Relationships are hard regardless of the two people involved. When one partner has mental illness there are specific challenges. As people living with mental illness, we want the same things that every human being wants: to be loved, valued, and respected. We deal with different challenges then neurotypical people, but we still have the same basic human needs: food, sex, love, and shelter. There are certain tips that can help you if you are in a relationship with someone who has a mental illness. Here are some things to consider that might help:
- Be empathetic: even though you might not completely understand what your partner is going through, having empathy can help you two. Your partner will feel supported when you express genuine care and concern about what they’re going to. You don’t need to fix what’s happening but you can be supportive and loving during the tough times.
- Don’t assume that every bad day is about mental illness: We all have good days and bad days. Just because we have a bad day doesn’t mean it’s due to mental illness. Sometimes things happen during the day that can be frustrating and upsetting. It has nothing to do with mental illness, it’s just a part of living life.
- Listen: It’s common for the partner who doesn’t deal with mental health issues to want to fix the problems of the person who lives with mental illness. While this is well-intentioned, this isn’t necessary. You don’t have to fix anything for your partner. What you can do instead is be a good listener. Ask them what they need from you and see if you can provide that.
- Empower them: A lot of times as people living with mental illness we are used to thinking that we “can’t.” And although there are many times when this is true, there are also moments where we “can,” it’s just that our brains are lying to us. As a supportive partner, you can remind your loved one that they incredibly strong and that they can accomplish their goals. But also remember, slow and steady does indeed win the race. Don’t encourage the person to push themselves to the point of exhaustion.
- Respect boundaries: There are times when we can’t do things. Sometimes as much as we want to be able to do regular things like attend social events or parties, it’s not in the cards. Social anxiety can be a barrier to living life at times. Remember that your partner isn’t trying to ruin your night, they just don’t have the emotional wherewithal to go to a party. It’s like an athlete who has run a marathon and needs to rest. Our brains work differently than other people’s and we need to exercise high levels of self-care.
Are you someone living with mental illness? You can write about it here on Stigma Fighters. Are you in a relationship with someone who has a mental illness? You can read about ways to strengthen your relationship in counseling with this article from BetterHelp.com Living with mental illness isn’t easy and neither are relationships. Remember to forgive yourself if you hurt one another. It’s natural to hurt the people that are close to us. Try your best to communicate and apologize when there are hurt feelings. There’s hope for your relationship if you two work together.