If your spouse is clearly struggling with a mental health disorder, things might be looking tough. Things could get even tougher if your spouse refuses to seek help for their condition. Treatment options are available, but if your spouse doesn’t want to take advantage of these options then you might find yourself in a bit of a pickle.
When Your Spouse Refuses to Get Help
We know it’s difficult when your spouse refuses to get help. This article is dedicated towards people like you, who are struggling through a marriage with a mentally unwell partner.
The Challenges Faced When Your Spouse Refuses to Get Help
If you know that your spouse is struggling with a mental health disorder, then you’re probably dealing with a lot of internal struggle. If you’ve already approached them about the issue and they refuse to seek help, you’re probably wondering what’s left to do.
You clearly don’t want to abandon your spouse in a pit of despair or mental instability. However, you can’t help someone unless they want to help themselves. Does that mean that you have to sit around and watch their mental health deteriorate, even if it means sacrificing your own emotional health in the meantime?
What to do if Your Spouse Refuses to Seek Help
While each situation will vary significantly, there are a few things that might help you if your spouse is refusing to seek help. Here are some general guidelines that might help you figure out how to navigate this challenging time.
Be Gentle and Kind
Your approach to the situation will have a huge impact on how it plays out. If you’re accusatory or judgmental, then your partner is much more likely to shut down and avoid acknowledging their mental health issues.
On the other hand, if you’re gentle, kind, and compassionate with them, then you might be more likely to break them out of their shell. Mental health disorders are hard to deal with and there’s a great deal of stigma surrounding them in our culture. People are much more willing to deal with mental health issues if they feel loved and supported while doing so.
This approach extends beyond your decision to encourage them to seek help. You must also remain gentle and kind with them throughout your marriage even if their mental health condition is getting the better of them.
Try your best to understand what’s making them feel how they feel. Try not to reject or accuse them of anything, and try not to let their behavior affect you personally if you can see that it’s the result of a mental disorder. Be patient and kind and allow them to feel supported until they’re comfortable seeking help.
Address Potential Underlying Factors
Mental health disorders can occur on their own, but they can also emerge because of other underlying factors. These causes could be:
Physical factors contributing to a mental health disorder might include things like an unhealthy diet or a lack of exercise. If your spouse never gets out of the house, doesn’t exercise regularly, and has an unhealthy diet then it’s more than likely they’ll develop depression or anxiety as a result.
Environmental and situational factors can include all sorts of things. If your spouse has gone through any sort of situation that might destabilize them, then you should address this. Sudden changes at work, damaged relationships with friends or coworkers, witnessing a traumatic event… all manner of things could lead to mental health challenges.
There may also be underlying emotional issues leading to their current state of mental health. Unaddressed trauma is one of the leading causes of mental illness. If your spouse experienced something traumatic during childhood then there’s no telling when the feelings may resurface. If they’re experiencing a bout of depression or anxiety seemingly without cause, this might be why.
Try to Attend Counseling Together
Suggesting that your spouse seeks mental health treatment on their own is one thing. Suggesting that the two of you go together is something else entirely. Your spouse might be more willing to go speak with a professional if you’re there with them.
If you want, you can even make it out to seem like your spouse is doing you a favor. Tell them that you’d be more comfortable in your marriage if the two of you could attend marriage counseling together, just to see what sort of positive changes might emerge as a result.
Attend Online Counseling
Many therapists and counsellors have moved their practice online. If they haven’t moved entirely online, many still offer the option to connect via online chat programs like Skype and Zoom.
When you’re considering online counseling, you don’t necessarily need your spouse with you. If you’re feeling troubled because of their refusal to seek help, you may benefit from seeing a counselor specializing in relationships by yourself.
Regardless of whether you’re going to do it alone or with your spouse, the goal here is to learn how to navigate the marriage in regard to your spouse’s mental health issues. It should be noted that some providers of online marriage counseling will offer both one-on-one and joint couples sessions depending on what you need.
Encourage In Whatever Ways You Can
You may need to go out of your way to encourage your spouse to seek treatment.
If there is a legitimate reason that they can’t see a counselor, such as a physical disability, then of course you’ll have to assist them however you can. This might mean accompanying them first to a doctor or physiotherapist before helping them get to a counselor.
You may also want to resort to loving bribery — offering your spouse a nice meal at their favorite restaurant if they decide to speak with a counselor. Anything that you can do to encourage them to seek help without resorting to anything mean or immoral. If you feel like you’re being shady, remember that you’re doing this for the best interest of the marriage.
You should also help encourage them to make healthier lifestyle choices. Get them to eat a healthy diet. You can lead my example by making healthy diet choices yourself. Cutting out gluten, dairy, and/or sugar produces intense and profound positive changes in almost everybody who does so (although the initial ‘withdrawal’ period can be tough).
You can also start a team exercise routine and encourage them to get fit by joining them on walks, bike rides, or trips to the gym.
Take Care Of Yourself
Don’t let your spouse’s mental health disorder take a toll on you. Even though you’re trying to help them as best you can, don’t let their mental health issues eat away at you. You need to take care of yourself first, otherwise you won’t be able to take care of them at all!
It can be hard trying to take care of a loved one who refuses to take care of themselves. Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to make this process easier on the both of you.
First and foremost, take care of yourself. If you’re in good shape then you’ll be able to help encourage them to seek help, whether that means accompanying them on regular exercise trips or helping them build a healthier diet plan.
About the Writer: Nigel Ford is a practitioner of natural health who facilitates holistic healing of the mind and body. His practice focuses on psychology, natural medicine, and addiction recovery.