Woe Is Me! “My Partner and I Keep Fighting Because of Our Poor Mental Health. How Do We Stop?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“Since last year, my mental health has been in shards. My academics are giving me a tough time and sadly my boyfriend is not making anything easier. But the catch is, his mental health is also kind of delicate at this moment. Hence, no matter how much both of us avoid it, even a small fight turns into a heated argument and everything goes down. In the end, both of us don’t know what we should do? We absolutely don’t want to end things. What should I do? How can I understand myself and my boyfriend better and how can I take care of myself better?”
— FIghting Spirit
KB: These are extremely trying times, and usually in times of distress, we tend to take out our anxiety on those closest to us. You both sound committed to each other and to building and maintaining a healthy, long-lasting partnership. So I would not worry too much about this phase. You have the foundation to get through this. You just need to be kind to yourselves, and recognize that a few volatile months are not indicative of a larger problem in your relationship (given that the important bits seem in place). You are living through extraordinary times, and it would be unusual for your most intimate relationship to not feel the brunt of it. If you have other trusted people you can lean on, you may want to do that, just to take some of the pressure off your partner. But yours sounds like a loving, supportive relationship, and I think after the horrors of 2021 are over, you may find that you don’t use each other as outlets for anxiety and frustration.
SM: It’s amazing that you have the clarity to acknowledge where your problems are stemming from, and be so empathetic to your partner’s circumstances too. The best thing to do is to go for therapy of course, if you can afford to. It’s still considered taboo in our society but is super duper helpful, provided you’re able to find the right therapist. But if that’s something you’re not able to afford, then you should reach out to communities and support groups online to try and find tools to manage your emotions and expectations, so it enables you to be there for each other, while also being cognisant of the other’s needs.
DR: I think the first solution that comes to my mind is couple’s therapy — if therapy does work for both of you, and if you can afford it, of course. If that isn’t an option, then I think it may be important for the two of you to sit down, and discuss your emotional boundaries. It might also be worthwhile for both of you to let each other know — in course of a calm, honest, vulnerable conversation — what you need from each other to ensure that your existing mental stressors aren’t exacerbated by the other person’s behavior. I do think there will be some points in both of your lists that the other person may not be able to meet — and I think that’s okay, but it’s also important to be honest about that. Any relationship — be it romantic or platonic — is about meeting each other halfway. And if you want to stay together, I think it’s important to define what that “halfway” looks like. I’m not saying this his exercise can guarantee you won’t have any more fights — faltering is a part of being human. But I think it’ll help both of you understand where the other person is coming from as well.
What you have described in your woe seems like a hard time — and, of course, extremely difficult to navigate. But the fact that you’re trying to figure out ways to sail past this also suggests that you’re willing to make it work despite the challenges your mental health is posing — and I think that’s awesome! All I would say is, be kind to each other, and to yourself. Good luck!
SK: Hello! Thank you for articulating a very important relationship dilemma. I’m sorry things are tricky, but here’s what I suggest: take a step back. As much as every cell in your body would not want to (because we think talking more will solve more things), limit the amount of engagement, because you’re hitting a wall. Like you said, each tiny argument blows out of proportion, you both might blame each other, and may even end up hating each other if you continue this cycle. Not to mention — this is also very toxic for the both of you, something I’m sure impacts your academics and personal health.
And it’s okay to take some time in a relationship, to acknowledge and accept that over-communication is doing more harm even if your heart is in the right place. Maybe limit to talking once in a day, when you tell each other about what happened. Try out therapy to work through your stress and wellbeing (this is something you can also encourage your partner for). Sometimes we end up depending too much on the people we love to “fix” ourselves, but it can turn toxic very quickly. Space might give you some time to take care of yourself, understand yourself better — and also understand your partner.