Relationships and Mental Health

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Relationships play an important role in mental health and well-being. We know that good, supportive relationships generally promote good health, and that bad, stressful relationships take a toll on our health. Yet most of our relationships — relatives, coworkers, caregivers, and romantic partners among them — are complicated, providing varying degrees of both support and stress.

Relationships are the connection and bond based on feelings between two or more people. They are the core of society and many things revolve from them. How healthy and unhealthy your relationship is affects particular aspects of your life. Your perception of the world and factors therein can be greatly molded by your experiences in a relationship. Thus a link between relationships and mental health undoubtedly exists.   

There are certain factors that contribute to your perception of an ideal relationship. For example, the kind of environment that you grew up in has the ability to shape your expectations in a relationship. If your emotional well-being has been marred — whether by abuse history, parents who have been divorced, or other factors — it pops up in the relationship if not adequately addressed. Relationships also tend to have a pattern of an “acceptable” spiritual direction. There is a “how-to” approach given in a relationship, its expectations, and even “how” to resolve matters of conflict.

Knowing the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships are very important.

In a healthy relationship, typically you will experience, respect, trust, honesty, fairness, non-threatening behavior, and open communication. Healthy relationships are buffers to stress and anxiety and should make you feel good about yourself. Communication is pivotal in a relationship. You must create an environment where you and your partner listen to each other and have open channels of communication at all times. Supporting each other and problem solving together enhances the relationship. A healthy functional intimate relationship is based on equality and respect, not power and control. Think about how you treat — and want to be treated by — someone you care about.

In an unhealthy relationship, on the other hand, an individual will typically experience coercion, possessiveness, isolation, threats against you or loved ones, destruction of property, and fear.

Not all relationships are healthy. One fourth to one half of all dating relationships involve violence of some kind. Dating violence can have many forms. It may start out with mild forms and escalate as the relationship develops. Very rarely does the violence stop once a couple gets married. In fact, it often gets worse. An exception is verbal and physical violence related to alcohol misuse, since drinking responsibly or not at all will often eliminate the violence. The problem is that “serious dating” or marriage does not instantly make you or your partner more mature, wiser, self-controlled, or more responsible. See what is in front of your nose regardless of what your heart tells you or what you want to see.

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-1-31-22-pmUnfortunately, a consequence of an unhealthy relationship is domestic violence.

  • Domestic violence affects 1 in 3 women
  • According to a study done by the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 3 in every 10 women — about 32 million — and 1 in 10 men in the United States who experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner reported at least one measured impact or effect related to forms of violent behavior in that relationship.
  • Children who live in homes where there is domestic violence also suffer abuse or neglect at high rates (30 percent to 60 percent).
  • Women ages 18 to 34 are at greatest risk of becoming victims of domestic violence.

Mental and Physical Health Effects of Abuse:

  • One in seven people who have experienced domestic violence sustain a physical injury.
  • Domestic violence victims face high rates of depression, sleep disturbances, anxiety, flashbacks, and other emotional distress.
  • Without help, children who witness domestic violence are far more likely to become abusers of their partners and/or children as adults, thus continuing the cycle of violence in the next generation.

Tips if abuse occurs:

o   Seek help immediately when the abuse begins

o   Realize that you are not at fault

o   Confide in a close relative or friend

o   Look for alternate means of shelter away from the violence

o   Hotline: 1-800-252-5400

References available upon request

Co-Authors include Jessica Riplow, Cesar Martinez, and Jon Garcia, Dr. Mercado’s UTRGV Mental Health Research Lab.