By Marli Naidoo
Every marriage comes with its own set of challenges and you have to equip yourself to be the best possible life partner. Should you decide to embark on the life-long journey with a partner who is living with a mental disorder, these challenges lie before you like a range of hills. But with lots of love, outside help and the necessary adjustments you can tackle and overcome these hills hand in hand at a steady pace.
Make sure that you are up-to-date with your partner’s diagnosis. One cannot see what is going on in somebody else’s mind and they are not always able to express it. Therefore, make it your job to find out more about your partner’s condition and to learn to better understand his suffering. It will also help you to understand your experience of your partner’s condition.
Research support techniques. Find out what the best reaction is when your partner is struggling with something.
Not everybody is born with the skills for being a good listener. Learn to listen without judging or to interrupt your partner with a string of solutions.
Remember to work on your relationship outside the mental disorder. Go on excursions, talk about your dreams, laugh together. Grow in your relationship even if a therapist has to help. Do not allow the mental disorder to swallow you, with nothing of substance outside the disorder.
Take good care of yourself by applying self-care. Eat healthy, get exercise, make time for your hobbies and join a support group. The disorder affects you too. It’s easy to feel guilty about your own needs and problems when your loved one suffers so much more than you do. In no way does this mean that your emotions and struggle do not count.
Remember that you are not to blame for your loved one’s disorder. When you are married to someone, it is natural to accept a certain amount of emotional responsibility for your spouse’s happiness. Your spouse’s condition is not of your doing and you cannot prevent it by being a better partner.
Try not to take the symptoms personally. Know that it is not aimed at you and that your loved one sometimes cannot control his reactions.
Remember that your loved one is not the enemy. The disorder is. Do not attack each other but look at the problems as if looking in from outside. Stand by each other while looking for solutions. Communicate regularly without appearing to be aggressive.
Encourage your partner to get help and continue therapy.
Make peace with the thought that you cannot cure your partner. Your focus must be on better management and keeping it under control as much as possible.
Remember why you are together. Make a long list of what attracted you to your loved one, and what you appreciate in him. Read this list when you are going through a rough patch. Look for three compliments every day that you can give him, and he you. This will fan the fire of love between you.
National Alliance on Mental Illness: https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/November-2018/How-to-Be-Supportive-of-Your-Partner-with-Mental-I
Bridgestore Recovery: https://www.bridgestorecovery.com/blog/how-to-help-a-spouse-with-mental-illness-support-communication-and-treatment/
National Alliance on Mental Illness: https://www.nami.org/Personal-Stories/How-To-Love-Someone-With-A-Mental-Illness