Mental illness and marriage – is there anything harder? Every marriage is unique and requires a personal set of needs, desires, communication, and care. Now throw a mental illness into the mix and you may find it takes a serious toll on your relationship.
There’s nothing worse than not being able to help the person you love more than anything. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, issues with mental health plague more than 43.8 million Americans. That is 1 in 5 adults. This can have a deep impact on mental health and marriage.
Don’t let a mental illness take over your romantic relationship. Here are 7 tips for coping with mental illness and marriage.
1. Do something
If you or your spouse are dealing with a mental health issue, don’t ignore it and hope that it goes away. Identify it and do something about it. Leaving a mental health problem alone will only make things worse.
Talk to your doctor and get you or your partner’s illness diagnosed. This may not automatically fix things, but certain medications may allow you to better deal with your problems or go on living a relatively “normal” life together.
Attending couples and individual therapy can also be incredibly helpful for both your health and the health of your marriage. It may be uncomfortable airing your private business to a counselor, but they are trained professionals who can help you create a healthy plan of action for your marriage.
2. Take care of yourself
If you are the spouse with the illness, do not overwhelm yourself by trying to do more than you’re able to. This isn’t beneficial to you or your spouse. Take care of yourself by paying attention to your health concerns and seeing your doctor and therapist regularly.
If you are the supportive partner and your spouse is the one with mental health issues, it is still important to take care of yourself. After all, you cannot be the shoulder to cry on, the loving spouse, or the support system for your partner if you aren’t ensuring you are getting proper outlets for sleep, personal happiness, and stress relief.
3. No quick fix
Some forms of mental illness may go away over time, but others may not or may take years and years of therapy to overcome. When you are dealing with mental illness and marriage, you should accept that there is no “quick-fix” solution that will make your spouse behave the way they used to.
You can not “fix” your spouse. You are not a therapist to your spouse, nor should they be for you. What you are is partners. You show each other loving compassion, respect, dignity, and trust.
Of course, if your spouse comes to you with a problem you will do your best to reassure them or help them out, but sometimes it is just as comforting for your partner to hear: “I’m sorry you’re feeling this way. I’m here for you for whatever you need.”
4. Get educated
Mental health issues are more common than you think, with 2.6% of American adults living with bipolar disorder, 1.1% with schizophrenia,18.1% with anxiety, OCD, PTSD, and 1 in 25 adults dealing with a serious mental illness that may severely inhibit their regular lives.
Whether it is you or your spouse who is dealing with a mental illness, there is no excuse to remain in the dark about the different issues you or your partner may be going through.
Learning about what your partner is going through or what their illness entails can help you be a better partner to them. You will know better how to handle them in certain situations, how to support their emotional wellbeing, and will help you connect on a deeper level.
5. Communicate and connect
Communication is the key to maintaining a healthy relationship, no matter what you or your partner may be going through. It helps you connect to one another. By sharing your thoughts, feelings, and opinions you strengthen your bond and help your spouse understand you better.
Apart from communicating regularly, it’s also important to connect with one another. If you are the spouse dealing with mental health issues it is essential that you involve your partner in your life.
When people suffer from mental illness they tend to draw away from friends, family, and their spouse. They isolate themselves, feeling like nobody understands what they are going through or perhaps not wanting to burden their partner with their “problems”.
Do not draw away from your spouse. Seek out different ways to connect. Your relationship can be healing for your soul if you understand how to utilize their love and support.
6. Have fun together
Panic attacks, high-highs, and low-lows, hospital stays, dips in energy and changes in personality. These are all part of the package when you have mental health and marriage intermingling. Does this mean that your marriage is doomed to fail or that you will be miserable together? Absolutely not!
Look for opportunities to have fun with your spouse. This may mean creating a new “normal” for yourselves. For example, if you two both used to love attending sporting events together, but your spouse now deals with social anxiety, why not make a big to-do of watching a game at home? Grab snacks, drinks, and create your own “stadium” in your living room.
Finding new ways to bring happiness into your relationship will be beneficial for both you and your spouse.
7. Don’t compare
Living with mental health issues can be difficult. You may wish that you or your partner were different. You may even find yourself comparing your marriage to that of your friends. But always remember that comparison is the thief of joy.
As stated at the onset, no marriage is the same. Living with a mental illness, whether it is yours or your partners, is just another unique facet of your relationship. Let go of what you think a marriage should look like and enjoy the one you have.
Whether you are dealing with depression and anxiety or another form of mental illness such as postpartum depression, coping with mental illness and marriage isn’t easy, but it is possible. Spouses who love one another, display understanding, and have a healthy, open line of communication will thrive in marriage.