Living with a spouse with mental illness in marriage is quite difficult. A renowned clinical psychologist and author of The Available Parent: Radical Optimism in Raising Teens and Tweens, John Duffy, Ph.D. has added –
“The stress level often stretches into a crisis mode, in which managing the illness becomes, for all intents and purposes, the sole function of the relationship.”
Another famous Chicago psychotherapist and relationship coach Jeffrey Sumber, MA, LCPC, has also given his input on mental illness and relationships – “The mental illness has a way of wanting to direct the movement of the relationship, rather than the individual partners.”
But he also said – “It is not true that mental illness can destroy a relationship. People destroy a relationship.”
Normally, people like to talk about how their mental illness affects their family, especially their parents or the child. But it is a far more serious matter. Mental illness can negatively affect a person’s marital life and make it reach a crisis level.
People who are facing a mental illness can have a negative impact on their spouse’s mental health, and vice versa.
While experiencing these challenges, people can take a leap of faith and learn how to maintain a healthy relationship while coping with a spouse with mental illness.
Ways to maintain a healthy marriage while dealing with a mentally ill spouse
1. Educate Yourself first
To date, many individuals are uninformed about the basics of mental illness, or they believe in inaccurate information.
Before you learn how to deal with mental illness in a spouse, the first step is to find a high-quality psychological and medical expert. After that search for related content and online information about the particular diagnosis.
Choose from legitimate websites with a good reputation and recommendation by your psychotherapist.
It is very hard to recognize the symptoms of mental illness for a common individual. It is easy to consider your spouse as a lazy, irritable, distracted, and irrational human being.
Some of these “character flaws” are the symptoms. But to identify those symptoms, you need to know the basics of mental illness.
The most effective treatment will include therapy and medication. You can consult a Mental health professional to get yourself educated. You must become an essential part of your spouse’s treatment plan.
You can visit ions such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), or Mental Health America (MHA). These are some of the best sources of practical information, resources, and support.
2. Spend time together as much as possible
If you are married to someone with mental illness, stress would be a common issue that would affect your relationship.
Regardless of the level of stress you are experiencing; you should have a sense of care and support for one another. A loving bond that may create a relationship that tends to survive.
You may sit together for a few minutes and discuss talk about your requirements and intentions for the coming days. Tell your spouse how much you care about him/her. Tell him/her how much you appreciate even the smallest things about him/her.
This will help you to keep your spouse relaxed and your relationship healthy.
Mental health issues can harm your normal sex life. It may happen when being a mental patient; your spouse regularly takes medications. If you are experiencing a disturbance in your normal sex life due to medications, discuss the matter with your partner and your doctor.
Make sure you are not going under medications that are nor prescribed by your doctor. Also, do not stop your prescribed medications without your doctor’s approval.
Normal sex life is important to calm your body and mind. Sex improves your immunity system and strengthens your mind. Reduced sex life can create mental issues, and your body reacts negatively to mental illness.
“What mental health needs are more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation.” – Glenn Close
3. Maintain positive communication
As per my experience, couples who express their emotions every day by saying few lovely words like ‘I love you,’ or “I miss you,” through messages or via phone calls or direct conversation, they can maintain better chemistry in their relationship.
Maintain your marriage just like a newly married couple. Try to communicate with your spouse as much as possible.
If your spouse is a full time working individual, you should also look after that whether he or she is facing workplace depression or not. There are multiple reasons for which a person can be affected by workplace depression.
According to Mental Health America, one in 20 workers is suffering from depression at work at any given time. So, there’s a chance that your spouse might also be experiencing mental health problems due to workplace issues.
So, what’s the solution to this issue?
Find some spare time, at least twice a week, and go on dates together. You are the only one who can comfort him/her from this misery.
You may go to a musical concert, or watch a movie together, or dine in an expensive restaurant, whatever makes him/her happy. Don’t let mental illness ruin your marriage.
4. Regularly practice self-care
This is an important aspect which you should deal with having a mentally ill spouse. Self-care is important when you have a spouse with mental health issues. If you shift your focus from both of your physical health and hygiene, you’ll be putting both of your life at risk.
Start from the basics- Drink plenty of water, have enough sleep, do some regular physical activities such as jogging, cycling, running, aerobics, etc.
You also need to eat healthy food, and avoid junk food, spend time with friends or loved ones, take a break from your daily life, and go for a vacation trip.
You may also engage yourself with different creative activities or hobbies.
“The strongest people are those who win battles we know nothing about.” – Unknown
5. Avoid blaming each other
Blaming each other on some simple reasons may go beyond the limit and can make the mental illness severe. This will gradually make your relationship unhealthy. I would suggest you cultivate understanding in both of you.
Make everything clear, accept what you have done, and move forward. Don’t be judgmental, know everything, then react.
You can discuss queries about illness, and listen to what your spouse has to say. You may not agree with the responses, but you have to understand that your spouse is ill.
A heating argument can make him/her restless. You need to understand him/her, no matter how difficult it becomes.
6. Avoid drinking alcohol or taking drugs
Many couples who face severe marital stress or trauma may start drinking alcohol or taking drugs. You and your spouse may also fall into this addiction.
You may take these substances to escape from your mental stress or emotions.
These habits not only damage your health but can also destroy your marital life. If you’re having difficulties to avoid drinking and drugs, try yoga, deep breathing, regular exercising, etc. Trust me, it’ll work.
7. Give proper focus on your kids
Kids may naturally think that it is their duty to fix their parent’s problems. But they can’t practically fix your mental issues. So, you must make them understand their limitations.
You should inform them that curing mental illness is not their responsibility.
If you are having difficulties to talk with them about mental illness, you can take the help of a professional. An expert on child psychology may help you to convey your message better.
Get in touch with your kids. Let them know that they can still rely on you in difficult times. It is better if you spend adequate time in family activities.
“Mental health…is not a destination but a process. It’s about how you drive, not where you’re going.” – Noam Shpancer, PhD