When you say your vows and you get to the part about “in sickness and in health”, you are mostly likely thinking about physical health. You vow to take care of your spouse if they have the flu, a broken bone or even diseases that can be terminal. It may not be too often that you think of sickness as a mental health disorder and that the “in sickness” could mean the state of your marriage. Yes, a marriage can suffer problems and be considered unhealthy.
You are a team and if you take steps throughout the life of your marriage to strengthen the mental health of yourselves and each other, then the mental health of your marriage will be strong too.
The first thing you can do to strengthen the mental health of your marriage is to know what you are striving for, what are the signs of a mentally healthy marriage. The second thing you can do is continually assess the mental health of your own marriage to see if it is on the right track or if you need treatment in any areas. Third, before you get married, obtaining pre-marital mental health counseling and continuing to receive counseling after marriage is a positive approach to maintaining a health marriage. Finally, it is always helpful to get individual therapy, without your spouse, to give you time to focus on yourself and your own needs.
Signs of a Mentally Healthy Marriage
There are hundreds of signs to let you know your marriage has a strong mental health. You communicate well with your spouse. The conversations are not one-sided. Both of your needs are being met in the relationship. You apologize when you are wrong, praise when they deserve praise and show appreciation for one another. You also know how to fight. All couples fight but there is a right way and a wrong way to fight. There is no abuse, verbal or physical, involved in your fights and you both work together to find an agreeable solution.
Other signs of a mentally healthy marriage is that you show love and respect and find time to be together, just the two of you. You don’t let other life stressors come between you such as jobs or money. You do things to let your spouse know you love them. Not just on special holidays but throughout the year. It is important to take the time to assess the mental health of your marriage together. Discuss issues, good and bad, and work together to resolve those issues.
Assessing the Mental Health of Your Marriage
There are many assessment tools you can use to assess the mental health of your marriage. You can also create your own tool together to make it more personal to your life and your issues. Some issues every assessment tool should have focuses on areas that can be common among all marriages.
You want to assess how you and your partner argue and resolve conflicts. Are you respectful, calm, and listen to one another’s points? Or, do you both get loud and out of control and your arguments sometimes turn into physical altercations?
How do you make decisions as a couple? Do you make the decision and tell your spouse about it later? Do you have to scream and yell and fight to be heard while making decisions? Or do you share the decision-making skills, with equal power and influence?
Are you supportive of one another? When one of you is having a problem professionally or personally, does your partner show support and assistance and seem to truly care about helping you resolve your issue? Or do they make you feel like a second priority, like they will help you after they are done with more important issues.
Do you trust one another? How does your partner show their trust and offer trust? Do you have fun together? Do you like each other’s company? Do you still find each other attractive?
Discussions involving issues like these will lead to a healthier marriage because you can focus on improving your marriage in the areas that need work. Marriage and family therapists can help you resolve any such disconnections in your marriage.
Pre-Marital Therapy Can Prepare You for a Healthy Marriage
Many arguments take place because you and your spouse disagree on important issues, issues you didn’t discuss before you were married. This is where pre-marital therapy can help. Issues you may not really talk about thoroughly before marriage can be introduced and worked through before the marriage even takes place. These issues can include finances, religion, and number of children you each want to have. Pre-marital awareness can lead to post-marital success.
Post-Marital Therapy Can Help You Maintain a Healthy Marriage
Therapy after you are married can also help greatly to continue the discussions about your differences and help you work towards a good solution. Marriage counseling can offer an objective, safe environment where you are both free to express your opinions without any recourse. The therapist can act as a mediator and facilitate your meeting so you stay on track. A therapist can also offer solutions or therapeutic activities that can lead to a solution. In therapy, the goal is for you both to be heard and both treated fairly. There is no ganging up on the other, rather team building activities to make your marriage stronger.
Couples therapies are wonderful and necessary. Individual therapy is just as important when strengthening the mental health of your marriage. You need the time and space to be able to meet your personal mental health needs. Sometimes these needs are connected to your spouse. Being able to work on yourself and your issues individually allows you the privacy and assistance you need to improve your situation.
Taking care of yourself and making your mental health a top priority is a key factor in strengthening your marriage. You cannot help anyone else until you are completely healthy. Teams, or marriages, are based on the physical and mental health of its individuals. It is important that both of you become strong individuals so that your team, your marriage, can survive and overcome any obstacle.