How To Love A Mentally Ill Spouse
Marriage is hard, but it can be especially challenging if you have a mentally ill spouse. My mental illness took a toll on our relationship during the early years of our marriage.
Statistics say that one in four people will struggle with mental illness at some point in their lives. That means that many couples are being affected by mental illness in one way or another.
It can be difficult to know how you can support someone who has mental health issues. To help give you some direction, here are three ways to love your mentally ill spouse, and three things you should never do.*
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Help Your Spouse Get Help
If you think your spouse may have a mental illness, it’s important that they see a mental health professional, and get diagnosed. This will help doctors know the best way to treat their illness.
Do This: Encourage them to Seek Help
Getting medical help is necessary for mental illnesses. The earlier that one is diagnosed the better.
However, many people hesitate to get help. This may be because they are embarrassed to admit that they truly have a problem. Likewise, they may think that putting a label on their illness will make it feel all too “real.”
If your spouse is putting off getting help, remind them that like having any illness, having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.
Support them by offering to go to their appointments with them. Let them know that you are there for them, no matter what.
Don’t Do This: Tell Them They Are Crazy
Nudging your spouse to get help should be done out of love and concern. Telling your spouse that they are crazy and need help is the opposite of love and concern.
Make sure that if you approach your partner about getting help you make it clear that you don’t think they are crazy or a failure. Reassure them that you want them to get the treatment that they need, so they will feel the best that they can.
Support Your Mentally Ill SpouseGetting diagnosed with a mental illness can be difficult, and hard to accept, so make sure your loved one knows they have your support, not your judgment. #mentalhealth #mentalillness #endthestigma Click To Tweet
Do This: Acknowledge That Their Illness Is Real
There is nothing more frustrating than being diagnosed with an illness, only to have others doubt you, especially your spouse.
Many cultures don’t accept mental health issues as true illnesses.
For example, my husband is Hispanic, and generally speaking, many Hispanic people do not see mental illness as being real. It was hard for him to understand the invisible illnesses that I have, and accept that I truly had problems.
Even though he still doesn’t understand everything, he tries his best to support me and believes my struggles are real.
Don’t Do This: Tell Them To “Snap Out Of It”
Most people who have never had mental health issues, don’t understand that it’s not something you can just turn on and off at will. One minute it might seem like your spouse is fine, and the next they are unable to get out of bed.
Don’t tell them they just need to snap out of it or simply focus on the good in their life.
While it may be true that they have “nothing to be sad about” that is not the way that mental illness works.
Sometimes people have mental health problems due to circumstances, (like PTSD) and other times genetics are to blame. Whether your loved one was born with a vulnerability for mental illness, or it was brought on by events in their life, it is not something they can just get over by thinking “happy thoughts.”
Often it takes medication and/or therapy to help with the issues they are dealing with. Even then, you shouldn’t expect them to be “cured.”
Show Your Spouse You Care
Your spouse must know that you love and support them. It’s equally important that they know you care about their mental health.
Do This: Educate Yourself On Their Illness
It’s not enough to just acknowledge their illness, you need to educate yourself about it.
Learning about their struggles will help you be able to identify what they need from you. It will also teach you about things that may trigger them or shift their mood.
Don’t Do This: Blame All Their Emotions On Their Illness
While your spouse’s moods may be affected by their illness, it doesn’t mean that everything they feel is due to their mental illness. They can be upset just like anyone else. Many times they will have perfectly valid reasons for feeling the way they do.
It’s important to remember this, especially if you are in the middle of an argument. Yelling out “This is your illness talking” or “Did you skip your meds today” will not do anything but make your spouse more upset.
Even if their emotions are impacted by their mental illness from time to time, it doesn’t mean that their feelings don’t count or should be ignored.
Final ThoughtsFor many people worrying about what others might think, can be just as difficult as dealing with their mental illness. #mentalillness #mentalhealth #mentalhealthawareness #endthestigma Click To Tweet
If your husband or wife is struggling with mental illness, remember to show them your love, support, and care. Make sure that even if you don’t understand what they are going through, you acknowledge that they are dealing with a real illness. Spend time praying about it together. Consider reading a book or blog that will help you both positively deal with their illness.
*Please keep in mind that I am speaking from my own experiences with mental illness. I am not a mental health professional.