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Whew boy! This is a big topic for me. It delves into very personal territory so I feel I must tread lightly, but this needs to be told. This topic weighs heavily on my chest like a stone press.
Living with another person is no easy task. After all, we both are humans with our bad days, bad habits, frailties, and personal baggage, carried long before a relationship was dreamed of. I have anxiety disorder. I know and accept my diagnosis. I live with it daily and right now life is good. My anxiety is to a minimum. But my partner lives with my anxiety too. Even though I try as hard as possible to keep it to myself, when you live with someone as long as I have, you function as a team, and it's hard to hide the heavy stuff from someone who knows you better than you know yourself.
On the flip side of that coin, you know them too. Every expression, emotion, and false face of "everything's fine" when it's not. After decades together you know when something's wrong. I will not divulge my partner's inner workings, but he is a mentally complex person with his own victories, and battles. Besides, this isn't about him really. This article is about how to function well when maybe your other half is struggling.
I am not gonna lie. Living with someone for over 20 years is tough. It is work, but relationship work can be rewarding. We love each other deeply, we have kids that are turning into great mini adults, we have the best family and friends you could ask for. But when you reach struggle street and your bus is on fire, you have to know how to handle those times without taking it out on your partner or sacrificing any relationship progress.
This is going to sound narcissistic, but it isn't I promise. When your other half is mentally struggling, the first thing I do is physically and mentally step away from the situation and take a few minutes to do a small self evaluation. After all, if I am on uneven ground, how would I help my other reach mentally firmer territory? One thing that I have learned over the years is that in a relationship that involves kids, you can not have two people with a mental bad day. That type of environment provides no room for anything but the mental issues you are dealing with, not even kids. One person has to suck it up and hold the high ground during the day.
Which leads me to my other point. My partners mental heath issues ARE NOT my property to own!! And vice versa. I would never expect my partner to "solve" my anxiety. On the flip side I can not take responsibility for his issues, that's his job. Ownership of one's feelings, emotions, and mental health issues, gets you that one step closer to mastery of those things. I am here as a separate person to try and help my struggling partner from a place of calm, common sense. Sometimes we just need to be there and listen. Getting out what's bugging you is more than half the battle.
Hobbies!! One thing that we both do are pursue separate hobbies. My partner finds calm in coloring massively intricate drawings. I am a crafter extraordinaire. We can be in the same room doing our own thing, happily ignoring each other and the kids. I said it. Our kids are eight and 12. We let them have their devices for a couple of hours and we do our own thing. It is wonderful. Feeding the creative side of your soul is essential to mental health happiness and growth. Our bodies physically need a way to express that kid-like creativity. It can make you more emotionally prepared to face your work week.
So, when my partner is having an emotionally bad day, I listen, offer advice as needed, then let him be to listen to music or think. Venting our frustrations and seeking validation is a natural way of mentally balancing emotions. I do not take his venting to heart and vice versa. I understand his emotions are his to own, NOT my burden to pick up. It's hard to learn this at first as it is in everyone's nature to take offense to things that hard to hear and understand.
At the end of the day, I feel like I need to realize that; yes the person I live with is my partner, but they are also a person who has their own needs and failings. We believe our significant others should be held to a higher standard, and for some things that would be true, but as the opposite partner we should be aware that our "super" partner is human after all and will have bad days. That's when our love and understanding should shine through and we become the "super" partner. After all, they would do that for you.