Written by Rachael Pace, Relationship Writer at Marriage.com
Weddings are exciting occasions. There is no doubt that it is fun for brides to get dolled up in a big white dress and for grooms to receive gifts and congratulations. The attention is alluring.
Many couples are dazzled by the idea of throwing "a big party" for their wedding. They love the idea of gathering their favorite people in the same venue and celebrating their love.
But a wedding is not about being lavished with attention and gifts or throwing a big party. It's about creating a partnership for life. It's about coming together “for better” or “for worse” and sometimes the ‘worse’ portion of that vow is living with a spouse who has issues with their mental health like bipolar disorder.
Keep reading to find out 8 essential tips for dealing with a partner who has mental health issues.
Try and Understand your Spouse's Mental Health
The more you know about your spouse's mental illness, the more equipped you will feel when different issues come up. Bipolar disorder is often marked by very high high's and low lows and can make life very stressful if you don't know how to handle your partner's cycle of depressed and elevated moods.
Signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder include:
· Uncharacteristic aggression and anger
· Consistent sadness or depression
· Impulsive behavior
· Erratic or constantly changing moods
· Excessive anxiety or worry
· Feeling rested even on very little sleep
By doing research online and asking friends or family who have been through similar trials, you will get a better understanding of how to handle mental health issues in your relationship.
Communication is the backbone of all healthy relationships. Partners must learn how to talk to one another about their thoughts, feelings, and issues, in order to grow as a couple. You can communicate with your spouse about their illness, get their firsthand take on what it feels like to be bipolar, and learn what you can do to help.
Take care of your relationship
Taking care of your relationship will play a large role in your spouse's mental health. Carnegie Mellon University found that happy couples carried less of the stress hormone, cortisol, in their bloodstreams than divorced couples or singles.
You can help promote a happy, healthy relationship by having a regular date night together. This gives you a chance to get away from the stress of the work week and focus your attention on spending quality time together.
Regular date nights can also contribute to an active sex life. Do not doubt the powers that physical intimacy can have on mental health. Sex triggers the release of the oxytocin hormone, which is responsible for relieving stress and promoting bonding between couples. And sex isn't the only thing that can boost mental health. Research indicates that simple gestures of intimacy, such as holding hands or hugging can lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
Have a Social Life Outside your Spouse
In order to prevent any bitterness or stress ruin a relationship that you used to find fulfilling, it's important that you have resources outside of your relationship to fill you up when you're feeling emotionally drained.
Friends and family are everything when you are going through an emotionally trying time. This goes for both your and your spouse. Studies show that support from close loved ones can significantly lower psychological distress.
Meditate on Faith
Is your spouse religious or do they have faith in a higher power? If so, encourage them to pursue their faith. Research shows there are positive correlations with being religious and being healthy and that those who have a form of faith have lower rates of suicide and anxiety. As an added bonus, men were also more likely to view their relationship as special and treat their partners better when they attended religious services on a regular basis.
Take time out from social media
Studies show that cell phone addiction can cause severe depression, lowers relationship satisfaction and that people who are always on their phones tend to have worse mental health than those who are not.
While bipolar disorder is more than just a "bad habit", any pursuit of peace and calm can only benefit your spouse's mental health. Researchers in the UK-based University of Sussex performed MRI scans on the brains of individuals who spend time on multiple devices (such as watching something on a laptop while playing on your phone) and found that high multitaskers had less brain density.
Multi-taskers cognitive and emotional control was lower and their ability to have empathy for others was weaker than in non-multi-taskers.
Tell your Spouse they have Options
Your partner does not have to let bipolar disorder conquer their lives. Be a supportive partner and remind them that they have options. Encourage them to seek therapy so that they can talk through any complicated feelings they are having.
If your spouse talks to their family doctor about their mental health issues, they could also be put on medication that could balance out their mood swings and help them live a happier life. Every positive step someone with bipolar makes is a big deal. Don't forget to celebrate their successes in life. Studies show that couples who celebrate together enjoy happier, more fulfilling relationships.
Remember Your Spouse is Not Their Illness
Mental health issues can be very difficult to live with. You may find yourself growing resentful or frustrated toward your spouse, so it's important to remember who your spouse is at their core. They are not their illness.
Make a list of your partner's best qualities and reflect on how they have added to your life. Once you have completed your list, express appreciation for the things your partner does for you or the amazing way they make you feel. Studies show that gratitude as the highest predictor in increased relationship satisfaction. Married partners who express gratitude for one another on a regular basis experienced higher levels of commitment and investment in the relationship, deeper intimacy, and felt more supported when it came to pursuing goals.
Mental health is a sensitive topic to discuss with your loved one. If your spouse is dealing with symptoms of bipolar disorder, do your best to be supportive and keep the lines of communication open. Encourage them to seek medical assistance or therapy. Above all else, make sure you are taking care of yourself both mentally and physically.