Someone requested a piece about relationships and mental illness. They wanted to read about relationships where our partner does not understand our diagnosis or what it entails. This can be very difficult to navigate, no matter what our mental health concerns are.
A relationship should be a partnership where both parties support each other but in a relationship where one partner has a mental illness it can feel overwhelming on both sides.
I like to write about accountability quite a bit. It is important to remember that our illness is not our fault but our recovery is our responsibility. This means a partner can be there to offer support and compassion but it should be a complement to us doing the work.
That being said, it can be detrimental to our recovery when our partner is judgmental or undereducated. Judgemental can’t always be resolved but undereducated can be. Here are some tips with regard to communication and education.
· Be honest and open about your symptoms and what you experience
· Keep in mind that it can be hard for your partner, it can be scary or overwhelming
· Allow your partner the space to self-care and regroup if necessary
· Express to your partner when their communication is ineffective or triggering for you
· Be open to feedback about your communication and when it is ineffective for your partner
· Be open to feedback about how your symptoms affect your partner
· Find books, articles, medical journals, accounts of lived experience about your illness to share with your partner
· Explain how you medications work, if you are prescribed any, so your partner is aware and can help you stay accountable
· Have your partner join one of your therapy sessions, if you attend therapy
If our partner is not an understanding person and refuses to educate themselves, it may be time to reconsider the relationship. Everyone, mental illness or not, deserves an equal and fulfilling partnership if that’s what they want. A relationship where we are disrespected or belittled and our symptoms are aggravated will not be healthy for us. This is a big decision and I’m not advocating to give up on relationships at the drop of a hat. It is important to determine what will be helpful in keeping us healthy. On the flip side, it is important to take responsibility for our symptoms and how they affect our partner.
In the end it is crucial to remember that we are in a partnership and to work together to better the situation, to relate to each other and communicate better. It’s about teamwork.