Setting boundaries is important and necessary within any relationship. It is healthy to have boundaries with both yourself and with others. The National Alliance on Mental Illness gives 10 steps to set boundaries with your loved one with a mental illness in order to preserve a healthy relationship.
Don’t buy into the stigma
There is stigma everywhere when it comes to mental health. You may not even realize that you hold preconceived notions about your loved one with a mental illness. Recognizing these stigmatizing beliefs you hold against our loved one can be a difficult thing. The sooner you recognize them, however, the sooner you can dispel those thoughts and release the stigma you hold.
Understand confusing behavior
Don’t take your loved one’s behavior personally. This can be an extremely hard thing to do. Remember: Behavior is part of the mental illness, not something they are doing to you. Their behavior may be confusing to you or even hurtful. It’s important to remember not to take it personally.
See opportunities for improvement
Your loved one is not their illness. Although it may be difficult, there is room for change. An opportunity for improvement may come in the form of therapy for one or both of you. Seeing a therapist about your loved one can be helpful in order to help you help them.
Get support from other people
A support system is essential for anyone. It’s important to reach out to friends and family, outside of your loved one. This will strengthen your relationship with your loved one and those around you. Encourage your loved one to seek out relationships as well.
Expect decent behavior
It is not unreasonable to expect basic decency from your loved one with a mental illness. This is what setting boundaries are all about. You must tell them what you expect from them, and if they can’t meet those expectations then you will keep yourself safe and healthy by communicating your needs.
Learn to communicate effectively
Communication skills are one of the most important things you can use in any relationship. This is especially true when someone you love has a mental illness. NAMI says that “A very good way to approach this is to use statements that give your perspective, rather than imposing perceived behavior.” Telling your loved one how you feel, instead of just what they’re doing wrong, can help break the ice, respectfully, without coming across too strong.
See it from their perspective
There is only so much you can do when you’re on the outside of someone’s situation, but trying to understand what your loved one is going through can make a big difference to them. Knowing that someone cares enough to learn about their illness and what they are going through can be very helpful for them. This doesn’t mean to disregard your feelings but just means that seeing things from another perspective can be good sometimes.
Focus on your larger goals
When you are in the heat of an angry moment, it can be hard to see the big picture. The big picture is your larger goal. When you decide to communicate your feelings during a rough patch, make sure you have the big picture in mind. Don’t practice pettiness over the small things. Focus on your larger goal.
Use direct, simple, and clear language
Beneficial conversations use direct, simple, and clear language. NAMI recommends to “Cover one topic at a time and share small amounts of information at once.” They also recommend, “Say exactly what you mean rather than hinting at it.” Communication is key, but you have to know how to communicate for it to be healthy and productive.
Describe what you want and why
Being direct also means being factual and expressing exactly what you want out of the situation. Your feelings matter just as much as your loved ones. Tell them how you feel. This will be good for both of you.
If you have a loved one living with a mental illness and you think they need extra support, reach out to Pinnacle Recovery today. We are here for you and your loved one. Call our trained and experienced staff today for more information at 1-866-301-0573.