Loving Someone with Mental Illness
Updated: Mar 11
“Why does loving you not feel like enough?” This question and it’s many variations can often be heard in the hearts and minds of countless individuals who have a partner that struggles with mental health issues. The hard-felt effects of anxiety, depression, and other mental health struggles can cause strain on any relationship, so let’s explore where this comes from and how we can operate in our partnerships with compassion, comprehension, and empathy while also taking care of our own peace of mind.
It's not personal.
First, we’ve got to stop taking our partner’s struggles so personally! It is very well likely that their anxiety and depression were there long before you came along Obviously, there are exceptions to this, but for the most part, mental health luggage is consistent and cyclical across time. By removing our own offensiveness, it creates a space for your partner to approach you with the problem as opposed to attempting to hide in shame and secrecy. When we are sitting alongside our partner in their struggle, we realize that it is not our place to fix what is going on and there is healing and comfort in providing our presence and listening.
You don't have to have all the answers.
”Well that is great, but I still don’t understand how or why they are struggling!”... You know what? You may never understand. You might not ever comprehend the voices that plague your loved one; the voices that say “you’re too much and not enough” or “hey let’s worry constantly about everything that is not in your control”. The secret to peace within a relationship is knowing that there is a point in which I completely understand my partner and a point in which I have no idea what goes on in their mind; who they perceive themselves to be, or how they are interpreting conversations and interactions. That is okay. That is healthy. You were not created to be a mind-reader and there are some things that are beyond your understanding; however, you can find solace in knowing that both of you are in the same boat and you may not completely understand the other person... and THAT is OKAY.
Relationships are challenging.
If it seems like this whole post was more about relationships than mental health issues in relationships, you’re right. People are consistently fluctuating; growing, learning, resorting to old habits, and developing new habits. This is the same for those struggling with mental health issues. Sometimes the anxiety is more severe, other times it’s manageable. Sometimes, a partner who has no history of mental health problems experiences something that puts them into grief or shame. All of it is part of the human experience, and we carry the weight of that on a daily basis. Hopefully the way we respond will continue to be with empathy; “I still love you, I may not completely understand, and I’m here for you”.
Oftentimes, the dialogue in our head that says “why does loving you not feel like enough” is actually trying to say “I love you so much. I hurt when you hurt. I want to help and I feel helpless”. When we interpret what the voice in our head tells us, it gives us the opportunity to show up for our partner and ourselves.
At Mind Works Counseling Services, we specialize in helping couples connect, find intimacy, and understand each other with or without the presence of mental illness.
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