direct link between loneliness and an increased risk of developing dementia.
When you attend couples therapy with your partner, you aren’t talking over each other in the kitchen or mumbling a few words before bedtime. Rather, you’re in a controlled, neutral environment with a structured set of questions that can help keep your conversation on track.
You also have an unbiased listening ear.
Your counselor isn’t taking sides, passing judgment or interrupting. Use this opportunity to speak your mind, share your frustrations and work through your problems in an open manner.
3. Relationship Roles Come to Light
Do you believe that your partner adores everything about you? If so, couples counseling might not be as imperative as you think.
Yet, most of us would argue that there are at least a few things that our partner does that we don’t understand. This comes from the fact that he or she came from a different background, has varying life experiences and brings something unique to the relationship.
This is especially the case when a mental health disorder is involved.
Expecting your partner to behave like the ones in the movies can set you up for a lifetime of disappointment. It’s only when you begin to understand relationship dynamics that you can identify the role that the other person plays.
Your counselor can walk you through this process. As you get into it, take the time to consider how your current roles and responsibilities may change as your partner seeks medical support for his or her disorder.
4. It Encourages Empathy
One of the top reasons for divorce? One party feels misunderstood or undervalued.
Sometimes, the partner has long recognized these feelings of resentment. Other times, they come up for the first time in the therapist’s office.
A marriage counselor can help each person see the relationship from the other’s point of view. In turn, this can provide you with the insight and tools you need to meet your partner on an emotional level.
One recent study of 400 women and 172 men found that “unmet emotional needs” was a top reason for seeking a divorce. If there is a mental health issue at play in your relationship, it can be even more difficult to forge a deep emotional connection.
Yet, when you attend counseling together and hear firsthand how your partner feels, you’re better-positioned to be as empathetic toward their condition as possible. When all you see are the negative ways that the disorder impacts your workplace, family or home, it’s easy to become blind to the fact that it is a real medical condition.
This is why it’s helpful to attend couples therapy in conjunction with a formal treatment program. You can be by your partner’s side as he or she works through the process. This firsthand look can spur compassion and encourage understanding.
5. It’s a Neutral Mediating Space
You could take your issues to your family members or another trusted source. Still, try as they might to be unbiased, loyalties will show. This makes it difficult to have a calm and factual conversation that isn’t driven by emotion.
Your couples counselor wants to hear from both sides. You’ll each have an equal opportunity to speak your mind, bring your frustrations to light and share what’s bugging you. As a result, you’re more apt to be truthful and authentic in your responses.
The opposite tends to hold true when we’re speaking to someone we associate with on a personal basis. Both sufferers and their partners alike may be too embarrassed to bring up the issue or too afraid of being judged.
Take, for instance, the mental health disorder of substance abuse. Research reveals that there is a direct correlation between addiction and shame. If you were to bring your problems to anyone who knows you, this shame and guilt could threaten to take over every meeting.
Conversely, the therapist’s office is a safe space. Feeling run-down and agitated as the wife to someone with depression? Struggling with anxiety and feel like your business partner keeps putting more work on you?
You may hesitate to share these sentiments at home or in the office for fear or reprimand or reproach. During your counseling session, however? You can share away.
6. You’ll Learn How Your Actions Correlate
Marriage counselors do an excellent job of listening. However, they also do their fair share of teaching.
Yours will explain to you how your actions affect your partner’s and vice versa.
Think you’re acting on your own accord? Not hardly. We’re driven by stimuli and our movements and actions are linked in an intricate manner.
Similar to the old, stapled chains you used to make from construction paper as a child, one tear and the whole project changes. So powerful, too, are our words and deeds.
For instance, you might recount a day when you came home and found your partner suffering from a serious bout of depression. Laden with resent, you mumbled an unkind word before going to make dinner.
That small phrase was enough to deepen the depressive episode, which in turn caused you even greater strife. When we’re more aware of the impact of our words and behaviors have on others, we’re more inclined to make wiser, kinder choices moving forward.
7. It Can Be the Linchpin in Recovery Success
You did it! You attended couples therapy with your partner while he or she worked through mental health issues. You’re now at home with a therapy plan and a list of next steps.
The best part? You’re feeling closer than ever to your partner.
As such, you may be tempted to call and cancel your upcoming marital counseling or relationship counseling session, but don’t.
Think of couples therapy like strength training. If we trained our muscles hard one time, it would be unrealistic to expect them to remain powerful for the rest of our lives. Rather, we have to work to maintain the body we tried so hard for.
Attending therapy together, even when you’re feeling strong as a couple, is key. You might not need to attend as often, but making routine “check-in” appointments is key to maintaining your momentum.
If your loved one has completed a treatment program, the time afterwards is invaluable. From depression to addiction, it’s not uncommon for old bullies to rear their unwanted heads. Being there on both a physical and emotional level can help you identify any triggers and combat associated challenges as a team.
8. It Opens Your Eyes
Most of us have an image in our minds of a perfect marriage, a peaceful office, and a family without conflict.
As such, when we do experience ebbs and flows in those relationships, it can be difficult to stay the course. A marriage counselor can help explain what a healthy and productive relationship looks like, which includes the following cornerstones:
- Common goals
- “We” not “me” language
Your relationship might not be perfect, but does it include those elements in its foundation? If so, you’re off to a great start and you’ve got an excellent platform to work with.
Still, when you’re in the thick of them, mental health disorders can feel like an all-consuming tidal wave. It’s easy to let the negative and the worrisome shroud the good.
Your counselor will help you find common ground and go back to a more solid time. As you do, you may realize that you’re a stronger team than you thought.
Book a Couples Counseling Session Today
No two people are perfect. But, together, they can make a perfect pair.
Along the way, there are plenty of roadblocks that could threaten to usurp your efforts to bond with your partner. Mental health disorders are one of these, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness, as well as resentment.
Whether you’re the one suffering or you’re on the other side of it, there could be years of pain, heartache, and grief pent up inside. Couples counseling can help you verbally express these issues in a safe place.
Are you considering attending a session with your partner? Contact us today to see how we can help. From relationship coaching to alternative healing and online therapy, we’ve got a service and a solution for everyone.
Located in the Denver area and looking for a counseling team you can trust? Check out our guide on how to find the best one in the city!