10 Ways Mental Health Can Affect Relationships: What Marriage Counselors Should Know
Awareness and understanding of mental health conditions has grown in recent years; accelerated further during the pandemic. These issues can have a dramatic impact on a person’s life. Everything from mundane daily tasks to important life goals can be made so much more difficult by mental health issues. But perhaps the biggest issues can emerge in relationships and marriages, where the impact of a mental health condition can challenge even the strongest of relationships. What should counselors be aware of when working with couples and families regarding both partners’ mental health? Learn what issues to be aware of and how the right type of insurance can protect you while you practice.
10 Ways Mental Health Can Affect Marriage and Relationships
1. Breakdowns in Communication
When one party in a relationship is suffering from poor mental health, it can have a big impact on communication. People struggling with extreme mental health issues may struggle to articulate themselves or communicate their feelings, making conversation difficult and causing the relationship to flounder. Depression can cause apathy toward communicating and anxiety can cause unfounded mistrust between a couple. These examples show how misunderstandings may let grievances fester, leaving both members of the couple feeling isolated and lonely.
Since good communication is key to a healthy relationship, this can be one of the main impacts of a decline in mental health. This is just one reason it’s so important for therapists, counselors, and other professionals to understand various mental health conditions and how they may show up in struggling patients. Providers may need to tailor their tactics for encouraging frank and open conversation to the individuals’ specific diagnoses. Both during sessions and in their advice for how the couple can carry those strategies into their daily lives. Basic tactics to improve communication and open more channels of conversation are some of the most effective methods of helping a couple work through a mental health issue.
2. Addiction and Substance Abuse
Addiction and mental health issues go hand in hand and can feed into each other, forming a vicious circle that exacerbates both issues. In fact, 29% of people suffering from mental disorders also struggle with addiction. Many people struggling with mental health problems resort to substance abuse to numb the pain or take their minds off their situation. Other times, substance abuse can cause or exacerbate mental health issues.
It’s very difficult for someone struggling with substance abuse to address the problem without outside help so it’s common for marriage and family counselors to hear about addiction issues. In some cases, more specialized addiction services may be required to help get to the root of the issue, so the therapist may refer the patient(s) out to a different professional. Therapists and counselors occasionally face malpractice lawsuits due to failure to refer, so it’s important for the professional to protect themselves by remaining within their scope. Professional liability insurance (also known as malpractice insurance) covers this type of allegation.
3. Job Loss
Job loss can be a key issue for people suffering from poor mental health. Job loss is often a key driver for mental health problems. Alternatively, mental health issues can cause job loss. The loss of a job is a big event in anyone’s life, sometimes causing a domino effect.
It’s not just the absence of a paycheck, but also the removal of a daily structure and a reason to get out of bed. It can be the loss of a career, removing an incentive to keep pushing through the hard times. Perhaps worse of all, the loss of status can be crushing. We spend the most time at work. Whether you are someone who’s job is a major part of your identity or not it can be extremely difficult to adapt to unemployed life. Therapists can help their patients through hard times by understanding the patients relationship with their job, whether it was just a job to pay the bills, or a key part of their identity.
4. Financial Problems
In an ideal world, money wouldn’t matter when it comes to love. But the fact is, financial problems are one of the biggest causes of divorce. Mental health problems can cause financial issues, perhaps removing inhibition when spending, or lowering the desire to regularly check bank statements and other tasks necessary to maintaining good finances. Other issues like job loss or addiction can also play their part.
Sudden debts, the threat of bankruptcy, and even visits from repo companies are all huge and frightening events that can further deepen mental health issues and cause cracks in a relationship. Conversation and accessing professional help, both from a mental health and financial perspective, can be a great way to address some of these issues before they develop and become unmanageable.
We all grow up in a variety of environments and cultures which shape our world view and in turn our expectations of what a relationship will be like. As a relationship grows and life happens, the expectations that one places on their partner may also change. This can cause tension in a relationship. If one person doesn’t participate the way the other person wants and expects regarding housework, family time, relaxation and even alone time, it can be upsetting. Resentment can build up on both sides and contribute to communication issues in a relationship.
