Supporting a partner who’s struggling with their mental health without becoming anxious, depressed or low ourselves is possible, but it does take clear boundaries and self-care. We can care for our partner as well as for ourselves.

‘Support’ doesn’t mean ‘be the solution’; it means being there for them. It’s trying to see and hear them without judgement and doing what we can without doing it for them and without losing ourselves. In this way, they don’t have to feel under pressure to get better to pay us back, and we don’t have to feel like we’re failing. We can also be sensitive to their feelings without stopping the things we (and they) enjoy.

It’s understandable that we want to protect and help, but the support gets messy when we make how they’re feeling, thinking and acting about us. This type of codependent thinking blurs the boundaries. We end up people pleasing and then feeling resentful and wounded when our efforts don’t ‘fix’ things. They don’t need to feel guilty/bad about something else! Their struggle isn’t a statement of how well we’re doing; it reflects their emotional state.

We are far less likely to start feeling anxious, depressed or low ourselves if we don’t try to be their solution and if we don’t carry on as if we have to be strong all the time. It’s OK to need additional support.

When we make it our responsibility to ‘make’ our partner’s mental health better, we’re bound to hit a low. When they don’t respond how we think they should, we’ll feel disheartened. But just because our compassion, patience or understanding didn’t make them crack a smile or leap up, it doesn’t mean we’re not making a difference. Small steps every day.

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