Our society is so hyper-fixated on that which they can physically see that they fail to understand the complexities of our minds and overall mental health.
Some may try to understand the burden of the person that struggles with their mental health, but what about their loved ones — family, friends, spouse? It can be easy to disregard those loved ones, as being haunted by one’s own mind can be difficult to digest.
However, as someone who has to watch their spouse suffer, often feeling defenseless and perhaps even unloved, your married life is taken over by coping with the consequences of your significant other’s mental illness.
How can we help our spouse?
Mental illness can be challenging to understand, leaving you feeling useless. According to Psychology Today, a “partner may feel confused or frustrated by their inability to help.” And they can’t be blamed.
Those who struggle with mental illness tend to be depressed, have low energy, struggle to keep up with their regular household tasks and forget to care for their relationships.
But as someone on the other side, instead of just trying to ignore how these behaviors make you feel, start by educating yourself on mental health, especially on your spouse’s diagnosis. This can start giving you a clearer picture and help you align your expectations and understand what can be triggering for your spouse.
If you don’t focus on educating yourself, you will likely feel confused, frustrated, and even resentful toward your spouse. In fact, it has been found that educating yourself “helps you gain a better understanding of it and clues you into how the symptoms manifest in your marriage or partnership.”
Care always starts with oneself
Additionally, it is essential to take care of yourself. When I asked my husband how he coped with the severe mood swings that can sometimes arise from my condition, he told me the most important thing for him was to find time to care for himself. He stated that he could not expect to care for me and nurture our relationship if he did not find ways to do things that made him happy and helped him recharge.
Therefore, make time to practice self-care. What makes your heart sing? Is it hanging out with friends? Going to the beach? Working out? Schedule some “me time” so your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being can thrive.
Lastly, I know it’s hard, but try not to focus only on their mental illness.
Remember, their mental illness does not solely define your spouse. There are many virtues to them. After all, this is why you chose them to be your partner in the first place. Think about all their attributes, their strength, their tenacity. Don’t weaponize their mental health. Instead, be open and honest about your feelings. Your spouse will appreciate you opening up, and the result will be caring for one another and understanding each other.
I can’t say there won’t be bad days but think about all the good memories. Focus on making more memories you can cherish and look back on with a heart full of joy.
In the end, remember that the whole point isn’t to invalidate your feelings (or your spouse’s) but to find healthy coping strategies that will allow you and your marriage to flourish.