In 2021, it has been estimated that over 47 million adult Americans struggle with their mental health in some capacity. If you are just beginning your mental health awareness journey, this statistic likely seems shocking—but it is even more overwhelming to learn that this number continues to grow exponentially every year, especially in light of the specific challenges the world has recently faced.
If you are married to one of those 47 million mental health sufferers or are seeing new signs that your spouse may be, it’s safe to say you are not alone. But having mental health awareness doesn’t make navigating this circumstance any easier.
How can your marriage thrive amidst a partner’s struggle with mental illness?
have mental health awareness for your spouse
Struggling with mental illness, a mental disorder, or having moments of being mentally unstable feels a lot like drowning. I can only imagine being married to someone who suffers in this capacity feels the same sometimes. As confusing as it can be to navigate mental illness and cultivate mental health awareness, it can be even more challenging to do as a married couple.
Mental illness can often make it difficult for the sufferer to connect. This can cause tension in a relationship. Often BOTH partners are left feeling isolated and misunderstood. This is such a sad outcome when one of the greatest joys of marriage is being KNOWN by your spouse.
A mental disorder is NOT your spouse’s identity, but understanding the illness can help connect you as a couple while you navigate this struggle together. If you are aware of symptoms, you will be less likely to take them personally when emotions run high. Recognizing and understanding your spouse’s mental illness will also help them feel KNOWN and can serve as a form of connection. The more you understand, the more you can empathize with your spouse about their experience.
Though numerous, many mental health disorders have similar qualities and symptoms. Assisting your spouse in naming their mental health struggle will be the gateway to understanding in your relationship and also in finding proper help for the illness.
However, it is recommended to balance the acknowledgement by also taking moments to remind yourself of who your spouse is outside of their struggle with mental illness. Just like any other couple, choosing to remember what led us to love in the first place is a great way to keep your relationship young and vibrant.
Establish mental health boundaries with your spouse
Setting boundaries for yourself can feel selfish, but it is actually one of the most helpful things you can do in a home with mental disorders present. Clear expectations, discipline, and routine will be essential for you and your spouse as you navigate their mental illness. This can be as simple as setting aside specific hours for work, or even specific hours that you require for rest each night. It is crucial to implement self care and mental health awareness for yourself first.
Boundaries are important because they protect the caregiver from burnout and compassion fatigue. Determining and establishing your needs as well as communicating them clearly to your partner is necessary. Because these boundaries are predetermined, your spouse will have this routine in place and come to know it as an expectation.
Learning how to best serve your spouse while they suffer with mental illness is a very loving response, but it is important you keep yourself healthy too. You will be able to best help your spouse by being in good mental health yourself.
Boundaries are also important because they provide security for your spouse. Knowing that they are required to uphold some standard of behavior – reasonable, of course – is a good routine. Being mentally unstable or suffering an illness tends to rock the foundations of most routines. Do your best to communicate what tiny steps you can take to bring routine back. This will ensure that your spouse knows you will be there to help them accomplish these boundaries whenever you have the capacity to do so.
Examples of routines to work toward in your home:
- Attempt one nutritious meal a day. Struggling with mental health can make eating difficult for some. For others, eating too much can be a downward spiral. Find your balance, and request your spouse join you in committing to one meal a day that fuels your bodies well.
- Attempt one room free of clutter. Chaos is known to create extra stress in our brains. Having one area that you and your spouse commit to keeping a clean and welcome safe haven will be a space you both enjoy being in. This can even help with clearing the mind and bringing temporary peace to a mental health disorder.
- Attempt effort towards creativity each week. Finding a hobby your spouse can go to periodically can be so helpful during their battle with mental illness. Often, creativity fosters an environment suitable for healing. Maybe even fun!
- Attempt one date night a week. Keeping your marriage as a high priority does not lose its importance in the face of this mental health crisis. If anything, date night has just become MORE essential. Do your best to keep your date night conversation free of doctor’s appointments, mental health stress, or any triggers you each may have.
- Attempt encouraging your spouse to find mental health help. Though you may want to, it is not healthy or sustainable for you to meet every need of your partner. Research mental health help via a therapist, psychologist, or counselor that your spouse is willing to visit. This will better distribute dependency in your relationship.
find fun & positive ways to communicate & connect
Creativity is becoming more and more known by experts to be a fantastic tool in the midst of mental health crises. Finding creative outlets can assist in relieving symptoms of mental illness, can be a building block for couples healing together, and can serve as a fun way to connect.
In an article written for the Therapy Group of NYC, Brad Brenner, PhD cites Psychologist and Art Therapist, Dr. Cathy Malchiodi, when she confirms that, “being creative can increase positive emotions, lessen depressive symptoms, reduce stress, decrease anxiety, and even improve immune system functioning.“
The Dating Divas utmost desire and unwavering passion is to see marriages strengthened. One of the greatest ways we have accomplished this in our own relationships is by leaving our comfort zones and implementing something new and creative in our marriages and date nights. There are SO many affordable and easy items on our site that are perfect places to start as you venture out into creativity.
If you’d rather skip scrolling the site and want an even simpler place to start implementing creativity into your marriage as you navigate a spousal mental disorder, I would highly recommend signing up to receive our monthly Dollar Dates. Just like the name hints, these dates are only ONE DOLLAR. They are super easy to put together since all you need to do is check your email for the link every month.
Having these fun activities to look forward to has helped me and my husband so much with our own marriage as we’ve navigated cultivating mental health awareness. I think it could be a great tool to help ensure your marriage stays fun and vibrant as you navigate this tough situation, too.
Resources for mental health in marriage:
Free* Mental Health Help by National Alliance on Mental Illness
How to Deal with Mental Illness in a Spouse by Marriage.com
A Guide for Helping a Spouse with Mental Illness by Montare Health Services
When Mental Health Enters the Family by Dr. Lloyd Sederer & hosted by TedTalk
Helping a Spouse with Depression by The Dating Divas
Resources with a christian perspective: