7 Steps for Loving Someone With a Mental Illness

Are you constantly worried about your partner’s mental illness? Are you afraid that things will never get better?

The National Alliance on Mental Illness states that 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental illness this year. 1 in 17 people continue to live with chronic mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. The chances are pretty high that you will fall in love with someone who suffers from a mental illness or mood disorder. It’s also extremely likely that you’ll both find unexpected obstacles on the road to happy endings. No love story is complete without a few bumps in the road, but mental illnesses can throw a lot of unexpected hurdles into the mix.

That said, I’m here to deliver good news.

Your relationship is not doomed. The very fact that you’re reading this article is a sign that you care deeply about your partner, and that is immensely valuable. You are taking time to do your research. That’s important. The more you know about mental illness, the better off you’ll be in overcoming it together.

More good news:

If your partner suffers from a mood disorder or mental illness, this does not make them weak. Behind every “I’m fine” lives a special kind of strength that’s not common for the average person. That said, If your partner is not aware of their own mental illness, or you feel they are endangering you or themselves, stop reading and help them find professional help immediately. If your partner is emotionally, mentally or physically abusive toward you, get as far away as possible.

This article is not meant to diagnose or treat mental illness. It’s about loving someone in active recovery. I’m going to assume, for the sake of this article, that your partner loves you and wants to make you happy. Your partner wants to overcome their illness. And they’re trying.

I’m trying.

The morning after a difficult night, my brain sounds a little like this: I feel so ashamed of my [meltdown/episode/panic attack/etc]. I wish he didn’t have to see that. I want to be better. I want to make my partner as happy as he makes me. I would love to go the rest of my life without this happening again…but what if it does? What if I never get better?

And then my partner wakes up and says he loves me. And I find strength. My mind discards my toxic thoughts and decides: I will keep fighting – for both of us. Opening my heart to my partner and committing to making him happy was the biggest decision I ever made. I worried my issues would make me unlovable, that it would become too much for him. I still deal with those fears. But time and time again, my partner proves me wrong. He reminds me that he’s in this, with me.

Mental illness has not made us weaker than the average couple. I think it’s made us stronger.

Now, you may be wondering –If your partner struggles being happy, how can you be happy together? If your lover is afraid to leave the house, how will you go on adventures? If they suffer panic attacks when you feel everything is going well, what’s going to happen when life throws in new challenges? 

It’s a learning process. My partner didn’t always know how to cope, and in many ways we’re still learning. But in spite of the struggles we’ve faced, our relationship has been overwhelmingly happy.

Many people confuse need with neediness. Know the difference: If a person has an asthma attack, you give them an inhaler. If a person has a panic attack, the antidote is equally important. This may be my battle, but I’m not the only one fighting. And that has made all the difference.

As the partner of a person with a mental illness, you are also at war. Here are your weapons.

Step 1: Know your enemy.

Understand your partner’s illness – causes, symptoms, and recommended treatments. Most mental illnesses can be overcome. Your partner most likely isn’t “crazy” – they’re a regular person who needs help overcoming trauma or negative childhood programming. Understanding this can be the difference between alienating your partner and growing closer with them. If they go to therapy, show your support by encouraging them. Talk with them about what they’re going through. And if you both go to therapy, that’s even better. For your partner, knowing that you’ve got their back is a huge deal. And the more you know about the monster, the better equipped you’ll be to fight it. This means becoming familiar with your partners emotional triggers, coping strategies, and what they need in moments of crisis.

Step 2: Don’t leave your partner in the battlefield – but make some distance if you need to.

If you’ve graduated Step 1, you know what they’re dealing with. You understand the monumental effort it takes for them to cope with their pain, and you know that support from you is critical for their recovery. So if (or when) the battle gets too intense and you’re suddenly unable to cope, make it clear that you love them and that you’re not leaving. Then step away. Why? Read step 3.

Step 3: Take care of you.

To play on a team, all players need to develop their strength individually in order to work well as a unit. This is ultimately their battle. They know this. On airplanes, when the oxygen masks come down, you’re told to put yours on before helping anyone else. Here’s why: you can’t help anyone if you’re suffocating. Once you’re able to breathe again, you’re strong enough to assist your partner.

