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Archives for April, 2011


The Dark Cloud: When Your Partner is Depressed

The problems often creep in slowly. Your partner may express unhappiness about work, or about your finances, or about the kids. At first, it seems pretty normal--after all, no one is happy all the time. Gradually--or sometimes not--you realize that the person you thought you knew is not there anymore.

That person now calls out sick from work frequently, sleeps all the time, lets chores and other responsibilities go by the wayside, doesn't have...
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Drawing the Line: Setting Boundaries with Your Partner

Boundary-setting can be challenging in the best of times, trying to balance your needs with the needs and wants of your partner. When mental illness exists in the relationship, boundaries can become non-existent as you try to compensate for your partner.

Why is setting boundaries so hard? Common reasons include:

You may be uncomfortable expressing your own needs and wants.
You may be afraid of being seen as selfish.
You may be feeling guilty about setting limits because you...
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Your Partner’s Languages of Health and Illness

A popular book by Dr. Gary Chapman, The Five Languages of Love, describes five different ways people express their love for people they care about. He explains that trouble in relationships often occurs when the partners are not “speaking the same love language,” such as when one partner shows love through physical touch but the receiving partner really values receiving gifts as a sign of love more.

Reconciling those differences and making an effort to “speak...
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Anxiety and Panic

Too Much Stuff: When Your Partner is Hoarding

Wednesday's post discussed obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Hoarding--with lots of debate--is currently considered a type of OCD, but deserves a blog post of its own because of its unique impact on you and your partner's life.

Let's start with a definition so that we're clear that "hoarding" is not the same as "pack rat." Drs. Randy Frost and Tamara Hartl of Smith College are credited with the widely accepted definition of compulsive hoarding. It...
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Anxiety and Panic

“I Have to Do This”: Your Partner with OCD

You did it again. You didn’t fold the laundry right, you didn’t wash your hands long enough before touching the lettuce to make a salad for dinner, or you threw away what looked to you like trash, but now has your partner rifling through the garbage can to retrieve because it was “important.”

The rest of the day is ruined and your partner can’t relax until they do something to “make it...
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When Your Partner Has Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is one of those diagnoses that can be difficult for a medical professional to figure out, let alone someone who has no mental health training.

Bipolar disorder can show up in many different forms, and for both the person experiencing it and their partner, the shifts in mood can be baffling and frustrating. Getting upset can make it worse, but so can not doing anything, either.

If your partner has a bipolar...
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Communication Strategies with Mentally Ill Partners

Even during the best of times in a relationship, misunderstandings and disagreements occur.

When a partner is experiencing an illness, whether it’s mental or physical, the chances of struggles in communication skyrocket. Miscommunication during an illness can literally be deadly if the ill partner does not receive needed treatment because he/she was not able or willing to speak up.

Here are some tips to help with communication during tough times:

Have a plan before illness strikes. On a...
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Self-Care to Prevent Relationship Burnout

Self-care is vitally important when you have a partner who experiences mental illness.
For some people, having an ill partner is a reality of everyday life; for others, their partners may have a period of stability and then relapse, throwing the relationship a curveball and requiring quick adjustments to accommodate.

For either situation, having consistent routines and self-care strategies in place all the time will help you ride the wave of illness and land...
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The F-Word in Mental Illness

That’s the “f-word” people often try to avoid or deny, especially when it comes to the implications of mental illness. Partners often report getting angry with their ill loved ones, but psychologists will tell you that anger is a secondary emotion that masks a primary emotion.

That primary emotion is often fear: fear of the illness’ effects on your partner, fear of the illness’ effects on you, fear of...
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