Keeping a marriage together while you balance life transitions with mental illness can feel impossible. It’s taken my husband and me almost 16 years to anticipate and manage transitions in life. After many missteps, we have learned a few techniques that help our marriage with mental illness survive life’s transitions (Why Is Even Good Change Sometimes So Hard?).
Give Life Transitions Extra Care in Marriages with Mental Illness
Here are things you can do to ease the stress of life transitions when you deal with mental illness in your marriage.
Create a Plan Together
When my husband and I experience life transitions such as moving, having a baby, or changing jobs, we sit down and make a plan together to balance the mental illness and marriage with the life change (Mental Illness and Marriage: The Cost of Making it Work). After many life transitions, we’ve come to realize that planning ahead for my bipolar disorder can often curtail a mental health relapse.
Recently, my husband and I sold our home. We are currently living with family as we wait for our next home to be ready. Every step along the way–from fixing the house up, putting it on the market, moving out, and putting most of our stuff in storage–has required a lot of planning and communication. With each step, we discussed the ramifications of our decisions on my bipolar disorder. We constantly adjust our plans to make sure I sleep enough, get enough down time, take my medications and vitamins, and see my therapist regularly.
Keep Communication Open
Life transitions hardly ever go smoothly when you live with bipolar disorder. Even as I have tried to remain stable, my mood has fluctuated throughout the process of buying and selling our house. Obviously, this has affected our marriage. Both my husband and I have experienced moments of frustration, anger, and plain old burn-out as we have struggled to accomplish all of the tasks this transition requires of us.
We have tried to communicate with each other, even in the difficult moments. Wrapping the dining room table in bubble wrap may have ended in a yelling match, but we figured it out. Not only did we solve the problem of how much bubble wrap we actually needed around the dining room table, we also communicated our feelings with each other. In the middle of such a big life change, we have both experienced a myriad of emotions. When we sat down to actually talk through our feelings, the momentary bubble wrap fight turned into an opportunity to grow closer.
Planning time to de-stress together is our favorite way to keep our marriage healthy through life transitions. When life is chaotic and uncontrollable, going out on a date can feel like a vacation from our problems (Marriage and Mental Illness: Take a Vacation Alone Together). Sometimes just sitting in a coffee shop catching up can take enormous pressure off our marriage. We may not be able to deal with the fact that our building permit still hasn’t come through or that our kids are driving us crazy, but we can take the time to have a little fun together and escape it all for a while.
Marital Stability in Life’s Transitions Helps Mental Health
When going through stressful times, my husband and I have discovered that taking time out for our marriage helps alleviate our stress and manage my bipolar disorder. Even though this seems to be counterproductive, making more space for one another when life is crammed full of difficulties provides extra comfort and shelter to both partners. And when my marriage is healthy, I tend to be more stable mentally (Mentally Ill Spouses Benefit From Focusing On Marriage). My marriage, when tended to, can help me remain stable through life’s transitions.
No matter how tumultuous life becomes, take care of your marriage and your mental illness. Not only will your marriage stay healthy, but there’s a good chance that the mentally ill spouse in your partnership will stay more healthy as well.
Life Transitions, Mental Illness and Grace
For about helping your marriage with mental illness survive transitions, watch: