Coping With A Partner’s Mental Illness And The Family Life

When someone in the family is diagnosed with a family mental health illness, it becomes a family illness. It becomes a family matter altogether, regardless of who is affected. This is mainly because people turn to family first as their support system. It’s never an either-or situation where it’s better if only a certain family member experiences. But definitely, there are different challenges to it. Children experiencing depression is different from adults experiencing depression, especially parents.                                                                  

For married couples, when their children experience mental illnesses, it’s an adjustment that they make together to accommodate what their children need. But when it’s a partner who falls into the pit of depression, the stable support system of a family could wobble a bit. Parents have always been in charge of the stability of a family’s dynamics. When one pillar is shaky, it puts a danger to the foundation of the whole structure. There are lots of concessions and adjustments to make, but here are a few things that could help ease the experience.


But I don’t think this is why he quit and I don’t think this is why it’s getting so much attention. I think there may be other personal secrets that he wants to prevent the public from knowing because it would hurt his family further. — Sari Cooper, CST, LCSW

Drop the “Blame Game”

No matter what kinds of obstacles you might face, never let yourself think that it’s your partner’s fault. Financial strains, additional bills from medication and therapy, less income flow–it’s no one’s fault. All of those should not define your relationship. The same way that your partner’s different needs shouldn’t either. Do not turn on the Blame Game every time something goes wrong. It will only cause rifts between you and your partner, and create more hurt that will affect their mental well-being.


Involve the kids and create a healthy and loving support system

I cannot stress this enough–your children need to be in the know of what’s happening to their parents, no matter how young they are. Explain to them what mental illness is and the nature of their parent’s sickness in the simplest, yet most truthful manner. They deserve to know. As parents, you also deserve to ease the burden of keeping secrets from your kids. It seems daunting and a bit cruel to expose them early about these kinds of issues. But, you’ll be surprised to discover how resilient and empathetic children could be. They could offer support in ways that you as a partner could not. This will be a great help in maintaining a positive and supportive environment for your partner.

 It can shatter an illusion of trust: “If he/she is being deceitful about this, what else are they lying to me about? — Brad Klontz Psy.D., CFP


Give marriage counseling a shot
Marriage counseling aren’t just for relationships that are falling apart. The therapy and medication might be overwhelming, especially with finances running thin between your everyday needs and medication. But, the issue of mental illness will always loom above your heads, especially with long term disabilities. Issues you’re forced to let go for fear of triggering something will pile up without a healthy outlet. Just because your partner needs extra care doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice self-care, or worse, your relationship. Communication at this point is now of utmost importance to avoid resentment from building up. Understanding each other is more effective if you communicate in healthy ways.

Above all, communication is not a debate between partners’ preconceived notions about what is going on between the two of you. — Catherine Aponte Psy.D.