Being supportive of a significant other with mental/sexual abuse

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While I am not a therapist or medical professional, I can tell you how your reaction to your partner's mental or abuse issues will help or hurt them.

I am not a psychiatrist or therapist. I am an man whose wife has lived with mental illness due to childhood trauma and mental, physical, and sexual abuse. The things discussed here in this post are things that have helped us. You should always seek medical advice or attention.

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Being supportive of a significant other with mental or sexual trauma

As someone that is a spouse of someone with a diagnosis of mental and physical abuse issues, (Read my wife’s story here) I can tell you how you react to this will help or hurt. I remember that I felt that I needed to be the macho man and tell her I’d kick his, well, you know. But that wasn’t what she wanted, and as you will see in the tips ahead, all she wanted was for me to listen; it gives her a chance to open up and not feel she is being judged, and she can also hear these things out loud which allows her to process them more. 

It would help if you were empathetic first and foremost; you really, in fact, have no idea how they feel, unless you also have gone through these issues, so stop telling them that they shouldn’t feel that way or this way. They feel how they feel, and that’s not your place to correct that; you need to support them when they have their ups and downs, good days and bad, and support them as they work these issues out with a qualified therapist. After all, if you’re like me, you love them more than life itself.

Be understanding of what they are going through

Understanding that what they have is real and what and how each diagnosis works is so important. Research everything that they are diagnosed with; I am sure you may have a general understanding of some of the diagnoses. Still, you may also have common misconceptions or just not understand it as well as you thought. Many times, in the research, you will find symptoms to watch for. When looking for specific medical information, stick to legitimate sites like WebMDMayo ClinicMedlinePlusMental Health America, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA). However, many blogs and websites also list and document personal experiences that you can learn from. Again, if you are unsure about a topic’s validity, ask a qualified Therapist or Psychologist.

Support tips you can use

Researching for suggestions is really as simple as looking up the diagnoses; once you find that many of the providers of this information will also provide recommendations of things you should or should not do, for example, when looking up “how to be in a relationship with someone with PSTD” WebMD has a few do’s and don’ts as the partner, i.e., Remember it’s not something that just happened in the past more than likely it’s still occurring in their life right now. Another example is if your partner experiences stress or anxiety when going into a place of business, then maybe you can volunteer to run that errand. And one I feel is essential in PSTD isolation is a symptom of that illness, do not fall into condoning that for yourself; set boundaries to still function and get out and do things yourself.

Listen, stop interrupting and trying to fix everything; just a hint "you can't"; they need you to communicate, not be the magical healer

Communication in any relationship is critical, but even more so in one where you support someone with mental or physical abuse issues. It is so challenging to open up to someone you love about these issues to start with, so when they do, they need you to “LISTEN,” and never allow your emotions to take over. They need to know they can talk to you about these things in a “SAFE PLACE” they don’t need your getting upset to upset them. Do not minimize their feelings, by saying things like, “Oh come on, that happened years ago; you should be over that,” or “Well
what you should do is”. Understand they want you to listen. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says that you may think you know how someone feels about the situation or what they are going through. Still, everyone is affected differently, and you need to hear your partner and find out precisely what they feel.

The Vows of Marriage

Officiant: Will you have this (woman/man) to be your (wife/husband), to live together in holy marriage? Will you love (her/him), comfort (her/him), honor, and keep (her/him) in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful to (her/him) as long as you both shall live Bride/Groom: I do.

The Best day of my life was the day I took this vow. I believe it’s not just something to say to get married but words that we must honor. So, as the supporting partner, I think we have to provide a quality of life just the same as if our partners didn’t have these issues and diagnoses.
It doesn’t mean we ignore the fact that they have them, but we don’t hold onto them and blame them for everything that happens in our life. Spend quality time together, and openly confess your love and admiration for one another, just like when dating. Keep open, and loving communication. This will help prevent blaming all problems in a
relationship on mental illness; remember, other issues will arise in your
relationship, and we always need to find the real issue. And of course, many couples will also look for a family therapist to have that support venue.

Take care of yourself

Short and sweet, take care of yourself, keep up your hobbies, golfing, bowling, biking, walking, reading, whatever it takes time for yourself, and to maybe do these with your partner. You may choose a spiritual support, a therapist, or even a support group interested in partners with mental health issues. Just remember this affects you also, so you need to look after yourself to be there in tip-top shape to support the one you love.

About the Author

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James Maxwell is a safety and security manager with over 20 years of experience. He specializes in safety and/or security program startups and SOP manuals and has also been responsible for initializing training programs for several companies. James started his own consulting company in 2011 and has worked with several companies, the largest being Roush Industries. James is a powerful presence in the workplace and uses his positive attitude and energy to encourage others to work tirelessly towards success. James is inspired daily by his wife and their two sons. In his free time, James likes to read, golf, and study for his next challenge, Real Estate.

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