What does it mean to be a “supportive partner” to someone who has a mental illness? There are many ways you can help your partner, both during times of acute illness and when life is in in “maintenance mode.”
Here are ten ways you can be a supportive partner:
1. Listen carefully and listen well.
Listening well is a skill and takes practice. However, the benefits of being a good listener will serve your relationship well, no matter what is going on at the time. Review these strategies for being a good listener.
2. Ask questions and show interest.
If you are wondering about something, ask! Your partner probably has a lot going on inside, and may be afraid to share their feelings about their illness and its impact on your relationship. Asking questions–and actually listening to the answer–shows you care. Pretending the illness isn’t happening will lead to problems.
3. Educate yourself about your partner’s illness.
This tip will serve you both in many ways: you’ll know more about what you’re dealing with, you’ll be able to recognize warning signs earlier, and you’ll have information about treatment options. The internet has a plethora of information about mental illness, but not all of it is good. I recommend you start here. You may want to consider purchasing a book on the illness to have as a reference as well.
4. Be involved with your partner’s treatment.
If your partner is reluctant about treatment, having a caring person drive them there or meet them afterwards can make a big difference. It can also be helpful to the clinician to have collateral information about what’s going on with your partner. Know the names and phone numbers of your partner’s treatment team, and have a list of the medications your partner takes handy in case of an emergency, including drug names, dosages, and how often they take them. Update the list often.
5. Get your own counseling.
I know, you’re thinking that it’s your partner who has the illness, not you. But this illness is going to affect you as …