Marriage, commitment and mental health

Two wedding rings: what is the role of mental health in a happy relationship?

Being happily married or in a stable relationship impacts positively on mental health. Research has found that high marital quality is associated with lower stress and less depression. *

Mental health and relationships

Marriage, and the commitment to another person that it implies, are profound milestones in many people’s lives.

However, although built on love, trust and mutual respect, marriage and other long-term relationships require more than just affection and physical attraction if they are to stand the test of time and the challenges that life can throw at us.

Although not often mentioned, good mental health plays a crucial role in sustaining a marriage. It influences how couples interact, support each other and handle unexpected challenges.

By understanding and addressing mental health within the context of marriage, couples can build a more resilient and fulfilling partnership.

Understanding mental health in marriage

According to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), marital status contributes positively to how adults rate their satisfaction with life. “People who are married or in a civil partnership are most likely to report higher life satisfaction than those of any other marital status” reports the ONS. **

However, although evidence shows that being happily married or in a stable relationship impacts positively on mental health, it also highlights that single people have better mental health outcomes than those who are unhappily married. ***

It’s clearly not simply the status of being married that improves mental health, but the positive relationship that two people build.

Mental health challenges are common in marriage, of course. Stress, anxiety and depression can arise because of financial problems, work pressures, personal insecurities and other issues.

The impact of such mental health challenges on relationships can be profound. Stress and anxiety can lead to irritability and withdrawal, while depression can cause feelings of hopelessness and disconnection.

If not addressed, these issues can erode the foundation of a relationship, so it’s essential for couples to recognise them and to tackle them.

Maintaining intimacy and connection

Emotional intimacy is closely linked to mental health. Couples who maintain a strong emotional connection tend to experience higher levels of satisfaction and well-being. Activities such as regular date nights, deep conversations and shared hobbies can strengthen this bond.

Physical intimacy can also be affected by mental health issues. Open communication about desires and boundaries, along with a focus on emotional closeness, can help couples navigate these challenges and maintain a fulfilling intimate relationship.

Effective communication is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship. Couples who openly discuss their emotions and feelings tend to have stronger emotional connections. Techniques such as active listening, expressing empathy, and using “I” statements can foster better communication.

It’s also important to remember that mental health isn’t an individual battle, but a joint responsibility, which requires us to support each other during difficult times.

Supporting each other’s mental health involves recognising signs of stress or distress and offering a listening ear or a comforting presence. Practical tips for managing stress together include setting aside time for relaxation, engaging in shared activities and practicing mindfulness or meditation.

Simple gestures like regularly asking “Are you okay?” or “How are you feeling?”, expressing appreciation for something, and spending quality time together can help reinforce mutual support.

Self-care is also vital for maintaining mental health, managing stress and improving our mood. Practicing self-care can involve engaging in hobbies, exercising and ensuring adequate rest. When both partners prioritise their own well-being, they’re better equipped to support each other.

Conflict resolution and emotional intelligence

Conflicts are inevitable in any relationship, but how couples handle them can have a significant impact on their mental health. Constructive conflict resolution seeks to prevent conflicts from escalating by addressing disagreements calmly, focusing on the issue rather than making personal attacks and seeking compromise.

Emotional intelligence and empathy are crucial in managing conflicts. By understanding and respecting each other’s perspectives and feelings, couples can navigate disagreements more effectively and strengthen their emotional bond.

Unresolved conflicts take a toll on mental health, so it’s important to learn healthy ways to disagree without damaging emotional bonds. It’s healthier to seek compromise rather than victory.

Seeking professional help

Rather than thinking of them as a last resort, couples should see therapy and counselling as valuable resources.

Many couples have found success in strengthening their relationships through professional support, which can help them discover, for example, how to improve communication and resolve conflicts.

Unfortunately, many couples hesitate to talk about their struggles, fearing judgment or misunderstanding. However, normalising these conversations can pave the way for healthier interactions and a more supportive partnership.

Conclusion

Prioritising the good mental health of both partners is essential for sustaining a strong and lasting marriage.

By fostering open communication, practicing self-care, resolving conflicts constructively and seeking professional help when needed, couples can build a resilient partnership that thrives through life’s ups and downs.

Continuous support and understanding lay the foundation for a relationship that not only endures, but flourishes.

+++

Here at MTS Psychological Health, I am passionate about your mental health. Don’t suffer mental health issues in silence: get in touch and discover how I can help you overcome anxiety and depression, so you can live a better life.

References

* Mental Health Foundation: Relationships and community: statistics

** Office for National Statistics: Personal well-being in the UK: April 2022 to March 2023

*** Is There Something Unique about Marriage? The Relative Impact of Marital Status, Relationship Quality, and Network Social Support on Ambulatory Blood Pressure and Mental Health in Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Volume 35, Issue 2, April 2008, Pages 239–244