How to Be Madly in Love . . . and Stay Sane
Byline: DR RAJ PERSAUD
Aim for balance: Both partners need to consider each other's desires IN THE final part of our exclusive serialisation of his book, Staying Sane, DR RAJ PERSAUD reveals how to develop relationships that will make you saner, while explaining ways to improve a relationship that is affecting your mental health.
RELATIONSHIPS with our bosses, partners, families and friends are among the most important aspects of mental health. When they are going well, we may take them for granted.
But if they are going badly, they become a major source of distress.
If you are facing a crisis, not having a relationship to buffer us against stressful times can lead to disaster, but having a bad one may prove even worse.
Disorders as different as alcoholism, stress and skin complaints are often attributable to living in troubled marital relationships.
For example, a mother who says she finds it impossible to look after her 'troublesome' children may simply be suffering a lack of support from her husband. It's that sense of isolation rather than the behaviour of children which is causing the problem.
Yet lack of relationships - or loneliness is even more likely to make you prone to psychological problems.
By focusing on the quality of your personal relationships before they run into trouble it is possible to avoid causing yourself distress.
If you don't have many friends it could be a sign that you are developing mental health problems. There is such a powerful link between relationship difficulty and psychological problems that one crude marker of your mental health is the extent and depth of your social network - in other words, how many friends you have and how close you are to them.
Even if you are one of the lucky ones who has a network of good relationships, losing one of them might still precipitate a psychiatric disorder. But changes are an inevitable part of life and the key to keeping at the right end of the sanity scale is ensure you are mentally fit enough to cope with changes to your relationships.
Similarly, it is possible to avoid making yourself ill by not getting involved in damaging relationships.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT PARTNER
ROMANTIC relationships follow a common and predictable pattern in that we fall in love and attach ourselves to another when at the peak of physical or mental health.
A partner's ability to provide support in times of crisis is never an issue when we are choosing our life partner or friends - even though this may be crucial in the future. I tend to advise those trying to decide on the suitability of future partners to generate some kind of personal crisis to test how supportive their intended partner would be.
By 'generate' I do not mean make one up if your life is running smoothly, but perhaps be a lot franker and emphasise a problem in your life that you might otherwise decide to hide.
The big mistake most couples make is to seek to commit themselves after a period of courting during which they have carefully presented the best aspects of themselves to each other.
But you will only know whether someone is really right for you when you still feel you want a relationship with them after you have seen them at their worst, or find they can still support you when you are at your worst.
We often seek out our partners according to how physically attractive they are, how wealthy, how witty, how popular, and so on. But the best way to preserve and enhance your mental health is to put at the top of your list of priorities the quality of being emotionally supportive.
A potential partner who is outstandingly beautiful but incapable of sympathising with your feelings is not going to be the best person to spend your life with. …