Mental Health and Relationships

By April 16, 2024May 2nd, 2024Mental Health and Relationships

One way of understanding mental illness which is growing in popularity is to understand mental health symptoms as signs of a deeper issue – trauma.

When events of our lives impact us so deeply that the tissues of our soul are bruised, torn, or shattered apart, and we don’t have the opportunity to heal that trauma response, we are left with a wound in ourselves, a sinkhole in the foundation of our being.

Rather than finding a way to let the wound close over, we develop a whole personality based on avoiding it. This personality is not exactly healthy. It is made up of compensatory behaviors, thoughts, emotions, and even sub-personalities, all designed to avoid direct contact with the wound.

The traumatic wound is like the proverbial hole in our soul, a place where consciousness that was once connected to all of life now is trapped, walled off, and isolated. We keep it locked away. Locked away from the light of our own awareness, and hidden out of sight from others, it continues to be disconnected, frozen, and stuck.

The compensatory personality structures, thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and social roles we build up to stabilize and to work around the deep pain of the hole create knock-on effects, and problems of their own.

One of the problems mental illness creates is that it makes relating to another human being in a loving way more difficult. Our coping gets in the way of our ability to love and be loved.

How can mental health affect relationships?

Mental health problems affect relationships when one or both partners become overly absorbed in dealing with mental and emotional pain that is bubbling up to the surface of life.

Most often, the mentally ill person starts behaving in a disordered way, with dysfunctional adaptations, accommodations, and workarounds that take up more and more time and energy.

These are our mental health symptoms, things like distorted thoughts, negative emotions, unstable moods, or destructive behavior. This uptick in dysfunctional ways of being directly affects our partners. Our symptoms set off reactions and adaptations in them and may trigger them deeply. The pain that lies in them is also stirred to life.

When we’re mentally unwell, we deserve so much kindness and compassion. We’re not being this way on purpose. These patterns of action are desperate ways to cope or avoid contact with a vivid field of pain inside that we fear we can’t face without getting sucked into it. The core wound – we each have one – is deep and dark until we heal it.

Whether our soul illness has the flavor of depression, psychosis, mania, obsession, anxiety, or addiction, is sort of immaterial. Whatever way we suffer may be personal to us, a factor of genetics and culture, maybe even caused by diet or toxic exposure or spiritual influences, who knows.

No matter what kind of disorders of thought and heart we develop, though, the underlying cause is basically the same – some part of us is deeply not ok. The deeply not ok part is seeping to the surface of our lives, and we are doing our best to contain it. We suppress, we deny, and we scold ourselves. But the deeply-not-ok part won’t give up until it gets the love it needs – our love.

Mental illness symptoms get worse if we do not address the unloved pain underneath them. This fact is actually good because most of us won’t get help unless we have a crisis. That crisis is a doorway out of prison – the prison of being trapped in failing mechanisms of avoidance – and into a new life of reunion with the healing, loving forces that wait patiently within our own beings for us to call on them.

Should a woman tell her partner she’s struggling with mental illness?


Whether or not to share the fact that you are having mental illness symptoms is a deeply personal choice, and no one should feel pressure to do that or not do that. It is something you get to decide.

However, we here at Villa Kali Ma do feel strongly that awareness and openness are necessary for the cure. Managing to acknowledge and say out loud what’s really going on inside you is the beginning of getting the help you need.

Love can come to our unloved pain, and it will, but the wound must be allowed to exist first. And the truth is, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Every human being on this planet has a part like that. If you’re having mental illness symptoms, this just means your soul is ready to heal that deep hurt part.

In AA they say that secrets keep us sick. That’s true in mental health too – our loved ones can’t help us if we don’t let them even know that something is making us ill all over our minds bodies and souls.

So whether you decide to share it with your loved one or not, consider at least sharing it with a healer or therapist. Truth, especially difficult, impossible, unspeakable truth, sets us free.

Can mental illness affect intimacy with a partner?

Intimacy is almost always affected by mental illness. Sex isn’t separate from the rest of our ways of relating, nor is it detached from our hearts, bodies, and minds. Our adaptations and ways of avoiding pain will show up in our sex lives too.

If we cope with pain by going after pleasure, we might be drawn into sex addiction or seek heightened sensation through paths that deviate from our heart’s real values and needs. If we cope with pain by shutting down, we may zone out during sex or suppress sexual feelings altogether.

Sex is very vulnerable, and can be evocative and stirring to the parts of us that are ill, and may upset the balance of our system of coping. Some couples can connect sexually but not in other ways. Some couples relate well but struggle with sex.

To add to the confusion, there are so many toxic ideas about masculinity, femininity, and sex itself circulating in toxicities of the media that we are almost all of us subject to some kind of insecurity related to our bodies, our sexuality, our desires, or lack thereof.

If you are experiencing challenges with intimacy, please know you are not alone, as alone as you may feel with that, it’s exceedingly common. For people with mental health struggles (also widespread), it’s par for the course.

What other ways can mental health affect relationships?

Mental illness in relationships affects partners’ abilities to be close to one another because the amount of energy and effort that goes towards managing symptoms can be exhausting. It is draining to power up our elaborate systems of psychological avoidance, for ourselves and for the people who are trying to love us.

It is also hard for partners to understand our symptoms as being about us and not about them. For example, a depressed person may be uninterested in their partner. An obsessive person can’t stop fixating on and controlling tiny unimportant details. An addicted person has no empathy and uses people selfishly.

The partner of the ill person can take symptoms like these as reflections of their own lovability, rather than evidence of sickness. Even if the partner can see it is the unwellness of the other more than their own failure to be lovable enough, these symptoms that block the give and exchange of love can feel disheartening, even impossible to live with.

Even though the last thing in the world that we can bear to believe is that our symptoms are troublesome for others, this is often true when we are ill. The reality of that is hard to bear, but there’s a truth to it.

Often it’s only once we realize how our ways of coping impact our loved ones that we realize we owe it to them, if not ourselves, to finally take on doing the deeper, scariest work of getting to the bottom of our soul wound.

This means getting some kind of professional therapy or alternative healing to stop the symptoms from running our lives. It also means, probably, some kind of trauma work, to address the original pain once and for all. Luckily, there are many wonderful healing modalities to choose from!

How do I know when it’s time for individual or couples therapy?

All relationships have times of grace and times of struggle. That’s a normal part of life. However, therapy is enormously supportive for individuals and couples no matter what your situation.

Relationship skills can be learned and practiced. We can all get better at loving, or behaving in ways that the love in our hearts really arrives in the hearts minds, and bodies of the people we love.

It is also supremely supportive to have a witness to your relationship dynamics, a neutral party who can help both members of the couple recognize the good as well as the problem zones.

Villa Kali Ma can assist women with mental health concerns


We all deserve love and adoration, affection and care. We also all, in our own ways, can be challenging to deal with.

Villa Kali Ma is fully dedicated to helping women heal from trauma, mental illness, and addiction. We have many programs and offerings, and if you’re on the hunt for some help, we’d love to meet you!

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