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As with physical health issues, a mental illness can present extra challenges that can destabilize a relationship.Things can be very challenging for the partner without a mental illness, who may assume more of a caregiving role.Talking about boundaries can lead to talking about enabling or co-dependency.Enabling can be helpful when supporting a loved one to live and grow, but it can be unhelpful when approaches inhibit growth and may even prolong or worsen the situation.The Strategies and Support Group has been running for about six years and was started by Dana Lewis, a former family counsellor with BCSS Victoria who had received many requests for such a group.The group welcomes people whose partners or spouses have a mental illness, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression, with or without addictions.
Also called Compassionate Communication, NVC was developed by Dr. NVC encourages people to engage in empathic listening, which entails stating one’s observation, expressing a feeling and need through “I” statements, and then making a request to the partner.
This can be unpleasant and lead to feelings of frustration in both spouses, especially as communication becomes more challenging.
For example the caregiving spouse may feel like they are nagging instead of being supportive—they may be using the word should instead of asking a question.
For example, doing things for a spouse that the spouse is capable of doing for him or herself can inhibit growth and undermine self-confidence.
This co-dependent state occurs when an ill spouse becomes overly dependent on the caregiving spouse, including for approval and even identity and the caregiver enables.
Side effects from medications can also affect sexual desire and performance.