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How Emotional Health Contributes to Relationship Health

May 24, 2024

Emotional health is key to having healthy relationships. Why? Because relationships that go beyond the superficial level depend on an emotional connection. If you aren’t emotionally healthy, your ability to connect will be impaired, causing your relationships to flounder or become damaged.

Emotional health means being aware of your own emotions. It means you have the skills and resiliency to deal with both good and bad feelings. Emotional health is important for relationships because if you can’t address your own emotions, you may put the pressure on your partner to do so. Or you may hold your feelings in, a practice that can be just as harmful, as it creates walls between yourself and the person you love and limits your ability to offer emotional support in turn.

What Does It Mean to Be Emotionally Healthy?

We can identify emotionally healthy people by their actions. It’s not what they feel, but how they deal with what they feel  that matters most. They have emotional intelligence, which Harvard Business School explains is not just the ability to recognize and manage your own emotions, but the ability to recognize those of the people around you. This limits misunderstandings and strengthens your ability to support and better respond to someone else’s emotions. Here are some examples of behaviors that emotionally healthy people demonstrate:

  • You accept your emotions, then release them. Emotionally healthy people don’t fear, suppress, or resist their emotions. You embrace your emotions which puts you back in the seat of control. You can then choose how to respond to certain situations instead of simply reacting. After you experience and process your emotions, you move on.
  • You build emotional resilience. The various challenges we face in life can be extremely overwhelming. When we feel defeated or drained, we have the choice to either stay down or pick ourselves back up. Emotionally healthy people recognize that being down doesn’t mean being out. You choose to become more resilient and accept that life’s challenges are natural, not unusual. You pick yourself up and become stronger as a result.
  • You have techniques for managing stress in healthy ways. Emotionally healthy people understand that stress is part of life and must be dealt with as it comes. You use techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, journaling, listening to music, and exercise to help lower your stress levels. You recognize that not releasing stress or choosing to indulge in unhealthy habits will only make you feel worse in the long run.
  • You communicate your emotions in healthy ways. Emotionally healthy people know that healthy communication in relationships is key. Healthy communication means you can express how you feel without blaming or attempting to manipulate others. You are open and honest while taking complete ownership of how you feel. You are not threatened by the emotions of others, meaning that you can listen carefully to someone sharing their feelings and accept their emotions without taking ownership of them or becoming offended.

    Healthy communication means you can express how you feel without blaming or attempting to manipulate others.

  • You set healthy boundaries in relationships. Setting boundaries means being able to say, This is mine and, That is yours when it comes to your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Emotionally healthy people do not try to make other people responsible for how they feel (or responsible to change how they feel). While you may be empathetic, you don’t take responsibility for resolving the emotional burdens of others. You are clear and communicative about your feelings, thoughts, possessions, and even personal space while being caring toward others. You know how and when to say no, and you consistently act on your values. According to Healthline.com, having healthy boundaries can boost your self-esteem, help you conserve emotional energy, and provide you with more independence and agency in your life.

Building Emotional Resilience

Being emotionally resilient is one of the key aspects of emotional well-being. It’s as important for you personally as it is for your relationship as a whole. You need to be able to manage life’s ups and downs, as well as the ups and downs of a relationship. Both life and relationships come with challenges, and how you respond to them emotionally makes a big difference in whether they set you back or not. So how do you go about building emotional resilience?

Some aspects of emotional resilience are beyond our control. VerywellMind.com shares that we are all born with varying levels of emotional resilience. This base level is then affected by our age, identity, and life experiences. We don’t have any say in these innate and experiential aspects of emotional health. But we do have a say in how we respond to them and the steps we take to make positive changes in how we feel and how we act. We can build emotional resilience by learning how to recognize our own emotions and our partner’s emotions. We can gain the skills needed to respond to these feelings appropriately and with balance. We can also focus on staying positive within our relationships, creating goals and continuing toward them despite setbacks, and finding social and professional support. This last tool is the most important especially if you and your partner are struggling to find empathy and relationship strength. Professional help gives you the tools and perspectives you need for emotional resilience.

