The Positive Effects of Love on Mental Health: 5 Ways Your Relationship Can Aid in the Treatment Process
A healthy, loving relationship is protective against poor mental health, but it can also be a major support to those in treatment for a mental illness. Love and positive social support increase feelings of happiness and reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Being loved improves self-worth and feelings of being valued, which in turn aids treatment. Involvement of loved ones in treatment and care can also help strengthen relationships and improve adherence and outcomes.
Love is a powerful emotion, and it can be healing. While love can’t fix everything or prevent someone from developing a mental illness, it does support good overall physical and mental health.
The research clearly shows that loving and healthy relationships, as well as good social support from family and friends, are important for improving mental health.
If you have a spouse or partner and either one of you struggles with mental health issues, take comfort knowing that you support each other. Take active steps to get treatment, to participate in treatment, to listen and share feelings, and to resolve conflicts productively, and you can continue to live well together, even with mental illness.
1. Love—and a Healthy Relationship—Makes You Happy.
Love isn’t a cure-all for mental illness, but it is true that being in love and having a supportive spouse and a healthy intimate relationship promotes happiness. A happy, stable relationship, whether with a spouse or partner, is connected to better mental health, lower levels of stress, and less depression, according to research.
On the other hand, being in a bad relationship can worsen mental health. An unstable or unhealthy relationship with your partner can increase your stress, anxiety, and depression, and even thoughts of suicide. This fact further supports the benefits of a good relationship. Being in love and being happy in your relationship is automatically supportive of better mental health.
If one of you struggles with mental illness, know that your ongoing healthy relationship is helpful. It may not always seem that way, especially during a difficult episode, but maintaining a strong, loving relationship will aid and support healing and recovery from mental illness.
2. Being Loved Promotes Self-Worth.
Everyone should be able to find their own worth outside of relationships and other people. But, being loved does add to a sense of self-worth. Knowing that someone loves you means that you matter, that you have value, and that someone would be devastated if you were gone.
In the depths of a mental illness, it can be impossible to see your value, especially in the despair of depression or suicidal thoughts. In these terrible moments, having someone who loves you can be the lifeline you need. It may be what gets you into treatment when you otherwise would not bother.
3. Any Kind of Social Support Benefits Mental Health and Treatment.
The benefits of relationships are not restricted to romantic connections. Social support in any form has been proven over and over again to be good for mental health. Studies show that quality of social support is much more important than quantity. In other words, it’s better to have one or two strong social connections than a large network of acquaintances.
Research shows that a good social support network benefits mental health in several ways:
- Increased resilience in the face of stress
- Healthier lifestyle choices
- Better lifelong mental health
- Improved self-esteem
- Fewer negative effects of stress
Most importantly for someone needing care for mental illness, a strong social support group improves adherence to treatment plans. You’re more likely to stick with treatment for mental illness if you have one or more healthy relationships backing you.
4. A Healthy Relationship Supports Healthy Habits.
A healthy relationship and good support network correlate with adherence to mental health treatment, which indicates a bigger trend: a positive relationship with your partner supports all kinds of healthy habits.
If you are in a healthy and happy intimate relationship, you are more likely to adopt and stick with healthy lifestyle choices. These include eating well, exercising, and avoiding substance abuse. All of these physical health habits promote good mental health. Your relationship may even encourage you to engage in more positive mental health habits, like opening up about your feelings and engaging in productive conflict resolution.
Focus on encouraging healthy habits in each other for good mental health. Find areas in which you can both improve, such as drinking less or getting adequate sleep. Work on improving those habits together and you will see improvements in mental health as well.
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5. Partners Can Be an Active Part of Treatment.
Mental illness is not a one-person issue. If you have a mental illness, it impacts the people close to you. Your relationships also impact your mental health. Everything is connected. This means that the people you love, particularly your spouse or partner, can and should be involved in treatment.
A good treatment facility involves loved ones for support of the resident and for support of the family as a whole. When your partner is involved in treatment, it strengthens your relationship and your mental health.
Being active in treatment doesn’t look the same for everyone. For some couples, it’s useful to engage in regular relationship therapy. For others, support groups or group therapy sessions are more helpful. Still others may benefit more from simply visiting on family days and showing their love and support by taking an interest in their partner’s treatment process.
What Does a Healthy, Loving Relationship Look Like?
It’s important to understand that all these benefits—these ways that a relationship can support mental health and treatment—only apply to healthy relationships. This may seem obvious, but when in a bad relationship it can be hard to see the issues. These are the signs of a healthy relationship:
- You trust each other
- You are both able to share your feelings and thoughts without fear of ridicule
- You respect each other
- Each partner in the relationship values it and makes time for each other
- You listen to each other and are able to compromise when disagreements arise
- Neither person is wholly dependent on the other
- You have boundaries
- You can argue or disagree without threats of violence
- There is no abuse, physical, emotional, or otherwise
Don’t Forget Self-Love
It’s almost a cliché to say that you cannot love anyone else until you love yourself, but there is a lot of truth in the statement. The healthiest relationships are between two people who rely on each other but are also independent. They love each other, but they also love and value themselves.
If you or your partner struggles with a mental illness, take time to focus on self-care as well as care for each other. Be kind and compassionate to yourself, just as you would to your partner. Forgive your flaws, but also work on self-improvement. Embrace your best traits and appreciate them.
One of the best things you can do for positive self-care is to get treatment for mental illness. Realize that it is not a flaw you have but a real health condition that requires treatment. Take time out of your life to try residential care. If your partner truly loves you, they will support the decision and get involved in any way that is useful.
Love is powerful and healing, but no relationship, no matter how great, can fully heal mental illness. If you are struggling, reach out for professional services. A residential facility can help both of you work together to become stronger, healthier, and happier.
Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive treatment for men and women struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, and other mental health issues. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Los Angeles program and how we can help you or your loved one start on the path to lasting wellness.