Day to day life forms the foundations of a relationship and if a couple feels resentment continuously, it can have a big impact. This is another good reason to encourage open communication between affected parties, as better communication can sometimes help to address these issues. When resentment is left to simmer without being addressed, it can only grow worse, feeding into itself to create an even greater problem, and turn into contempt.
With the best will in the world, both parties in a relationship are likely to get worn down and fatigued if one is suffering from acute mental health issues. Dealing with the constant struggle of a mental health condition or trying to help a partner work through some of the hardest times in their life can be exhausting.
It’s important to remember how draining it can be both to live with one of these conditions and to be the support person to someone going through it. Both parties need to be encouraged to rest and take time out, giving themselves and each other treats once in a while. If each partner understands what helps the other to recharge and feel appreciated small gestures can go a long way in nurturing the relationship.
7. Breakdown of Friendships and Family Relationships
When you’re in a relationship or married, it’s more than just your relationship with your partner that’s important. Each party has to maintain relationships with their own people from mutual friends to family members. While every married couple has probably had trouble with an in-law from time to time, mental health issues can make these problems worse, which can impact on the main relationship.
If a person is in a relationship and their partner doesn’t want to engage with any of their friends or family, it can be difficult, and add further tensions to an already hard situation. Therapy can help someone in this situation overcome their reluctance and communicate more freely with a wider range of people. A good counselor may be able to suss out which other relationships are important in a person’s life. Staying in contact with a best friend or siblings may help a patient weather the mental health storm.
Anyone lucky enough to have children knows how important parenting is to a relationship. A marriage is strongest when both parents pull their weight, doing all the things big and small required for parenting kids. But mental health issues can impact a person’s ability to fulfill their duties as a parent. After all, doing a school run or taking the kids to the park might be difficult for someone suffering from mental health problems. Parenting in itself can be relentless and draining, which can lead to minor mental health issues. Not to mention actual post-partum depression and anxiety.
Counseling and therapy can help someone suffering from mental health problems overcome some of the issues which might be stopping them from fulfilling their parenting duties, giving them the coping mechanisms needed to work through the tough times. Open consultations with both members of the relationship can also help establish clear expectations and work out ways for family life to run more smoothly.
9. Increased Number of Arguments
Arguments in a relationship are natural. Even the most loving of couples will experience them from time to time. But poor mental health can increase the number of arguments a couple has, leading to growing tensions in the home. A person suffering from mental health problems may not have the tools or energy to communicate properly, while the other partner may grow fatigued of always being the support person and feeling as though they must minimize their own problems.
Although this is an understandable and expected development in a relationship in which one or both parties is struggling with their mental health, it’s a situation that could have serious implications for the relationship and worsen the mental health issues. Professional counseling can often help in this regard, opening up new lines of communication, introducing coping strategies, and clearing the air after a series of disputes. How a couple handles conflict is a strong indicator of a healthy or unhealthy relationship.
10. Loss of Intimacy
Relationships are built on intimacy, both physical and emotional. Mental health problems can have a big impact on this crucial element of a relationship. When someone is struggling mentally, they may not want to talk about their issues and could even reject simple physical touch, like the offer of a hug, or holding hands. In this case, their partner may feel unloved or rejected and the cycle only worsens.
Although it can be a touchy subject, addressing the loss of intimacy is key for therapists and relationship counselors. Improving intimacy will strengthen a relationship overall and could help to address mental health problems themselves.
Professional Liability Insurance for Marriage and Family Counselors
Dealing with the manifold problems of mental health issues in a relationship and offering advice can be challenging and difficult. Occasionally mistakes are made, and when dealing with people who are unstable there’s always the risk of a lawsuit. Professional liability for counselors and therapists protects you from a variety of lawsuits, covering lawyer fees, court costs and paying for your defense in such cases. Even certain mistakes and negligence can be covered.
Practice in peace by securing insurance that’s simple, fast and affordable. At NOW Insurance we make it easy to shop for and purchase a policy that’s tailored to you and your specific practice. Get an online quote today in under 3 minutes from our simple online application.