Step 4: Reassure them. A lot.

With anxiety and trauma-induced disorders especially, we worry. A lot. If you told your partner you loved them this morning, by the afternoon and they might be falling into a spiral of doubt. They may believe you when you say you love them, but certain mental illnesses can make it difficult to retain the feeling. It might feel ridiculous to reassure them so much, but it’s better to say ‘I love you’ too much than too little. Think of your relationship as an hourglass. Flip it over with reminders every once in a while, so the love keeps flowing.

Step 5: Don’t beat yourself up. It’s okay to give them space.

It’s important to separate yourself from their illness. If they’re unhappy because of you, you’ll know. But if they’re dealing with the symptoms of their mental illness, it’s not your job to feel responsible for it. I love my partner, but when I’m unhappy as a result of my illness, it actually makes it worse if he blames himself. Guilt and fear go hand in hand – one exacerbates the other. Your only job is to be supportive and understanding. Relationships are a two-way street, and you can’t do all the work, all the time. Just like drinkers at the pub like to say: know your limit, play within it. It’s not always your fault. Sometimes they need space to recover, just like you do. If you’re struggling with guilt, go back to Step 3 and repeat.

Step 6: Let your partner love you.

Your partner is not helpless. They can take care of you, too. Let them! Spend quality time together and see each other for what you are – two people in love. Mental illness is like having a physical ailment – if you spend every waking moment worrying about it, you miss out on life.

Step 7: L-I-V-E.

Mental illness thrives on fear. It eats fear for breakfast, it drinks fear at night. Lucky for us…Love is stronger than fear. In my favorite film, Harold and Maude, Maude says: “Reach out. Take a chance. Get hurt even. But play as well as you can. Go team, go!” All you can do is your best. Do that, and let love take care of the rest.

*Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness

A Commitment to Purpose and Other Qualities of a Highly Successful Relationship

We are approaching a period of time when relationships are ready to go through a major redesign. The current paradigm isn’t working. People are unsatisfied in love; people don’t know how to make relationships work.

couple of teenagers volunteering outdoor in the parkAnd, believe it or not, this isn’t a bad thing. Because when systems break-down, that’s when they change. I believe that’s what’s happening in the area of intimate partnership. The break-down is forcing us to move towards conscious love.

So what exactly is a conscious relationship?

It’s a romantic relationship in which both partners feel committed to a sense of purpose, and that purpose is growth. Individual growth. Collective growth as a couple. Growth that makes the world a better place.

As of now, most people get into relationships to satisfy their own personal needs. This might work for a few years, but eventually the relationship fails us, and we end up unsatisfied as a result.

But when two people come together with the intention of growth, the relationship strives towards something much greater than gratification. The partnership becomes a journey of evolution, and the two individuals have an opportunity to expand more than they could alone. Deep satisfaction and long-term fulfillment arise as a result.

So if you’re someone who feels called to take your experience of romantic love to the next level, below are four qualities that characterize what being a conscious couple is all about. Welcome to the path of the conscious relationship. This is next-level love …

How Standing Rock Showed Me How to Love

In case you haven’t heard, thousands of activists have assembled in Standing Rock, North Dakota.

[Image: @OcetiCampNews]
[Image: @OcetiCampNews]
People from all over the world have joined in solidarity to stop disaster from occurring. Police brutality, illegal arrests and harsh weather have caused extensive damage and heartbreak. In spite of all their obstacles, the people of Standing Rock are more determined than ever to save their water. It’s inspiring, and heartbreaking.

I wanted to help. So, I went. I expected, at the very least, to be depressed by what I found there. But I was very wrong. The circumstances that brought this community together were certainly unfortunate, but the love I found there was unprecedented. Standing Rock has changed my life, in nearly every aspect. The way I organize and lead, how I approach my relationships, and how I see myself – it’s all shifted in a better direction. My goal in going was to give, but in doing so, I received some truly wonderful gifts.

“I’ve rarely seen so much love, gratitude, determination, resilience,” Jane Fonda said after a recent visit.  I agree, wholeheartedly.

