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February 2018
Marriage & Relationships,  Mental Health

Sustaining A Strong & Healthy Marriage Through Honest Communication & Vulnerability

When we’re feeling awful about ourselves and life has us a mess, having a vulnerable and honest conversation about mental health with your spouse can be difficult if you don’t know where to start. These discussions can be especially tricky if you don’t recognize your warning signs yet or if you’re at a place in your journey where denial still holds considerable strength. For example, when you’re having continuous negative thoughts that you can’t control. You’re starting to resent your husband for the things that he is or isn’t doing around the house but don’t speak up. You begin feeling emotionally numb or having strong, erratic emotional upsets. Start to have a hard time falling asleep or getting out of the bed in the morning; then you need to ask your spouse for help.

Wherever you are on your personal development journey, you need to be sure that you include your spouse so that your relationship with yourself and your spouse will grow simultaneously; getting stronger, healthier, and more full of love and understanding.

Even when you feel that everything is perfect and so does your husband, that doesn’t mean you won’t hit a rough patch; outside forces can still hold considerable power if you’re not careful or know how to deflect it. Your marriage can be the greatest and your home life fantastic, but that doesn’t shield you from the hell that is unhealthy mental health. If issues and negative emotions are left undiscussed, whatever it is that’s getting in your head will begin to affect your home life and your marriage as well. The quickest way to start down that healing path is to be vulnerable with your spouse and let them know that you need help.

Whether you have dealt with mental health issues many times before like myself or the feelings of anxiety and depression are new, if your spouse has personally never experienced psychological health battles before, it can be hard work explaining what’s happening. It’s going to be hard, but you need to push past those hurdles and find a way to communicate without causing more stress. Hell, the emotions or lack thereof can be hard to understand when you’re the one suffering them yourself, so imagine trying to grasp that experience from an outside point of view. It’s going to be tough when you’re in a place of distress, but you need to push past your own healing needs and focus on your spouses as well. Seems backward right? I promise it’s helpful and it will make the healing process MUCH more beneficial for both of you.

Sit down with your spouse and tell them that you need their help. No matter what it is that is in your head, asking them for help will automatically drop your defenses as well as their worries and vice versa. It’s easy for your spouse to assume the worst if your mood has changed drastically. At the beginning of my marriage when I was dealing with a bout of depression, once I brought it up I quickly realized that my husband feared that I was falling out of love with him. It broke my heart! That was the furthest thing from the truth, but that was how he was interpreting my coldness and upset because I didn’t let him know what was going on. I had so many outside energies and personal issues going on in my head that I had entered a depressive state without seeking his help or filling him in. It caused me to isolate myself and go numb, and it caused him to fear the worst and experience insecurities. Not realizing what was happening, we had both found ourselves in places that we could have prevented if we had just been open and vulnerable with each other.

Marriage is hard. Even when you’re at your best it’s hard: add children, a busy home, work life, dysfunctional families, and mental health issues to the mix you have a real recipe for disaster. Honest communication and vulnerability help make you and your partner’s relationship stronger and everlasting even when things seem to be at their very worst.

Before I started dating my husband, I had already reached a place in my life where I knew that honesty and communication would be the pillars of my healing journey. Except, I had only begun to use those tools on myself, I didn’t realize how important they were to our marriage as well. After my first mental hiccup during our first year of marriage, I quickly realized that I had to be more transparent. It wasn’t enough for him to know I had dealt with mental health issues before. He had to be going through it with me, at my side, aware of every step and set back. This oneness not only helped me heal and fall in love with myself entirely over time, but these two traits have been a rock throughout our marriage. They will be for you too if you’re currently struggling with your mental health and want your relationship to strengthen.

Being honest and vulnerable are necessary pieces of your healing journey. These traits won’t just help you become the best and happiest person you can be, but it will help strengthen the bond between you both. What is more beautiful and rewarding than having someone in your life that fights tooth and nail alongside you, while simultaneously being your closest cheerleader. That trust and love are unbreakable.

My husband and I both consider our marriage life to be an extremely healthy and positive one. Even when I’m not at my most excellent mentally, I trust in him because we remain honest about what we’re going through internally. That trust gives me peace-of-mind, knowing when I reach the other side he will be right there with me. If we didn’t have that, I don’t think I would be where I am today and neither would our marriage.

Now let’s talk about having a husband that isn’t on the same emotional and psychological level that we are when it comes to mental health. The thing is, my husband has no idea what it’s like living with mental health issues. He didn’t recognize the signs of me entering a dangerous place mentally and still can’t even though we’ve been through this battle many times together. To him, there’s no difference between the act of me when I’m about to fall apart mentally and just being moody, complaining as an ordinary annoyed wife does. That’s why it’s important to focus on your spouse’s needs as well when you’re beginning to lose your shit. My husband isn’t what I consider an overly emotional or sensitive man, he’s empathetic, but he doesn’t pick up on emotional cues or read between the lines and that’s why I need to paint him a clearer picture.

