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Navigating Mental Health Challenges in Marriage: Tips from the Extra Lucky Community

Updated: May 6

Written by: Erica Realpe, MA, LMFT, and Co-Author of Dear Mama, Stories of an Extra Lucky Life

In the Extra Lucky Community, we've learned to embrace the unexpected with resilience and strength. As parents navigating the complexities of raising a child with a disability, we've taken on multiple roles and responsibilities while striving to maintain harmony in our marriages. However, amidst the challenges we face, one issue often takes a backseat but holds significant weight: the impact of mental illness on our relationships. When we said "I do," we envisioned a future of shared dreams and understanding, but the reality of marriage is far more complex. Unrealistic expectations coupled with the prevalence of mental illness can create unforeseen hurdles in our relationships.

One of the biggest challenges couples may face is when mental illness enters their lives through changes in behavior, such as depression, anxiety, or increased anger, which can lead to misunderstandings, arguments, and feelings of hurt and resentment. Sometimes these symptoms may be ignored or dismissed as adjusting the couple adjusting to their child’s diagnosis. Even after a diagnosis is made and treatment begins, couples must navigate a new normal, which can bring its own set of challenges. Increased stress, isolation, unpredictability, and caregiver burnout are just a few of the hurdles couples may encounter as they strive to support each other through the ups and downs of mental illness. This can leave couples feeling hopeless and frustrated. If this feels as familiar to you as it does to us, please know that you are not alone. 

Helpful Tips for Couples:

  • Educate Yourselves: Knowledge is power. Learn about your partner's diagnosis from professionals and attend therapy sessions together if possible. Understanding the treatment process can foster empathy and support.

  • Depersonalize Behaviors: Recognize that certain behaviors may be a result of the mental illness, not personal shortcomings. Cultivate empathy and understanding to reduce conflict and strengthen your bond.

  • Prioritize Self-Care: Make self-care a priority for both partners. Seek counseling, expand your support network, and engage in activities that promote mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

  • Practice Marriage-Care: Don't let mental illness overshadow your relationship. Focus on nurturing your bond through shared experiences, laughter, and planning for the future. Embrace the joy in your marriage and live life to the fullest together.

  • Avoid Blame: Conflict is inevitable in marriage, but not every disagreement can be attributed to mental illness. Learn effective communication skills, set realistic expectations, and seek marriage counseling when needed to address typical challenges in your relationship.

Mental illness challenges can strain our marriages, but with understanding and proactive steps, couples can navigate these hurdles together. By educating yourselves, depersonalizing behaviors, prioritizing self-care, nurturing your marriage, and avoiding blame, you can build a stronger, more resilient bond. Remember, seeking help is not a sign of weakness but of strength. Together, you can overcome the challenges and emerge with a deeper appreciation for each other and your shared journey.

Erica is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, who brings a unique blend of professional expertise and personal experience to her mission of supporting and uplifting families. In addition to her professional journey, she is a proud mother of two wonderful boys, a 17-year-old and a spirited three-year-old who made her an Extra Lucky Mom. This dual role as a mom and a therapist has deepened her understanding of the intricacies of family dynamics, allowing her to connect with others on a more empathetic level.


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