Intimacy is the single most important and most terrifying part of a romantic relationship. A relationship can make the stigma of mental illness especially painful. In a relationship, it can make anyone feel like a moving target. So, how does someone have a mental disorder and make a relationship work?
Mental illness can cause a great deal of problems in a relationship. I have ADHD, Inattentive Type; this has been a cause for much conflict in my marriage. I have struggled to offer my wife undivided attention, I have failed do tasks I have promised to complete, or I have forgotten important dates. I felt like I could do “nothing” right. My wife was often hurt and I was often frustrated. But, what I have found helpful in removing stigma from my marriage are the following:
1. Research your disorder
Receiving a mental disorder diagnosis can be painful, at first. But, with research, we can learn that our disorders have a medical cause. This means that we are NOT crazy! It is not in our heads, there is a physiological reason for our behavior. When we have a better understanding of our disorder as a medical issue, not a moral one, we can have greater compassion for ourselves.
As we learn more about our mental illness, we can share that information to our partners. Just a person cannot be faulted for having cancer; our partners cannot fault us for our disorder. It is not your fault that you have a disorder (everyone has one).
This does not mean that our behaviors should be excused. But, when we hurt our loved ones we have a greater awareness of the reason for our behavior. With greater awareness, we can have a greater understanding of our triggers, behaviors, and ways to cope with our disorders. We are to do our best not to hurt our partners.
2. The reason your partner loves you
Typically, if a person can genuinely say, “I love you”; they have invested a great deal of time and emotion into a relationship with you. Your partner loves you for a reason. There are parts of us, even our disorders that our partners love about us.
If you are not sure why your partner loves you, ask them. Talk to your partner about the reasons why they fell in love with you. In many relationships, partners never ask this question.
Intimacy is terrifying because of the fear of rejection, but it is worth the risk. Love is not genuine if a person cannot accept us as we are. Not matter your mental illness, you are worthy of love.
Written by: Chris Denzler, MA
Follow me at @LifePlasticity