Having a relationship with an otherwise ‘normal’ person always has its ups and downs. I cannot imagine the challenges an individual face when he loves someone who has a mental disorder. Or perhaps you want to love a person who is mentally ill, but you don’t know how.
Being in a relationship is generally wonderful under wonderful circumstances. However, having it with someone who was diagnosed with a mental disorder can be more complicated than it seems. More often than not, you feel more pressured to take care of the other person, and you handle more responsibilities.
Before you think that your relationship is hopeless, please remember that most people with a mental illness do become better, or even possibly recover. But you must accept that you play an essential role for your partner to achieve that progress or recovery. According to Jeffrey Sumber, Chicago psychotherapist and relationship coach, “It is not true that a mental illness can destroy a relationship. People destroy a relationship.”
Keeping that in mind, here are some things you can do to help your loved one go through their mental illness, and ultimately take control of your relationship TOGETHER.
- Not THE mentally ill, no they’re not. Your partner is suffering from mental illness, he is not the disease. You should do well to remember this in your journey together.
- Be educated. Knowing the illness – its signs, symptoms, the ‘hows’ and the ‘whys’ – would make it easier to handle your partner. Gather information on how to deal with his anger, when to say the right things at the right time, or when to just not say anything. Find out why he seems so ‘far away’ sometimes, and the next thing you know he’s right beside you and tagging along like nothing happened. By doing this, you are able to handle his symptoms and avoid the possibility of hurting each other. Learn how you can help by taking lessons from a mental health professional.
- You are not a cure. Never think that you can heal your partner from his illness. Only he can do that, along with treatment options that will eventually alleviate and eliminate the disease. You are only a support system – a strong one at that – who will guide him through the path of happiness and acceptance of what is and what will be.
- Let it be about each other. Remember why you are together in the first place – because you love each other. Let it be about that – not about the illness. Don’t let it control your lives. When it does, it will manipulate both of you and take over your relationship until it crumbles. Have a date for a few hours. Express your love and admiration. This strengthens your relationship and helps you tackle more complex problems in the future.
- Be honest. It’s one thing to try being patient with your partner. It’s another thing to tell him you can’t understand what’s happening anymore. It’s okay to feel frustrated, but you should always practice honesty with each other, because it is essential in keeping your relationship real. Talk about anything together. Positive communication contributes to a transparent and lasting bond.
- Love yourself. You can’t give love if you don’t have it, right? Self-care is one way of boosting your confidence, and you should have enough of it to stand up against the challenges you face every day. Give yourself a break. Relax and breathe. Find the peace and focus that you need for the next challenges to come. Stay healthy – you’ve got to be.
- Seek individual and couple counseling. If you feel like you need to vent it out, make an appointment with a psychotherapist. The stress and anxiety will be overwhelming at times and in order to maintain your composure and not put blame on your partner, you’ll need to express the negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones when you’re with your partner.
Additionally, engaging in couples counseling sessions have proven to be helpful. This way, you are both guided professionally towards a more healthy way to deal with the pressures that come about due to the mental illness. Counseling together also gives you an opportunity to assess yourselves as a couple and try to find ways to control your relationship – not be controlled by it.