What to Know If Your Partner Has a Mental Illness

Most of us know the harrowing statistics — 1 in 5 Americans experiences mental illness in a given year. If you’re married, there is a good chance either you or your spouse (or both) can be affected.

1. Embrace the emotions.

You may feel an entire spectrum of emotions in a single day or an hour depending on the current mood. You may be dejected or hopeless, terrified or angry. Resentment happens, sometimes little by little, and it can feel insidious.

You may regret your marriage, at times, and then you’ll regret having those thoughts, feeding a vicious cycle that may not seem to have a clear-cut answer.

You will need to learn to manage these emotions, to ride them out like a wave, just like your spouse has to as well. You will need to trust that these emotions ebb and flow, and that even if they’re scary or frustrating or annoying, they represent your body telling you something.

2. There aren’t always answers.

There isn’t a cure. You may logically know this, but acceptance is another story. At times, you may just want out, may just want a sense of normalcy — in however you define normalcy. You may wish you had a relief, a magic pill, a chance for change.

And, maybe you’ll read all the self-help books and meet with all the educated therapists. And, maybe your spouse will take all the right medications and engage in all the right coping skills.

Even when everything flows the way it should, it doesn’t mean mental illness disappears. It doesn’t mean anything is guaranteed. That’s not a good or bad thing — it’s just the way things unfold.

3. You’ll have to learn your boundaries.

Ah, the infamous boundaries. Your spouse may not always act compassionately towards you. Mental illness can make people act in erratic or unfair ways. You’ve probably experienced your share of that.

You can learn to accept mental illness, but that doesn’t mean you have to tolerate abuse. You’ll have to learn your own boundaries and guidelines; you’ll have to show your partner that you deserve respect, even if it’s a bad day.

You’ll have to set boundaries about many aspects in your marriage. We’re talking healthy communication, spending money, work and parenting. And, at times, the boundaries may seem annoying or redundant, but that won’t make them any less important.

4. There will be good moments — plenty of them.

Marriage can be one of the most beautiful expressions of love two people can experience. Mental illness does not have to define the dynamic, though it might impact and reshape it. And, yet, mental illness has a funny way of seeping into daily living, but recovery can make your partner more enlightened, resilient, aware, and courageous.

If there aren’t any good moments? It’s time to regroup and think about what your marriage represents. You deserve happiness, and your partner deserves happiness, mental illness or not.

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Photo by Shelby Deeter on Unsplash

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