It’s our responsibility to help them understand what we’re going through, and what we need from them throughout our healing process. Yes, even if this seems asinine and something you had hoped you didn’t have to do. Eventually you might not have to. I know we want our husbands to just get it without simplifying things, but we owe it to ourselves to just accept the fact that they may not be that way right now and then remove that stress. If we just assume our husbands will catch on when that’s not their strong suit at the moment we will begin to feel resentment and anger. Two things that you don’t want to enter your marriage and sex life. BEEN THERE DONE THAT, IT’S NOT FUN.

There have been times where I held off telling him what was going on because I was in denial or I didn’t want him to know what was going on because I felt so guilty. How many times would I have to go through this and burden him with my issues? There was no way I was letting this happen again, I would tell myself. Sure enough, I would end up in that depressed state and have to fight tooth and nail to climb back out of it. More times than not I would build up walls because that’s just a part of the painful process for me. This refusal on my part led to arguments and upset for the both of us. I had convinced myself somehow that my husband would figure it out on his own and come to my rescue, even though I KNEW that I was making a mistake. I had just expected him to know what to do finally, and that is unfair. Walls! So many walls everywhere! Eventually, you are both behind your emotional protective walls throwing daggers at each other. You’re both acting tough and guilt-free while hoping that the other one finally figures out that you’re just a softy in need of a hug. Get the wrecking ball and smash that shit down. It’s better for the both of you, and it’s okay if you’re the one that speaks up first. If you know you want things to change, be the change.  I can be stubborn; I’m not afraid to admit it. Learn from my mistakes and jump off this merry-go-round if you’re currently on it. The battle isn’t worth it when you can have an emotional breakthrough and strengthen your relationship instead.

Over the years I could see a stark contrast to how we reacted depending on whether I was open about my mental health struggles or if I tried to handle it on my own. This open communication and vulnerability not only improved our marriage but it also fast-tracks my healing process when the negative thoughts and anxiety begins to develop. My husband didn’t always know what to do, what to say, or how to help but when I told him I needed him, he was there for me to lean on and sometimes that was what I needed.

I just needed to let it all out. I needed to let out my stresses of self-improvement and issues that were occurring outside of our home. I needed to lay it all on him and cry until I had snot running down my face *pretty picture right, but it’s the truth* and I couldn’t breathe or speak. I needed to crumble. I needed to apologize for all the rude comments said when I was angry and sad. I needed to know that I wasn’t crazy and I could get better. I needed to see that he knew how I honestly felt and that he still loved me as passionately. I just needed to talk and be vulnerable with the person that loved me most, and this started the healing process. There have been so many moments throughout our marriage that I needed to rely on his strength to realize that I was okay. I’m in a better place mentally because HE helped me reach it.

If you’re going through something that is tearing you apart from the inside out speak up about how you’re feeling.

Here are a few examples of what I have said in the past to start breaking down those walls and give my husband a heads up, so he knows to be more alert of my actions and speak up. 

“I’m started to feel not like myself. I’m sad and angry, to the point where I can’t be the mom I need to be.” 

“I’m having negative thoughts about myself, and I know that being more active and getting out in the fresh air will help. Can we go on a date somewhere outside?” 

“We need to talk, the stress of everything is starting to pile on. It’s causing me to become angry and resentful when I don’t want to be. I want us to be okay.”

“I feel gross inside, not like myself, I’m starting to go numb and need help.”

“I’m scared that I’m starting to be depressed again, I don’t know what it is, but I can feel it. I need your help making sure I stay on track with my healthy habits. Please ask me how I’m often doing and don’t take fine for an answer.”

I’ve discovered that the quickest route to healing was to be open and honest about my feelings and to take the necessary actions together.

Mental health issues can have you act irrational and do things that you wouldn’t usually do or find appropriate. It’s incredibly important for the health of your marriage to learn how to communicate with your partner if you want the relationship to grow stronger. It’s also important to find help from health professionals if necessary. If you and your spouse can’t find a healthy way to communicate or work together to heal, it’s always in your best interest to seek help from a friend or a professional. There are also many self-help books that can help you work towards these healthy marriage habits if you’re uncomfortable and want to try a more hands-on approach. Personally, I love self-help books! They are what has helped me be so successful in my healing process. I don’t think a person can have too many!

Whatever it is, you need to find a healthy way to communicate with your spouse about your struggles. We need to understand that it’s not just difficult for us, but it’s just as difficult for them because we are one in the same. If you’re honest and you let them in, they will be able to be a pillar in your healing journey. You both deserve that strength and love.

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