I know that many mentally ill people would like to be in a relationship. Here is an article about one such relationship. The husband wrote the article about his relationship with his wife who has a mental illness. If you are interested in knowing how one couple maneuvers and handles the day to day life when one partner has a mental illness, I suggest you take the ten or fifteen minutes to read the article.
The couple in the article is different than my husband and I. We knew that I was mentally ill when we got married. We thought, at the time, that I had bipolar disorder which later turned out to be a misdiagnosis.
The other differences between the couple in the article and my husband and I, is that I see my husband as my caregiver and my husband absolutely never sees himself as my caregiver. I don’t know why this huge discrepancy in how we view our roles doesn’t cause us problems, but it never has. I guess if we looked at things together, we are really more of a team in terms of my care. My husband takes responsibility for my medications, but he never has to remind me, or encourage me to take them. Also my husband sees my psychiatrist with me. I don’t go to my appointments alone. Everything about my illness is a joint effort in my home. My husband makes suggestions all the time about how I can better manage my symptoms and I never resent those suggestions (although to be perfectly honest, I don’t always do what he recommends especially where social isolation is involved).
I see these things as major differences between me and the woman in the article. I want my husband to have some responsibility for my care, and she seems to want to do it on her own – she doesn’t take preventative medication and she doesn’t like to be told by her husband how to take better care of herself.
I’m not saying that I am an expert in relationships when one partner is mentally ill, but I have had a very happy marriage for almost two decades. I feel like I have learned and know a thing or two.
There are a few ingredients that are present in my marriage that I think make it work so well and those are:
TRUST: I completely trust my husband except when I am psychotic, at all other times, I trust my safety with him, and I trust his interpretation of reality which is critical for talking me through paranoia. I trust my husband enough to tell him all of my symptoms even when the symptoms are paranoia and anxiety.
MUTUAL RESPECT: I respect my husband and he respects me. My husband never criticizes me for my symptoms and he believes that I believe what is happening to me. I show him the same level of respect for things about him.
COMMUNICATION: My husband and I are able to talk to each other even when the topic is uncomfortable for one of us.
PROTECTION: My husband knows I will protect him against any kind of attack from an outside source (be it family or friends, or anyone else). I know my husband will protect me from similar attacks.
A SENSE OF HUMOR: We laugh every day. In our house, being in a bad mood for more than an hour is rare and considered almost unacceptable – there will be a grand effort by one of us to make the other one laugh if the mood is too dark at our house for too long.
COMMON GOALS: We share some of the same hopes and dreams for our future.
I’m sure if people looked from the outside they might be able to point at things they think are wrong in our marriage, or parts they think are weak.
But to me, my marriage seems like a fairy tale, it is better than all of my hopes and dreams. For those of you who are looking to find that special someone, but think it is impossible because of your diagnosis, it’s not. I’m not the best catch in the sea – I’m not a good cook, I don’t have a perfect face or body, and I have paranoid schizophrenia, but if you ask my husband if he has regrets about exchanging vows with me, he’ll tell you he doesn’t. Sure, we have challenges but we face them together, and if I can find someone who sees me as a whole and complex person, you can too – they are out there, you just have to be willing to start a conversation, that can be as simple as the word, hello.