Why Is Emotional Health in Relationships So Important?

couple in car enjoying each other's company

The quality of our relationships affect many other areas of our lives. Relationships can positively or negatively alter our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Healthy relationships can be rewarding, fulfilling, and energizing. They can empower our personal development and ability to serve others. On the other hand, unhealthy relationships can be draining, damaging, and harmful. They can make us regress into childish behaviors and become more needy.

If you are in recovery, relationship health is crucial to maintaining your sobriety. Supportive friends, family members, and peers in recovery can offer you strength to live a fulfilling life without drugs or alcohol. Unhealthy relationships can drag anyone down, but you may be more susceptible to relapse and mental health issues if you have negative connections or experience neglect.

According to Healthyplacecom, here are a some key characteristics of healthy relationships:

  • Common goals
  • Empathy
  • Mutual trust
  • Honesty
  • Mutual respect
  • Commitment
  • A sense of boundaries, personal space
  • A focus on the positive (emotions, thoughts, behaviors, situations)
  • Communication
  • Emotional security
  • Humor, shared laughter
  • Affection
  • Compromise

Attending therapy, outpatient groups, and 12-Step programs can foster your ability to form healthy relationships and be a positive influence on your development as a person.

Improving Emotional and Mental Health for Better Relationships

You may be concerned about how your partner will react, but there are positive ways — and many good reasons — to communicate what you’ve been through.

Mental health issues can have a serious impact on relationships. They can make us volatile, unresponsive, fearful, or irrational. Loved ones don’t always know what’s wrong and may take things personally or respond poorly. Cycles of negativity can perpetuate or worsen mental health conditions.

Getting a diagnosis for a mental health condition, attending therapy, and getting supportive medication when necessary can help you form and retain healthy relationships. Loved ones can also benefit from therapy by learning how to express their own feelings and gain understanding about mental health conditions, including what it means to be supportive. Mental health issues can have a strong tendency to damage or weaken relationships, but they don’t have to. With support for healing, you can learn how to manage your mental health symptoms in healthy ways and have healthier relationships.

You can also practice self-care to find relationship satisfaction. It may seem paradoxical to focus on yourself when you are trying to build a better partnership, but as Medium explains, “When we take care of ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally, we are better equipped to engage in meaningful connections with others.” In addition to enhancing our self-esteem, reducing stress, and promoting overall well-being, self-care allows us to “bring our best selves into our relationships.”

When it comes to romantic relationships, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers tips on opening up about your mental health history with a partner. You may be concerned about how your partner will react, but there are positive ways — and many good reasons — to communicate what you’ve been through. By sharing your health history, NAMI experts say you provide insight into not just your challenges, but also your strengths.

Emotional Health and Conflict Resolution

Emotional health means understanding yourself and your feelings better. But as mentioned above, it also involves improving your understanding and awareness of others’ feelings. And this awareness coupled with your own growing ability to find emotional resilience and balance has the wonderful side effect of making conflict resolution easier, faster, and more satisfactory for everyone involved. Conflict resolution begins with understanding your own emotions about the situation. Are you exploring your own reactions and the reasons behind your emotions? Are you responding to the situation in a proportional way? Are you clearly stating your own feelings so that the other person can understand? These aspects of healthy communication in relationships require emotional health and further reveal how taking care of yourself benefits the relationship as a whole.

The next step is to practice empathy, another tool that stems from your own emotional well-being. Do your best to understand the other person’s reactions and feelings. When this is difficult, take a step back and ask questions to learn more about the situation and the emotions present. When both of you communicate, understand your own feelings, and listen to the feelings of the other person, you can de-escalate disagreements. Then, if there’s even conflict left after that, you can find solutions that honor the emotional health of both partners involved.

Recovery from Emotional Trauma at Willow House

At Willow House at The Meadows, we utilize a number of proven treatments and therapies to help women recover from emotional trauma and associated substance use or mental health conditions. We use experiential therapies like expressive arts, music, and peer support to help you find yourself and learn to thrive again. If you think you or a loved one may need treatment for intimacy disorders, emotional trauma, or co-occurring disorders, please get in touch with our team today. We can tell you more about our program and help you or your loved one take the first step on your journey to recovery.