Standing Rock taught me more about love than anywhere else I’ve been on Earth. It is with deep gratitude that I share these things with the LoveTV community, and I hope that readers take them to heart.

Here are a few concepts I learned from the elders and community of Standing Rock, that apply directly to love. You can use these ideas to improve your own life, wherever you are – and trust me, the positive effects will be contagious. Feel free to try out one (or all!) of the challenges I’ve shared here. Let us know what happens in the comments, below.

  1. Community is everything. Seek it out.

To “commune” is to participate in intimate communication with another person or group. At Standing Rock, a group of thousands collaborated in creating a conscious community. Coming from Los Angeles, I was initially uncomfortable with trusting a total stranger to help me pitch a tent. In less than a day, however, I was the stranger offering help to countless others.

The difference between isolation and community is simply showing up. At Standing Rock, thousands united with a common goal. This manifested in prayer, discussion, action and co-creation. It’s easier to love yourself when you’re part of something bigger, and community is available wherever you are.

Community challenge:

Find your tribe. Go on a walk with friends once a week. Call your out of state relatives and offer support. Allow yourself to be needed. You’ll be impressed by the results.

  1. Gratitude is love’s strongest muscle. Use it.

At Standing Rock, we were on sacred ground. Prayer was happening everywhere, whether it was chanting around a sacred fire, dancing beneath the stars, meditating in silence, or simply putting in a day’s work. An atmosphere of gratitude penetrated every aspect of life at camp.

Prayer is gratitude, expressed. That’s it! Whether you’re thankful to a higher power, or you’re just glad the world is spinning – express it. Gratitude is as much for your benefit as it is theirs.

For me, saying “thank you” is the quickest shortcut to deeper connection. By looking a friend, partner, or stranger in the eye and offering the gift of gratitude, you’re consciously saying ‘I’m here.’ That’s love, in the purest sense.

Gratitude challenge:

Offer gratitude to someone in your life. Whether it’s a quick text, email, or delivered face-to-face, tell them why you appreciate them. Did a friend send you a note that made your day? Did your doctor give you excellent care a few months back? Tell them! Pay attention to how it makes you feel, and how they respond. Repeat this the next day, and the next – until gratitude comes easily. Notice how your world improves.

  1. The goal of debate should be finding agreement. Argue with this in mind.

Standing Rock is a resistance camp, but their goal is peaceful resolution. At one demonstration, activists thanked the police for their presence, even after some of us had been maced and beaten. This gratitude was genuine, because police had honored us by being present. Even if neither side “won” that day, conflict was diminished by searching for agreement. That, in itself, is a win.

At another gathering, #NoDAPL activists were peacefully protesting with signs in hand. Across the street, an angry mob of #ProDAPL protestors began screaming at the indigenous people gathered there. I approached them, peacefully. It took some time to get them to stop yelling, but once they did, I asked them why they were protesting. Surprisingly, our opposition wanted a lot of the same things we did. If this were a talking circle, where we all tried to find agreement, there would be no need for signs, pepper spray or riot gear.

The truth is, conflict doesn’t always have two sides. People often fight over different versions of the same basic needs. The Standing Rock Sioux (and their Native American allies) have made agreement a priority in resolving conflict. This same tactic can be applied to domestic arguments, family disagreements, and diffusing hostility from opposing views.

Agreement Challenge:

Think of an unresolved conflict in your life. Do you and your partner disagree on a specific issue? Is your family politically split? Try removing your need to be “right” from the equation, and entertain perspectives on both sides. Exploring why people feel the way they do often says more than the feelings themselves. Is there one thing that you can all agree on? That thing might be your one-way ticket to resolving the conflict, once and for all.

  1. Love is more important than anything else in your life. Take good care of it.

At Standing Rock, everyone had one goal in mind: save the water. This goal was aligned with each person’s core values and their love for the planet, themselves, and each other. It was love! That’s what was most important.

In this extreme environment, nobody cared what my day job was. Nobody asked how much money I had. Love required my heart, my focus, and a pair of helping hands. That’s it.

Relationships are as important as you make them. Prioritizing love (for yourself, others, and the world) is more crucial to your mental and spiritual well being than all the money in the world.

