10 pieces of advice if your partner doesn’t understand your mood or anxiety disorder

by | Dec 1, 2021

why doesn't my wife understand

Your partner doesn’t understand your mood or anxiety disorder. Not only does it massively stress you out, it hurts – deeply. “I didn’t choose to be depressed and anxious, so how can this be happening?” Would you consider 10 pieces of advice?

It’s not on you to act as though there isn’t a problem. If an issue exists, it’s your right to have it addressed.

Recently, a reader asked if I’d ever written an article on spouses not understanding their partner’s mood or anxiety disorder. I hadn’t, so I told her it may be time. And it is.

(Little did the reader know I’m an expert on the subject.)

It happened to me

Some forty years ago, my undiagnosed and very nasty anxiety disorder, along with “medicinal” drinking, were running wild. So were my hormones. The whole bit had bad decision-making written all over it. I began dating a woman and after a fairly short courtship, you guessed it, we got married.

Now, we had to have detected our “quirks” while we dated, but we were young and in love – so who cared? However, it didn’t take long after the ring swap for those quirks to be fully recognized and problematic. My anxiety spiraled out of control and she could have cared less. In fact, she often criticized me for it. It was pure hell – I’m sure for her, too. After five years enough was enough, so we did the final adios.

Yes, I’m an expert on the subject.

What could be worse?

Short of infidelity, what could be worse in a relationship than not understanding a partner’s mood or anxiety disorder – any medical situation? But for all sorts of reasons it happens all too frequently.

Thing is, just like in my story, signs of trouble early in the relationship aren’t taken seriously. So the relationship continues, and the next thing you know a commitment is made – and not long after, the trouble roars to life. And there the two of you are, lost in paradise.

I’ve always believed a committed relationship needs to last as long as possible. It’s too easy to say “We’re done, let’s move on.” In my mind, actually doing so, without putting in some long and hard work, isn’t a good choice.

10 pieces of advice

understanding mental health

“I know it’s been hard. Let’s work this out together.”

If your partner doesn’t understand your mood or anxiety disorder, the two of you are responsible for resolving the issue. Yep, you’re equal partners in working things out. You may think patching things up is strictly on your partner. After all, s/he is the one who doesn’t understand. Nah, you have to do your part as well.

Take a look at these 10 pieces of advice and see how you feel about them. Of note, #1 is work to be done before the relationship becomes one of commitment.

Here we go…

  1. Early in the relationship, if you’re convinced the understanding barrier can’t be broken, don’t allow the relationship to go to the next level. You can’t let a problem like that fly-by like I did. And don’t let distorted thoughts and feelings stop you. For instance: your perceived need for a safe person, your partner’s need to save you, or continuing to believe s/he will change.
  2. It’s not on you to act as though there isn’t a problem. If an issue exists, it’s your right to have it addressed.
  3. Before approaching your partner, make sure you have some things in order. Are you truly open to considering their side of the story? Are you willing to hear unpleasant observations? Are you doing all you can to manage your disorder?
  4. When you’re ready, tell your partner you’d like to talk about the situation. Open by explaining how you feel and why it means so much to you to resolve the matter.
  5. Ask your partner why s/he doesn’t understand. Is there a legitimate lack of knowledge? Is there a personal history of an emotional/mental disorder? Is there a painful family history?
  6. Ask your partner if s/he really wants to understand. Ask how you can best help.
  7. If it’s a matter of lack of knowledge, introduce your partner to organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Hit their website together – inquire about local chapters. Of course, there are all sorts of sites available for reference.
  8. If you’re working with a counselor, be sure to discuss the issue in session. In fact, if all parties are willing, bring your partner to a session. And if your partner is willing, the two of you can participate in couples work – with a different counselor.
  9. If you believe, or know, your partner’s stance is based upon a personal or family emotional/mental health history, with empathy, encourage conversation.
  10. While you’re trying to work things out, take especially good care of yourself. The stress and pressure are hard. You name it: exercise, quality sleep, healthy diet, yoga, meditation, self-soothing and grounding techniques, talking with people you trust, and more.

I know how difficult and hurtful these circumstances are. But, again, if you’re in a committed relationship, do all you can to keep it alive. It’s worth the effort.

However, if you’ve done all you possibly can and your partner still doesn’t – won’t – understand, you may have to consider ending the relationship. I mean, if you have a mood and/or anxiety disorder you may already be struggling to get by. The added agony may be more than you choose to take. It’s totally reasonable.

It takes two to tango

Those of us who do all we can to manage a mood or anxiety disorder so often end up with the short end of the stick when it comes to relationships, employment, and more. It’s terribly unfair, but an unfortunate fact of life – for now.

If this article hit home, I urge you to do all you can to work things out. But it takes two to tango. If you give it your best shot, feelings of shame and guilt are unjustified – no matter the outcome. Got it?

Plenty more horses where this steed came from. Go ahead, visit the Chipur article stable.


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