10 Ways to Support Your Partner With Mental Illness
Emotional intimacy with your partner takes effort. When we are busy with our day-to-day lives, remembering to connect and do just a little extra to remind your partner of your love for them can fall by the wayside. When your partner has a mental illness, their self-esteem can take a huge hit. Knowing that they have a partner who still loves and supports them, no matter what illness they may have, makes a difference.
In this new year, recommit to trying some of the following ten suggestions to show your support of your partner:
- Say “I love you.” Wow, obvious, right? When was the last time you said it with meaning? If you are one of those “Love you, bye,” kind of couples, try stopping and actually looking your partner in the eyes when you say it.
- Surprise your partner with a small gift. It doesn’t have to be diamond earrings or tickets to the NBA finals. It doesn’t have to cost money at all. Surprising your partner with something that will bring a smile to their face will life your spirits, too…and perhaps inspire your partner to reciprocate!
- Give compliments in public. It’s one thing to tell your partner they are wonderful in private. It means ten times more when they hear you telling others how fantastic they are, too.
- Honor your partner’s efforts. It may be hard for your partner to get out of the house because of depression, or to summon the courage to attend a function with you because of anxiety. Verbalize your appreciation of their efforts, and make sure to give your partner attention while you are out and about. Check in regularly to make sure they are comfortable.
- Be respectful when disagreeing. There’s nothing worse than having a partner who tells you you are wrong all the time. Whatever it is you and your partner are disagreeing about, there’s no need to be rude. You don’t have to agree with your partner’s opinion, but be kind in how you respond. For people with anxiety and depression, even slight criticisms can be blown out of proportion. You are allowed to tell the truth about your opinion, but don’t be mean about it.
- Use touch to communicate your feelings. Many couples complain of a lack of intimacy, especially as they get older. If sex has been off the table while your partner has been ill, perhaps things have changed enough that it can be introduced again. Or maybe you need to find other ways to be intimate. Perhaps cuddling, holding hands, and kissing is all your partner can manage for now. Having a relationship where there is no intimacy is akin to having a roommate, not a partner.
- Listen carefully and validate your partner. Whether it’s the big things or the little stuff, knowing your partner is truly listening and cares about what you say is invaluable. Try these tips for validating your partner.
- Acknowledge the struggles your partner is facing. Having a mental illness is no small matter. If you haven’t taken the time to learn about your partner’s illness, now would be a good time. If you are familiar with the illness, just simply saying, “I understand this is hard for you” can strengthen your connection.
- Be willing to make lifestyle changes. Many illnesses respond well to routine, a healthy diet, regular exercise, and a calm environment. What can you do to make your life more conducive for your partner’s wellness?
- Take care of yourself. You can’t be there for your partner if you are a mess yourself. Self-care is vitally important.
Thieda, K. (2012). 10 Ways to Support Your Partner With Mental Illness. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 4, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/wellness/2012/01/10-ways-to-support-your-partner-with-mental-illness/