How To Navigate A Relationship When Your Partner Struggles With Mental Illness
Love is strong and overcomes a lot just as long as you put in sustained effort. Having a mental illness doesn’t have to be the end of the line for your love story
Human beings are complex, social animals. We evolved to live in groups and form relationships within our communities. Most cues for these aspects of life come to us naturally. However, that doesn’t mean that forming and maintaining relationships is easy. While finding love is one of the most talked about aspects of romance, it is the sustenance of said love that is most difficult.
There are various aspects of a successful relationship; there is the chemistry at the initial stages. It is impossible to find love without chemistry and so it is essential. Once you’re in the relationship, understanding each other comes into play. It is true that with chemistry, love and understanding, relationships can be happy, healthy and long. Life is not as straightforward and often there are a lot of external factors that affect relationships. More often than not these factors are out of the couples’ control and so it all comes down to being patient and taking the right decisions.
One such factor that can place a strain on relationships is mental illness. We live in a fast-paced world that doesn’t allow us enough time or energy to rest and recover. Mental illnesses are a part of our lives and there is no denying it. While there is a lot more understanding and insight into what these illnesses are and why they shouldn’t be stigmatized, it is still quite a challenge to navigate them in real life. Mental illnesses are hard on the people that are affected and so it is essential to get a diagnosis followed by help and support. It is very important for family, friends and partners to support people suffering from mental illnesses.
How does one ensure that they’re providing their partner with the right kind of help and support should they suffer from an illness? The most important thing is to know that the situation is central to your partner, not to you. However, it may be affecting your life, it affects their life more and they deserve your love, respect and support more than anything else. If you love your partner and are willing to do the work to make your relationship work, half the battle has been won. You can start by trying to find out more about your partner’s mental illness. Find out what they suffer from, talk to them about how they manage the illness and see if there is anything you can do to help them manage their life better. Seek information about your partner's diagnosis from reliable sources and avoid misinformation. You can also look into mental health organizations or support groups relevant to you and your partner. Knowing about the symptoms and implications of your partner's diagnosis can help you create a good healing environment for them.
There are certain situations, however, where the best thing you can do for your partner is step back and let them have some space. You might want to be proactive in dealing with their diagnosis but it is a very personal matter, so being able to step back is just as important as being able to step up in this situation. Remember to treat your partner with respect and not disregard their opinion in how to handle their own diagnosis. While there are situations where your partner may need you to act on their behalf, this should not translate to you dictating their life. Taking decisions when your partner needs you to and taking decisions all the time are two very different things and should be kept separate.
Your partner may not always know that they’re suffering with a mental illness. They might start falling sick after you’ve been with them so keep an eye out for signs of them suffering. Don’t take any new conflicts in the relationship at surface level, see if there is a reason why your partner is stressed and upset. You need to be mindful in relationships and so be mindful of what you say and hear. Is there a change in the way your partner acts? Is there a change in their appetite? Has their lifestyle altered without explanation? Has your partner started to self-medicate with alcohol or nicotine? Keeping an eye on things like this can allow you to understand what state of mind your partner is in and if they need help from you and/or a professional. Medication and therapy go a long way when it comes to mental illness and an early diagnosis could spare your partner the pain of being misunderstood and untreated.
It is not easy to navigate life with a mental illness, remember that when with a partner struggling with one. The best thing you can do is communicate with your partner and find out what they need. The time following a diagnosis can be embarrassing for your partner. They may not feel like themselves for a while afterward so be mindful of their insecurities and doubts. If your partner asks for validation, give it to them because they need it. If your partner needs to be reassured of your feelings towards them; don’t take it personally. It is not a lack of trust in you but in themselves.
There will be times where you’ll do everything right and still not get the result you want and you have to learn to accept that. It takes time and patience to come up with a way of living that works for your partner's healing path as well as your relationship. Be kind and patient. Remember that your partner is dealing with a lot of pressure and stress that may not even be related to you so don’t take things personally. The most important point when everything else has been taken care of is self-care. You need to keep yourself in good health and a pleasant mindset. Remember to take care of your own well-being as well because this can only work if both parties are moving towards good health. You cannot pour from an empty cup so continue to work on yourself as you work to ensure your partner's healing and comfort.
Love is strong and overcomes a lot just as long as you put in sustained effort. Having a mental illness doesn’t have to be the end of the line for your love story.