How a Spouse’s Mental Illness Affects a Marriage


I want to talk to you about how mental illness
in a spouse affects your marriage. Well, anybody who deals with a family member
with mental illness experiences frustration, fear, anxiety, at times panic, anger, isolation,
shame, guilt, sadness, hopelessness, despair, disappointment, a feeling of being burdened,
lonely, powerless, helpless, and impotent and there’s a lot of emotional pain. Those are the common feelings whether that’s
your spouse, your child, a parent, but there’s some additional things that come up when it
is your spouse because you’re going to have to deal with all of the crisis that arise. You’re going to have to have contingency plans
should another psychotic episode break out or should the person not be able to get to
work because of the anxiety or the depression. It’s gonna put extra responsibilities on you
for the care of the kids possibly for what care you have to do for the person with mental
illness. I’m not saying that you have to just take
over everything. You always let people do whatever they can
do for themselves and don’t pick up things. Don’t do it for them when they can do it. You’re gonna have different perspectives of
other family members. Maybe it’s going to be your in-laws. I even had one woman whose in laws blamed
her for her husband’s bipolar disorder and her own family blamed her for the fact that
he was mentally ill. So she was having to deal with the stress
of that and the stress of this family putting extra weight on her when she could barely
hold herself up with what she was dealing with with the mental illness in her spouse. Anxiety about the symptoms and its effects. Is the person gonna work? Is the person gonna survive? Is the person gonna be suicidal again? Is the person gonna have another psychotic
break? That produces anxiety in you and wondering
how the medications are gonna affect the person’s functioning, the side effects. All of the times that the person needs to
see a therapist or doctors, the expense, all of that. Fears about relapse and what will that mean
for the future? There isn’t a secure feeling that the future
is all going to be okay. Handling the effects on the relationship with
your children and their parent. Or the relationship between the parent and
adult children and even the relationship that you have that’s changed with your children
because you’ve got the split focus where you’re doing things for your spouse that you normally
wouldn’t do. And then there’s always like I said the things
that you have to do for that person that might involve going with them to their appointments
with the psychiatrist and taking up other responsibilities and there’s some huge losses. One of the losses that you’re going to experience
is the loss of that intimate partner that is with you with everything, helping you,
supporting you and even supporting you emotionally. Because your partner with the mental illness
may not be able to support you emotionally because that person might barely be able to
support themselves and make sense of their own self. You’re going to have conflicting feelings. There’s going to be a part of you that’s going
to love your spouse and a part of you that’s going to feel so lonely that maybe you’re
going to wish you weren’t married to that person. You might fantasize about not being married
to that person or project into the future that maybe you won’t continue or can’t continue
being married to that person. So all of these feelings are going on at the
same time while you’re trying to be a loving partner and hold the family together. So when you take on the role too of any type
of caretaker or caregiver of a spouse, you change the marriage dynamic and you change
it from being two adults that have responsibilities that they both take care of so they meet on
an equal basis to one that is a caregiver and one that is a care receiver. That care receiver often feels resentful and
less than and insecure about his/her relationship to the spouse and yet the caregiver also feels
overly responsible and may resent all of the duties and the things that have to be done. So there are all of these different factors
going on. You’re not alone if you’re feeling these things. These are really common things that people
experience. It’s not easy to have a spouse that has a
mental illness. It, like any other problem that’s a chronic
problem that you have to deal with, has a lot of pressure and strain. You need to get help. You need to get support. You need to get an understanding of the mental
illness and the treatment and also what you can do and how you need to manage it and to
know that you’re not alone and get resources. The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI)
is a great place to go. They have meetings, support groups, online
resources. They even have hotlines that you can call. That’s one of the places that you can go. Other churches, some of them have support
groups for family members of those with mental illness or support groups for people with
the mental illness. So I would suggest that you look for the support
that you need. Take really good care of yourself. You’re going to need to have some time just
for you. Make sure that you keep your life, keep yourself
rested, keep yourself able to do what you need to do and prioritize and just get some
relief as much as you can to make sure that you’re functioning at your highest level. But don’t neglect yourself. So I hope this has helped you understand some
of the extra things that you’re carrying and maybe sort through some of the feelings that
you have in dealing with your spouse that has a mental illness. Thank you for watching this video on Change
My Relationship.

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