Being in an intimate relationship with a partner who has mental health issues can be very challenging for both of you. The illness can make your partner seem distant and that they don’t love you anymore. They may feel like a burden to you and your family. They may cut themselves off from family and friends and not want to socialise anymore.
None of that means that your relationship is the problem. You can tackle this together however hard it might seem.
My partner Michael suffers from clinical depression and has very recently been diagnosed with anti-social and avoidant personality disorder, so I know how hard it can be being the other half. It has affected our relationship in some ways but it has also given us a stronger love and respect for each other. This of course won’t be the same for everyone but I hope the following tips and suggestions come in handy for you.
The good news is it is not hopeless. A partner who has mental health issues can cause you stress in a relationship. So can a death in the family, money troubles or other disagreements. Mental health isn’t the first problems couples have had, and wont be the last. Like all other problems you can work through your problems.
This is so important and needs to take top priority. If your partner doesn’t want to talk about his illness then maybe suggest he writes it all down. How he’s feeling, explaining what triggers, warning signs and symptoms so that you can better understand his illness. Then you can respond in a supportive and productive way. Also remember that your needs and opinions should be met and respected too.
2. Don’t take things personally
Your partner will have good and bad days. Some days it can be overwhelming for them to just get out of bed. That lethargy can carry over into things like going out on dates, having sex, or even carrying on basic conversations. If your partner has lost interest in these essential elements of a relationship, it can hurt. It is also important that you realise that them not being interested in those things has absolutely nothing to do with you. If you had a partner who had a broken leg, they may not be able to go out on as many dates or have much sex, but you can clearly see why. With a mental illness the problem is hidden.
3. Help them get help
You should avoid taking your partners symptoms personally but you shouldn’t ignore them. The fact that a mental illness can sap your partner’s motivation for romance doesn’t make it hurt any less when you feel neglected. If your partner were sick or injured, you wouldn’t resent them for it, but you would help them get treatment. Mental illness is no different.
Supportive, loving relationships can be a huge benefit to someone suffering from mental health issues. However, it only works if you’re both working together to deal with it constructively. That includes being understanding of your partner, but it also means taking practical steps to deal with the underlying issue. Educate yourself about their illness, encourage them to stick to goals, tracking progress etc. but also seek help from a therapist or someone experienced in this field.
It is also important not to force treatment on your partner. You can assist and support but you cant make them do it. If they refuse to get help, then you then can determine whether or not you can remain supportive and stay in the relationship. But they need to decide themselves.
4. Give your partner space for the bad days
This is something I learned to do over time. I knew when Michael needed his space and I left him to it. Again it can be difficult especially if you had made plans or wanted to spend time together. It is easy to get frustrated but being prepared for the bad days is vital. I would take myself off and find something else to do. Or enjoy some quiet time. One single bad day doesn’t mean the end of the world.
Listen to any problems they experience or special concerns they have.
Hear them without judgment. Without trying to shut them down or interrupting or trying to solve the problem.
Some will just take time and patience to crack. It is a challenge and I think you have to take one day at a time. It can be mentally and emotionally exhausting. Speaking to other people who are going through similar experiences does help.
I have made a Facebook group for this reason.
It is a support group for partners of mental health issues/addictions.
Click here to join the group
Join my Facebook group here