Finding out that you or your partner suffer from mental illness can be a very tiring and disheartening experience. Without a doubt, you will go through stages of grieving, especially if the relationship was on a rocky foundation to begin with – even more so if you’re currently in the middle of the divorce process itself. Below, we will talk about how to accept your mental illness and how it can come into play with divorces.
Mental Illness and Divorce
Mental illness can be hard for couples to handle in a relationship and frequently leads to divorce. Often, stress levels between couples rise when handling a mental illness and it becomes the key focus of the relationship. Even if a couple tries to make the mental illness a small part of their relationship, the mentally-ill partner often ends up not having much control over how or how often their illness manifests and the other partner may not always be able to control their responses to and feelings about the mental illness. Over time, built-up feelings of pain, resentment, and frustration can ultimately destroy the relationship forever.
One survey studied the connection between 18 types of mental illnesses and divorce. It found that there was a positive correlation between the two, meaning those who experienced mental illness were more likely to get divorced. Their finding was largely attributed to the stress that a mental illness can put on a relationship.
Tips for Dealing With Mental Illness in a Relationship
Here are 12 tips for couples to help maintain a relationship with your significant other despite your or their mental illness:
- Understand the illness and the available treatment options. It’s important that the mentally-ill partner is getting effective and ongoing treatment. It is also vital for you to understand what your partner is going through and how you can support them. For example, you can read a blog like Schizlife to learn what it’s like to live with schizophrenia and how the different stages of the disease could affect your relationship.
- Figure out how you can help each other. Meeting with a mental health professional can not only help you find an effective treatment plan but also figure out a support system that you can use to help your partner during their treatment.
- Don’t let diagnosis ruin the relationship. As a couple, you’re going to undergo a lot of diagnoses that might shake both partners. It’s important you take on one challenge at a time and don’t let it define your relationship.
- Enjoy your relationship without letting mental illness affect it. As a couple, it’s important you consider each other’s feelings and take care of each over when you feel isolated. However, when your relationship is started to get affected by mental illness, it’s important to take steps to prevent the mental illness from doing this.
- Keep up positive communication with each other. It’s easy for couples to break apart due to mental illnesses. Due to this, it’s important each partner checks up on each other and says ‘I love you’ throughout the day.
- Keep up the admiration for each other. It’s easy for partners to get stressed out over each other when dealing with a mental illness in the relationship. Plus, recent studies have shown that couples that regularly admire each other have a stronger connection.
- Consistently check in with each other. Whether you do it daily or weekly, take some time to sit down together and see how both of you are doing. Couples with a healthy relationship notoriously check in and listen to each other.
- Create a self-care routine. Taking care of yourself is not a selfish luxury but rather a necessity. Helping your spouse manage their mental illness requires a lot of energy. You cannot help them to the best of your ability if you do not take care of yourself first. In fact, not caring for yourself will boost the stress caused by the illness and put the relationship at risk. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, spending time with loved ones, and doing your favorite hobbies.
- Remember that your partner is not responsible for meeting all of your needs. Many couples hold the unrealistic belief that their partner is there to make them happy and meet all of their needs. They then become upset and resentful when their partner cannot. Though your partner can offer support and love to you, at the end of the day, you are responsible for your own happiness.
- Don’t blame your partner. Many experts say that they see a lot of blaming on both sides in relationships where one person has a mental illness. The “healthy” partner often blames everything that goes wrong in the relationship on the other person. This creates an unhealthy relationship dynamic. The key to avoiding this is to focus on empathy and understanding. Ask open-ended questions about their illness and experiences and listen deeply to your partner’s answers. Though you may not like what they have to say, it is better to understand where they are coming from. Try to talk about your concerns and feelings without being judgmental.
- Go to couples counseling. Seeing a professional can offer some perspective and guidance in situations that can quickly get out of hand. Because mental illness can cause a lot of stress in the relationship, it is good to bring in an impartial third party to help out. Though couples counseling may seem expensive, it is well worth the cost for the peace of mind you will both receive.
- Learn and grow from the challenges. Any time you face a particularly tough situation, ask yourself what you can learn from it. Think about how you are reacting to the challenge and how you can improve in the future.
It’s important to remember that every relationship has its own unique set of challenges and problems that couples face – and hopefully overcome – every day. Those who stay together acknowledge their problems and work hard to find ways to minimize the effect on their relationship, refusing to let the problem define how they feel about each other. Unfortunately, like any other chronic illness, mental illness can take a toll on a marriage. Before you decide to call it quits, consider the 12 tips above if you wish to keep your relationship going and stay in connection with one another.
Alex Moore is a Psychology blogger with a special interest in relationships. You can often find him trying to understand what the secret ingredient that binds people together is, or contributing a blog post to www.schizlife.com.