My partner’s struggling hard.
How do I stay strong (and sane!)?

My partner’s struggling hard.
How do I stay strong (and sane!)?

We’ve talked before about how tough it can be to be isolated when you’re single. But, as 2020 continues to play out, it seems that couples are facing plenty of challenges of their own.

While you’d expect that a live-in partner would provide round-the-clock company and support…it turns out that quite the reverse can be true.

According to the SMH, “The number of couples seeking separation advice has spiked as lockdown is wound back, with almost half of surveyed Australians experiencing negative change to their relationship during isolation.”

Relationships Australia concurred, reporting that 42% of respondents to a May survey said that isolation had negatively impacted their relationship with their partner. A national mediation service, The Separation Guide, even estimated that numbers of people thinking about separating were up more than 300%.

For many couples, it seems Covid-19 is the straw that’s breaking the camel’s back.

Pandemic-related pressures are no doubt taking a toll – but they’re also bringing pre-existing tensions to the surface. In many cases, spending more time together at home (with no outlet) highlights issues that previously were easy to gloss over or ignore, such as ‘who does what’ around the house – and at the extreme end of the spectrum, domestic violence.

Tension also emerges when one partner is struggling, leaving the other to be ‘the strong one’.

If your partner isn’t their usual self, depression or anxiety could be playing a part… and it can manifest in some surprising ways.

“If someone’s dealing with depression or anxiety, they may seem withdrawn, tense or uncommunicative; they may obsess over the ‘worst case scenario’; they may find it hard to eat or sleep,” explains Barbara Rabbitts, Counselling Manager at Lifeline Northern Beaches.

“They may lose interest in sex, or neglect responsibilities like housework. But regardless of how it plays out, depression and anxiety will almost certainly have a detrimental impact on any relationship.”

It doesn’t feel fair (and it’s not). But depression and anxiety don’t have to get the better of your partnership.

Supporting a partner with their mental health struggles isn’t easy, but getting through this together can actually strengthen your relationship in the long term. Here are a few strategies that can help.

Try to limit conflict and tension – always remain respectful of each other even in the heat of the moment. Better to walk away and calm yourselves, returning to the discussion later.

Communication is key. If your partner is not their usual self, ask them how they’re feeling and let them feel heard. You don’t have to fix it for them, but it’s amazing how good it feels to get things off your chest.

If your partner is constantly worrying, encourage them to keep things in perspective. Remind them of helpful coping strategies they’ve used previously to overcome difficult circumstances, and that ‘this too shall pass’.

Depression has an insidious way of making everything seem ‘bad’ and overwhelming. Again, encouraging your partner to acknowledge positives and pleasant moments. Break things down and help problem-solve if needed.

Humour, humour, humour! Try to inject some fun times, and shared enjoyable activities (watching movies, going for a walk together, board games).

Remember the importance of ‘me time’. When you feel like you’re working 24/7 to help them, you risk neglecting your own needs. Take time and space out to do things that matter to you, whether it’s exercise, see friends, or just sleep!

Be kind to each other. It sounds simple, but by expecting a little less and being generous in spirit, you can make life easier for both of you.

Need some support? Here are some of the services available.

13 11 14
24/7 support line. Free call.

Or you can visit our Get Help page to see the local services available across the Northern Beaches. Lifeline Northern Beaches offers couples counselling, so get in touch with us if you’d like some professional support for your relationship.

National Alcohol and Other Drug hotline
1800 250 015
Help for alcohol and other drug issues.

Gambling Helpline
1800 858 858
Available 24 hours a day if you need to speak to someone about problem gambling.

1800 737 732
National free, 24/7 hotline for anyone experiencing or at risk of domestic violence.

Men’s Referral Service
1300 766 491
Help for men to stop using family violence.

Mensline Australia
1300 789 978
Support for men with family and relationship difficulties.