How To Build A Healthy Relationship That Supports Your Mental Health

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated March 11, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Although the national divorce rate has been declining recently, building a healthy relationship full of love and respect may not always come naturally to everyone. According to the Pew Research Center, many individuals report difficulty dating and finding healthy connections. Navigating relationship ups and downs may take a toll on your mental health, and you may feel pressured to find a romantic partner.

Are relationship challenges taking a toll on your mental health?

How do I create a healthy relationship?

Healthy relationships are often built on a solid foundation of love and respect. Additionally, these types of healthy connections can improve mental health. At the beginning of a relationship, it may feel easy to see your partner through the eyes of adoration or admiration. You may focus on common interests, and are willing to gloss over traits that you'd typically object to, like certain personality traits or a career choice, when you're falling in love. 

However, developing a healthy relationship that will stand the test of time may require commitment and perseverance, as well as a healthy respect for the other’s feelings from both you and your partner once the honeymoon phase is in the past. Studies also indicate that commitment, love and respect may not be enough if healthy communication is not also present. 

Every relationship can experience challenges, but it may be valuable to recognize when a relationship is complicated and unhealthy. Unhealthy relationships can come in many forms. For instance, if you and your partner struggle with honest communication, you may find it hard to trust one another, leading you to live secret lives. 

On the other hand, some couples may be codependent, isolating you from other close relationships in your life. Frequent patterns of lying or cheating may demonstrate a lack of commitment to the relationship and can lead to jealousy or mistrust. Relationships involving emotional or physical abuse, which may be characterized by threatening, manipulative, or controlling behavior, are particularly unhealthy. * 

To start a new relationship positively, you may want to partner with someone you already respect and feel appreciation for. Respect in a relationship can be key for longevity. For many people, finding a partner aligned with your personal goals and lifestyle may be beneficial. As your relationship develops, focus on building love and respect to help you to develop a healthy partnership characterized by trust and intimacy.

*If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 for support. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text "START" to 88788. You can also use the online chat.

What is love?

Love may feel intuitive. However, it is often a complex emotion that's been extensively researched by psychologists and neurologists alike. Several notable psychologists have developed theories to explain love and what it means in our lives. 

For example, Sigmund Freud described true love as finding your "ego ideal," a substitute for one's perfect image of oneself. More recently, Robert Sternberg devised the triangular theory of love, which posits that intimacy, passion, and decision/commitment are the three primary components of love. 

Neuroscientists have examined how hormones, including oxytocin, vasopressin, and dopamine, influence our ability to trust our partners and experience pleasure. Researchers have also linked these positive benefits of love with beneficial physical effects, including stress reduction, motivation, and overall well-being.

Regardless of what the science says, many people have some idea of what love looks like to them. Finding love may not be only about finding the right person for you but also choosing to act in a way that helps love grow in the relationship.

What is respect?

Like love, respect is not just a feeling; it's a behavior. Respect may include how you act and express yourself regarding your partner and the feelings of admiration you have for them. Utmost respect for each other, even when the other is not around, is one of the signs of power couples.

To love and respect a person means that you deeply admire their abilities, treasure their qualities, or appreciate their achievements. When you feel respect for someone, you may naturally show them kindness, courtesy, and consideration. Respecting someone could also mean appreciating their differences and accepting them as they are, even if you disagree with them on certain matters. Respect is also knowing when and how to give someone space. Know your partner’s boundaries and respect these boundaries. 

Respect is often essential in all human relationships but may be vital in romantic partnerships. When you and your partner respect each other, you can create a healthy relationship in which you can both mature and thrive.

How to develop respect in your relationship

If you find it difficult to respect your partner, there may be steps you can take to help rediscover, respect, and improve your relationship. Being a respectful partner means focusing on your partner's unique combination of abilities, achievements, and personal qualities. 

Be observant 

Try to take note of the unique ways your partner behaves and their individual accomplishments in your world. Paying attention to what makes them who they are can help you rediscover your respect. 

Appreciate your partner

You may have a mental image of who you expect your perfect partner to be, but focusing on that idea may not help you build love and respect for your partner. Try to appreciate your partner and accept them for who they are, instead of wishing for them to be different. 

Communicate respect

Communicate your respect by telling your partner how you feel, respecting your partner’s feelings, committing to healthy behaviors, and expressing their love language when possible. Don’t just hear, but really listen to what your partner has to say. Spending time to talk to one another, learning about each other’s ideas and opinions, and showing interest in friends and family can help you understand the whole person and build a lasting relationship. 

Treat your partner as valuable 

Appreciate the tangible value your partner brings to your life as well as who they are aside from their accomplishments. Let them know that you respect them on a daily basis with words of affirmation, even when they aren't doing anything for you.

Choose respectful actions 

Showing your respect for your partner may look like refusing to attack them physically or verbally, making time for them, or honoring their individual choices. Choosing behaviors that show respect can help your partner feel safe and loved.

Learning these new thought and behavior patterns may be challenging, but you don't have to undertake it alone. Talking to a therapist may be able to help you build a more respectful love relationship.

How relationships can impact your mental health

Relationships and mental health are often intricately intertwined. Strong positive relationships may reduce stress and symptoms of depression like loneliness or isolation. Conversely, unhealthy relationships characterized by negative social interactions may increase your risk of developing depression or anxiety.

Living with an underlying mental health challenge, like social anxiety disorder or mood disorders, may make it challenging to meet a romantic partner or sustain a healthy romantic relationship. Side effects from mental health medications may also impact your desire for intimacy in a romantic relationship.

Whether you are single, married, or looking for a relationship, getting treatment for mental health symptoms may improve your relationships. Suppose you were living with mental health challenges prior to your relationship. In that case, therapy might help provide you with coping mechanisms to reduce your symptoms while supporting the development of a new healthy relationship. 

If your mental health symptoms arise from past or current relationship trauma, therapy can help you process your experience and move forward.

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

Are relationship challenges taking a toll on your mental health?

Therapy for relationship skills 

You may not be in a romantic relationship but still benefit from relationship therapy. Couples and single individuals can spend time getting emotional support and building valuable relationship skills through counseling. 

You may try online therapy if you and your partner live apart or have busy lives and struggle to find time to attend counseling together. Online therapy allows you to find a time that works best for you.  

Additionally, research shows that online therapy is as effective as in-person therapy at treating many mental health challenges, including depression and anxiety related to relationship challenges. Whether you are single or in a relationship, online therapy may help you overcome mental health struggles and develop tools and coping strategies to increase your capacity for self-respect, and showing respect to others. With these skills you can build a robust romantic partnership in the future.

If you're ready to get started, consider signing up for an online platform such as BetterHelp for individuals or Regain for couples. Whether you're looking to work on personal behaviors or discuss your emotions with a partner, you can choose from a wide variety of counselors specializing in several areas of mental health.

Takeaway

If you have experienced an unhealthy relationship, you're not alone. Mental health and social connection can be closely connected. Counseling may be a valuable tool if you're wondering how to get support for yourself, build intimacy, love and respect with your partner, or break free from past relationship patterns. Consider reaching out to a therapist to get started learning how to build healthy relationships in your own life.
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