Mental health and relationships are closely linked. Healthy, happy relationships are good for your mental wellbeing and vice-versa. At the same time, mental health issues can impact your relationship, and unhappy relationships can easily lead to mental health challenges.
Building a healthy relationship requires time and effort. It should be worth it, too. Your partner is someone who you plan to spend the rest of your life with.
Think back, do you remember when you got into your relationship with your partner? It was romantic; you didn’t argue and nothing your partner did could get on your nerves.
Fast forward five, 10, 20 years or more, and it might look a little different. You might argue, find your partner annoying or the spark might be gone.
When you’re falling in love, things often can’t be better, but over time, your relationship can change. This is natural, but how you deal with changes is what’s important.
Whether you think you have a perfect relationship, or if you think it needs work, there are steps you can take which could improve or maintain your relationship.
6 tips to build a stronger relationship (and improve your mental health)
1) How to tell if you’re unhappy in a relationship, and what to do
It’s important to talk about unhappy relationships. You might notice when things are going well, but you also need to keep an eye out for when they’re not.
The sooner you spot when something isn’t quite right, the sooner you can take steps to address the issue. Try not to assume something is a temporary road bump.
Keep an eye out for some of the key signs that you’re in an unhappy relationship and remember, sometimes the signs are things you least expect.
For example, couples that don’t argue may be unhappy. This seems counterintuitive at first, but couples that don’t argue may find they don’t care anymore.
Some of the other signs include:
- Lack of romance e.g. no date nights
- Not feeling appreciated
- Prioritising your friends and family over your partner
- Sex life is lacking
- You can’t think of any positives in your relationship
- You feel alone in your relationship
If any of these signs seem familiar, it could be time to address them. Giving these five following steps a go could help to boost your bond with your partner.
2) Intimacy and mental health: the importance of being vulnerable
When it comes to relationships, vulnerability means taking a risk. It means talking to your partner about something that might leave you feeling hurt, but there’s also a chance to build deeper connections.
Vulnerability plays a key role in happy relationships. It helps to build close, deep and authentic bonds with your partner and prevents misunderstandings.
Lack of vulnerability can leave you and your partner feeling disconnected, frustrated and far away from each other. It can also cause arguments.
To be more open and vulnerable with your partner, you can share your fears, hesitations and anything else of importance going on in your life.
Opening up can be difficult at first. If this is the case, it might be easier discussing the vulnerability itself. For example, talking about how you feel about being vulnerable.
This might act as a natural segue and, once you feel more comfortable, you may start to share deeper fears and feelings you feel.
3) Spending time apart
This may seem counter-intuitive, but spending time apart can give couples space and strengthen the appreciation they feel for each other.
Spending time apart from your partner can also help you both maintain a level of independence which is important for personal growth.
This doesn’t mean spending weeks apart, but some people need more time to do their own thing, so figuring out how much time and when can help.
Joining a club or taking a weekly class to learn something you’re interested in can be a good option to pencil in some structured time apart.
Alternatively, implementing short spells walking, running or cycling each day can give you frequent spells of breathing space.
4) Going to bed at the same time
This might sound simple, but it’s common for couples to go to bed at different times. Once in bed, it’s also common for couples to go to sleep at different times.
Going to bed at the same time can support a happy, healthy relationship for a number of reasons, many of which you might not have thought about before.
The first is that it can encourage intimacy. Going to bed at the same time can encourage couples to pillow talk, cuddle and show signs of affection.
Going to bed at the same time can also give couples time to discuss arguments they’ve had. It’s not unusual for arguments to spill over into the next day, but going to bed at the same time can leave couples with no option but to talk it through.
Climbing into bed at the same time can also boost your sex life. Many couples associate their bed with sleep or sex, so getting into bed together can make a difference.
5) Healthy conflict
Every couple argues. Even couples that think their relation is perfect will argue every now and then. It’s a natural part of any relationship.
One of the things that sets healthy relationships apart is how couples deal with conflict. There are ways to vent anger and frustration that limit lasting damage to a relationship.
Sticking to “I” and “me” statements can help. Using these can reduce hostility and defensiveness, leading to more civilised discussions.
Your partner may become defensive if you are using the word “you”. They may feel like they need to respond in the same way.
If something is annoying you, it may not be best to bring it up when your partner is stressed or angry.
6) Keeping things fresh
It’s not uncommon for couples to feel their relationship is stale. Like anything in life, repetition can lead to boredom.
Keeping things fresh can change this. It can help to revive a stale relationship or even prevent it becoming so in the first place.
Trying something new – like going to a dance class – is simple. Alternatively, spice up something you do on a regular basis, like making dinnertime more romantic.
It’s important for couples to be open to new ideas. That means considering and trying new things your partner suggests instead of saying “no”.
Surprising your partner with nice gestures and small gifts is another way to keep things fresh. For example, making your partner breakfast in bed.
Need some extra support with your mental health and relationships?
If you’ve tried to take steps to address the issues with your mental health and relationships, or even if there are no issues and you just want to build a better relationship, you can seek the help of a professional.
Access Psych can support individuals with relationship issues. If you want to enquire about our counselling services, call us on 1800 277 924 or email email@example.com.
If there’s an immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please call 000.
If you need someone to talk with now, call:
- Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 or chat online at beyondblue.org.au
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
Need to talk to someone?
Mental health and relationships are important. There’s no shame in looking for support when you run into difficulties with these two pillars of your life.
If you want talk to one of the Access Psych team, take a look at our Registered and Provisionally Registered Psychologists near you.
Alternatively, if you have any questions about Access Psych and what else we can do for you, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.
When you’re ready, you can book an appointment online, speak to one of our friendly team on 1800 277 924 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The information provided in this document is general in nature and is intended to be used for information purposes only. While we have tried to ensure the accuracy of the information published, no guarantee can be given that the information is free from error or omission or that it is accurate, current or complete.
The information published is not, and should not be relied on as, health or treatment advice. The diagnosis and treatment of any mental illness requires the attention of a physician or other properly qualified mental health professional. If you are seeking diagnosis or treatment of any other mental illness, you should consult a physician or mental health professional. You should not delay in seeking, or disregard, professional health advice because of something you have read in this document.