Mental Health and Intimate Relationships

Bernadette Joy Graham,
Licensed Mental Health Therapist

A Mental Health Moment

By Bernadette Joy Graham, MA, LPCC, NCC, CCHt, Licensed Mental Health Therapist
The Truth Contributor

A question commonly asked during a mental health assessment is “are you in a relationship?”  Relationship status places an individual in a group– single, married, separated etc., and the functioning of the relationship is what therapists focus on to decide to delve deeper into the details or hold it to the side unless the client brings it more attention.  Relationship status is certainly not a red flag unless a pattern is recognized such as having five different relationships in the course of a year or not having any type of relationship for the past 10 years.

The definition of an intimate relationship is a relationship that is a feeling of being close, and emotionally connected and supported. Another part is being able to share a range of thoughts, feelings and experiences that we have as human beings.  Intimacy also reaches further with added sexual shared experiences.

Having an intimate relationship is often seen as important in adulthood and can have effects on one’s mental health.  For example, stress, anxiety, and depression are common sexless marriage effects on a husband.  When couples argue with more severe disagreements their sex life is affected and often a husband will be denied sex at home for extended periods of time and his mental health will begin to deteriorate from overthinking, stress and inability to release feel good hormones from sex.

The group reports that if a spouse withholds sex or uses it as further manipulation like a weapon that this behavior is immediate grounds for divorce and called alienation of affection or constructive abandonment.   This does imply that both parties are healthy and has the ability to have sex and not affected by a chronic illness or a disease making it difficult or impossible for sexual relations. This is also not to be taken as it is okay to feel forced into sex by a partner.  Any type of sexual relation should be consented by each partner.

So,  if the client reports that he or she is in a relationship but partner refuses sex this further suggests issues on the functioning of his or her life in other areas.  The client may report anxiety, stress, depression maybe not connecting the two but just feeling as if his or her mental health is declining.  After further information is shared there can be endless reasons and maybe the client should be referred for marriage or couples counseling.  Both parties should consider individual counseling as well as it may be due to a behavior from a partner’s mental health symptoms of another disorder such as major depressive disorder, anxiety, or trauma.

While one partner is suffering with symptoms and not feeling up to sexual relations the other partner may comprehend this as being rejected, manipulated or unwanted and soon both begin to develop negative attitudes and beliefs that further suppress the progress of the intimacy of the relationship.  With such high stigma of mental health there is a high chance one or both partners do not consider mental health help first and instead jump to conclusions that their partner no longer wants or needs them.

Communication cannot be stressed enough as most important in relationships.  Bad or no communication will lead to a toxic relationship or the end of the relationship when a simple caring thought as “are you okay? How are you feeling? Or even can you share how you are feeling?  And rule out both physical and mental health efforts by getting physical examinations and mental health assessments.

Take a mental health moment and consider your intimate relationship.  If it is not satisfying, maybe take a step forward and communicate to your partner that you are concerned with their health and while sexual relations are very important in a relationship, the health of both partners are even more important.  Talk with your primary care providers or reach out for professional mental health help as leaving the relationship will only cause damage to both parties and it may carry into their next relationships thus showing a bright pattern of endless breakups and toxic relationships.

Bernadette Graham is a Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselor, National Certified Counselor and Certified Grief Recovery Specialist. She is also a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist. Provide feedback or reach out at  For appointment information please call 419.409.4929  Available for team building, employee empowerment in motivation and better understanding mental health in the work place.  Accepting new clients ages 13 and older.