How to Support Your Partner’s Mental Health Goals
Do you want to know how to support your partner's mental health goals? And how you can do it without making them feel bad when they don’t follow through? Whether your partner is suffering from depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder, supporting your partner through mental health issues can be difficult to navigate.
Ask Your Partner How You Can Help
The first step to supporting your partner’s goals is gaining an understanding of how your partner wishes to be supported. It seems like a simple answer, but it’s important to communicate with your partner. What do they feel would be motivating to them?
You can start a conversation with these questions:
- What are some of their mental health goals?
- What kind of support would they appreciate?
- Would they appreciate reminders of their goals?
- Do they prefer if you say something when they don’t follow through? If so, how do they want to be approached?
For your partner, approaching them about their follow-through might be triggering. It also might make them feel guarded, and like they don’t want to share their goals with you. And if you’re not careful, it may make them feel less close to you and more closed off. And in turn, it might make them less likely to want you to join them as a partner in furthering their mental health.
Converse With Your Partner’s Therapist (With Their Permission)
If they see a therapist, inquire about going to a session with them. I think most therapists would welcome this, because it gives the therapist a chance to explain their point of view about how you can best support your partner, specifically. Your partner’s therapist will know more about the goals that their client has set.
Focus on Your Partner’s Progress
Trying to tell your partner what they need to do, or how they should be feeling, is likely going to make the situation worse. It’s not a good idea to project your ideas of what they should be doing or feeling.
Here are a few rules of thumb for positively supporting your partner’s mental health goals:
Offer encouragement when they follow through.
Speak positively when you notice that they’re making positive steps. It’s a lot easier to encourage behavior that we want than it is to judge or make comments about things that we don’t want. The easiest way to do this is by offering verbal praise when you notice them following through on their goals.
Come alongside your partner.
Create your own healthy habits. If they’re open to the idea, pick up positive habits together. Just make sure not to pressure them. If one of their goals is to stick to a schedule or go to bed on time, set a bedtime schedule together.
Have healthy habits that you do as a couple. If you’re in a partnership, everything that one partner does influences the other. If you don’t have your own healthy habits and mental health goals, it’s hard to expect your partner to have those goals.
Let them know you support them no matter what.
Don’t judge them for their setbacks and mistakes. Think of how you would feel if every time you didn’t follow through on a goal, someone made a comment about it. It’s a downer, and it wouldn’t make you feel very motivated in the long run.
Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation
Extrinsic motivation is when we do things because of outside influence. For example, when we do something because other people put pressure on us, or make us do things.
The best way for someone to make positive changes in their life is to tap into intrinsic motivation. It has to be something that they want and they’re motivated to do without a bunch of outside influence.
And the worst thing you can do is to be controlling and try to motivate your partner extrinsically. Pushing your partner to follow through or setting goals for them is going to backfire.
Just like children, adults tend to push back when they feel pressured. We don’t like to be told what to do. We’re adults and we want to take ownership of our lives. It doesn’t feel good when someone is telling us what we’re doing right or wrong. That should be an intrinsic personal choice. Pressuring your partner or making comments when they don’t follow through is more like making them avoid their goals.
Seek Your Own Support and Self-Development
Seeing other people go for their goals and make positive changes is usually a very motivating factor. By doing your own work and self-development, you’re also encouraging your partner.
Sometimes, the act of “fixing” our partner can become a way to escape from our own uncomfortable feelings and personal growth. Dig deep and ask yourself, what is my need for my partner to reach their goals? Am I focusing on them so I don’t have to focus on myself? Especially in relationships, it’s easy to see the other person as the problem than it is to work on our own issues.
Work On Your Relationship
If you feel that you and your partner need to work on relationship dynamics, couples counseling is a great option.
There is this idea that your relationship needs to be in trouble in order to go to couples counseling. But, there doesn’t need to be major issues in your relationship in order to seek counseling. It could help strengthen your relationship.
Think about getting your own individual counseling. This may give you a chance to explore if you’re avoiding working on your own issues. Counseling will also give you a way to focus on yourself and let your partner focus on their own goals.