Mental health in a marriage
HAPPY marriages provide many psychological benefits. Marriage in general may provide enhanced feelings of meaning and purpose, improved sense of self and belonging.
Little is talked about how unhappy marriages lead to negative mental health consequences and how presence of an unattended mental health problem can affect quality of marital life.
Mental health problems such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and substance abuse are a major public health concern, not only for individuals, but also for couples. I have noticed that when a wife or a husband has been diagnosed with a mental health problem, many people do not know what to do
adly, as a marriage officer and psychotherapist, I have seen that mental illness often manifests itself in a marriage as big, ugly, and nasty fights or silent standoffs and stonewalling.
It really depends on the personality of the couple and what the mental health condition is. Is it depression, panic attacks or what? A woman suffering from manic- depression might stay up cleaning the house all night during a manic episode, but be unable to bath a baby and take children to and from school on a bad day.
She might go from being the super mother to sobbing hysterically unable to communicate how she is feeling to a husband who is standing there not understanding what is going on at all.
It is scary. A husband suffering from substance abuse might stay in silence, not wanting to talk to anyone to being violent, shouting and abusive, leaving the family not knowing what to do.
It is always a time of confusion, and frustrations. Others even go to an extend of blaming the spouse for the condition or even hiding the condition because of fear of stigma from extended family or friends. But this must not be so.
Nobody expects you to hide your diabetes or epilepsy because you can’t help. You’re safer if the people around you know about your condition and help. Why can it not be the same for mental health problems?
Unfortunately, society has negatively labelled mental health problems and that has a connotation that means you need to hide what’s going on inside you, lest ye be judged. It is time we stop stigmatising mental health problems.
This article is discussing what you can do if you think your husband or wife may be suffering from mental health problem or a nervous breakdown?
How do you know? How can you tell the difference between a series of bad days and a real problem that needs professional intervention?
The simple answer: it is not easy. But you shouldn’t ignore your gut instincts either.
When you notice something very different in behaviour, thoughts and emotions of your loved one, then you need to seek help.
Here is what you can do to maintain a healthy relationship, rather than have your relationship overwhelmed and directed by mental disorders:
a) Confront him or her, gently, about it. Say what you see as different changing. What behaviour change or emotions you have been noticing in your spouse.
b) Make an appointment with your medical doctor to rule out any physical or organic cause of the symptoms. Then visit a psychotherapist, psychologist, professional counsellor or psychiatric doctor for psychotherapy or medication if necessary.
c) Make full use of your spiritual resources and take time to talk to your spiritual mentors
d) Show your love and care and try to go to the doctor TOGETHER for help. Offer all the necessary support.
e) Know the mental disorder and learn about treatment options and ways to recover. Having a mental disorder is confusing for everyone involved. You might think your spouse is being irritable, distant or distracted. But these supposed character flaws might really be symptoms of the mental disorder. Also, make sure your partner is receiving treatment , be it psychotherapy or medication or both.
f) Learn how to help and avoid blaming. “Learn from a mental health professional what role you might be able to play in the treatment plan,” Not knowing how you can help can be frustrating for both partners. Find out how you can best support your spouse during his or her treatment.
g) Work on your marriage as you would without the mental illness intruding. “Honor and care for your marriage as you would without the presence of the mental illness. “couples fail to attend to their marriage through dating, talking and sharing, creating feelings of isolation, which compounds the stress of the illness itself.” Do not stop loving and caring
h) Maintain positive communication.
i) Check in with each other. Every week, sit together and talk about your “needs and intentions Healthy couples “spend a large amount of their focus on appreciating their partners for even the smallest things.”
j) Practice self- care regularly.
Don’t ignore the signs because mental health problems are everywhere around us. Many people get the help they need and have perfectly happy normal lives. So please get help, help is available what are you waiting for?
◆ Dr Mazvita Machinga is a qualified mental health professional and psychotherapist based in Mutare . Contact her at 0771 754 519 or email pccsmanicaland@ gmail. com for further help and counseling