If your partner has paranoia, it may wax and wane over the course of the relationship, but likely it will always be present in the background. Paranoia tends to manifest as a desire for control at all costs. In romantic relationships control seeking can show up in many different behaviors: information gathering, question asking, searching, reorganizing, spying, tracking, accusations of falsehoods, trap setting, or going through another’s phone and computer. Usually a combination of these actions is present.
The paranoid person may not think that these behaviors are strange and may even try to convince you that they are sensible actions in a relationship. Don’t be fooled by this way of thinking. These are anxiety reduction techniques at another person’s expense.
No one can ever know everything about another person, and who would want to??!! For example, do you really need to know every bodily function your partner has, or that they think your mother is a b-word, or even that a waiter broke a plate during lunch. Of course not. That’s why we edit and/or share given each unique life situation.
Many paranoid people go over details endlessly. Ruminating on possible slights or actions of deceit that aren’t really there. Facts are not facts in the way that paranoid individuals use them.
Paranoia takes a colossal health toll both mentally and physically on both parties in the relationship. Here are 7 steps you can take, if you find yourself in a paranoid love relationship and want to continue to stay in it.
- The first step in broaching paranoia with a partner can be a simple statement about desiring a healthy relationship. Addressing how you are feeling, the acts that have caused the disruption in the relationship, and the desire for the relationship to work and grow, can be one of the least threatening ways to explore the subject with your partner. This may require the “broken record” approach of restating that accusations and continued scrutiny contributed to your decline in mental health. Don’t give up!
- Seek counseling. Couples therapy can be extremely helpful for those wanting to work to decrease the effects of paranoia in the relationship. Keep your request to seek counseling simple and straight-forward. With the high levels of distrust that accompany paranoia, the first sessions of counseling may be very challenging. The paranoid individual will most likely distrust the entire concept of therapy. Taking time to get to know the therapist and allowing your partner the space to share at their own pace will be a necessity. Continue to own your feelings and responses to your partner’s paranoid reactions and remember your own truth. Your partner’s reality when they are in their paranoid state, is not accurate.
- Under NO circumstances should you ever admit or agree to fault when accusations are not true, as it only perpetuates the paranoid state. I worked with a couple where after repeated and abusive interrogations from the wife about his fidelity, the husband admitted to kissing another woman even though he had not done it. He reported that he just wanted to make the questioning stop and he thought this was the best way to help them move forward. Sadly, this just further fueled the wife’s suspicions and the wife filed for divorce from her faithful husband.
- Remember to care for yourself. Use activities that help reduce your emotional arousal and help clear your thinking – yoga, exercise, meditation, deep breathing, and eating well. Possibly you may need psychiatric medications if you find yourself becoming depressed or anxious.
- Seek support from someone you trust, like a friend, family member, or therapist. Having a non-judgmental voice validate your feelings can give you enormous comfort and can keep you grounded while you work on your relationship. Many people in paranoid relationships feel very isolated and shameful telling people the truth about what is happening in the relationship. Unfortunately this perpetuates the paranoia and isolation.
- Consider taking a break from the relationship to help clear your thinking. This can be done by moving out or putting the relationship on hold for a period of time. While this may be threatening to the paranoid person, it is important to have space to make sure your thoughts are wise and in the best interest of both parties. Taking time for yourself is essential.
- Paranoia is part of a larger mental health issue such as, depression, PTSD, psychosis, paranoid personality disorder, schizophrenia, or schizoaffective disorder. Don’t try to diagnosis your partner on your own. Seek help from a mental health professional to assess his or her unique symptoms, and especially to restore your own piece of mind.
If you don’t feel like yourself anymore, rest assured that you can get back the person you used to be. Don’t let the paranoia win.