Love challenge:

Perform some acts of love today, whenever opportunities present themselves. Open a door for someone, write a thoughtful note, offer a compliment or a thank you. You have no idea how big the impact will be until you try it.

Standing Rock is everywhere. It lives in every act of love, every grateful thought, and every positive action. I will carry these truths with me always.

I hope that you will, too.

5 Ways to Know if You Are in a Real Partnership

One of the perks of being married is having a life partner who is just as committed to making the marriage work as you are.

Unfortunately, not all couples enjoy a true partnership.

In a true partnership, both husband and wife can express themselves without fear of judgment, work together towards common goals and have equal influence over important decisions. They are able to grow emotionally psychologically and spiritually as a result of their happy marriage.

What Does It Mean To Be True Partners?

1. Equal influence over important decisions

An equal balance of power and influence in decision making is necessary for a healthy relationship. This is because no one wants to be in relationship where their opinions are constantly ignored or their decisions constantly overruled. Both husband and wife should be able to express their thoughts and opinions freely without fear of being shut down.

2. Equal commitment to the relationship

In a true partnership, both parties are equally committed to the marriage. They have a similar amount of emotional investment in the relationship and they both want it to succeed. If there is a problem in the marriage, they both work hard to find a solution.

3. Common goals

Your spouse is not just your life partner but also your partner in personal growth and self-actualization. When you have common goals, you motivate each other to grow and become better people. Also, working on your goals together strengthens your marriage.

4. Equal personal responsibility

In a healthy marriage both parties take equal responsibility for the problems in the marriage. They do not waste time playing the blame game or going over what should/ would/ could have happened. Instead, they admit their mistakes and focus on coming up with possible solutions.

5. Honesty

True partners are always honest with each other. They know that lying to protect the other person’s feelings rarely ends well. This does not mean that they are brutally honest with each other; they are kind and honest at the same time.

There is nothing better in marriage than having a true life partner. Follow this advice to learn how you can be a true partner to your spouse.

Curated by Erbe
Original Article

Relationship 911: Unpacking Shame

The ways we perceive the actions of others reflect how we see ourselves. I knew I had a problem with shame because of how I’d been treating my partner.

It began innocently enough.

“Are you really going to eat all of that?” I’d ask playfully, as if monitoring his eating would negate my own cravings.

“You did what in high school?” I’d gasp, appalled at whatever crazy anecdote came up. As if I were Mother Theresa.

I was looking at his past under the same negative microscope with which I judged my own. This served to confirm my belief that my mistakes made me a bad person.

Shame was deeply rooted in my relationship history, but I covered it with false bravado, impulsiveness and deflection. Subconsciously, I kept focus away from my own negative qualities by looking for them in others. Even in those I loved.

At the time, I saw this as a positive behavior. I would point to something I saw as a fault in my lover, then actively assert myself in “helping” him fix it. I thought that this made me a good partner. But in truth, I was anything but.

I didn’t know how to love someone without trying to improve him or her somehow – even if my words said otherwise, and even if I didn’t really want to change them. I couldn’t help myself. Judgment, blame and shame were all that I knew, even when life was good.

“Blame is [a] defensive cover-up for shame. Blame maintains the balance in a dysfunctional system when control has broken down.” – John Bradshaw, Healing the Shame that Binds You

I could say that I developed these habits because of my religious upbringing, where love came with conditions. Or I could blame my actions on past relationships, because they all seemed to have been dysfunctional in this way. But to actually solve the problem, I would have to look at the common denominator in these factors: me.

I didn’t know how to love myself without pretense or perfectionism. And because I didn’t take the time to admit this before I entered the relationship, it took a big toll on my partner. I was ruining my life, without even realizing it.

At the time, I was convinced that I was in the right. I believed that caring for people in spite of their shortcomings was the same as unconditional love. The very foundation of my relationships had been poisoned by shame. I acted defensively by default, manifesting of my own deepest fears. I truly loved my partner, but I was doing it wrong.

It took a great deal of therapy, self-reflection and rock bottom moments for me to finally have the guts to look in the mirror and acknowledge the fearful person staring back at me.