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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 safely on shore.

There are many ways you can care for yourself, and the most consistent and solid your plan, the better it will serve you when your partner is ill. Here are some ideas to consider:

  1. Time-outs: It is easy to get sucked into absorbing all of the impact of a partner’s illness. Bills still need to be paid, children cared for, groceries bought, etc. Parents give kids time-outs when they need to calm down—why not give yourself the same? An hour of alone time, where you can focus on something other than everyday life, can work wonders. Some ideas include exercising, finding a quiet place to read or sit with a cup of coffee, watching a movie, doing a hobby, or meeting up with a friend.
  2. Touch: The power of touch is amazing. Regular massage has been shown to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and boost your immune system. Having a manicure or pedicure, or another spa service (yes, even if you are a guy!), can do wonders for your outlook. Petting a furry animal, whether it’s yours or one who would love some attention at a shelter, has also been shown to reduce stress.
  3. Socialize: Isolation can easily become a problem for partners of ill patients. Guilt over what’s happening in the relationship and perhaps shame or embarrassment might make it feel easier to just avoid other people. In reality, we are social creatures, and having people you regularly see, whether it’s one-on-one or in a group setting, is essential for maintaining balance and perspective.
  4. Create (or maintain) your own life: Having interests of your own that are independent of your partner can give you the outlet you need to differentiate “yours” from “your partner’s”. Of course you will have common interests, but if you can find one or two interests that are solely yours to spend time enjoying, it will strengthen the relationship in addition to giving you something to look forward to that is for you only.

Remember: caring for yourself isn’t selfish, it’s self-care.

What do you do for self-care?

Self-Care to Prevent Relationship Burnout

Kate Thieda

Kate Thieda, MS, LPCA, NCC, is a patient advocate for Women's and Children's Services at Duke University Hospital in Durham, North Carolina. She is a licensed professional counselor associate and a National Certified Counselor who specializes in cognitive-behavioral and dialectical behavior therapies. Her book, Loving Someone With Anxiety, will be published by New Harbinger in the spring of 2013.

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APA Reference
Thieda, K. (2011). Self-Care to Prevent Relationship Burnout. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 11 Apr 2011
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