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Ever wonder if you're part of the problem?

Community Member

It's been a long six years of living with and trying to care for a mentally ill partner.

I know I didn't cause his mental illness. It was there before I knew him, including the behaviour patterns he displays now.

But I can't help thinking I'm part of the problem.

Things never get better. Counselling, psychologist, psychiatrist, GP, medication - now talk of Occupational Therapy... none of this has led to any change. I compromise constantly, forgive, go without, shoulder the responsibility, do what's needed. But it seems like a race to the bottom. Inevitably, the next swing sets in with accompanying behaviours. I constantly lower my own standards, firstly to make the crappiness of it all seem more bearable (the 'well how much can I really expect' bargain one makes with oneself), and secondly so we can keep going as a family. But the pressure is always on me to prevent the next deterioration into a lower set of acceptable behaviour, and I get exhausted.

Recently I told him I'd had enough. Over the six years of us being together, he's become worse, not better, therefore, I must be a part of the problem. Some friends have talked to him about his behaviour and he's lifted his game. He has actually tried. But if knowing that I'm fed up and packing my bags is the only thing that will get him to participate healthily, and I don't want to live in a constant state of being fed up so as to get that action, then - what's the point?

I can't help thinking I'm part of the problem. If I break this up - he'll be mentally ill anyway. Mentally ill with me, mentally ill without me. If all the effort over the last six years to learn about and try and help with this problem has amounted to greater unhappiness, then it seems the best step is to break up.

I don't like who I am anymore. Over the last few months I've become hardened, de-sensitized. I'm losing compassion for his situation. I'm angry too. Have I been used? Is his problem not depression, but some type of personality disorder that sees him enjoying all this drama he creates? I'm becoming intolerant. I speak bluntly or just refuse to speak sometimes. I'm exhausted. Sometimes when I think of him, the only words in my head are swear words. I don't think I can be nice anymore, let alone kind. It's worrying.

Maybe it isn't that I've been part of the problem, but that if I continue on, I will certainly become part of the problem.

Any thoughts? I know I'm not the first to be thinking like this.

5 Replies 5

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi Kate, welcome

When we read issues listed as you have usually I take the view that we only get one side of the story so I limit my words to reflect that. In your case however, being ill myself with depression and bipolar and my wife having depression, I can sympathise with you. I truly get you and your level of being- fed up.

Before you make any move to leave I'm hoping there can be some ideas I have that you can implement, to "break the common mode" within your relationship. That starts with you implementing boundaries and sadly, expectations. Normally its not good to have expectations however, he seems to need them and you are not far away from acting so why not eh?

In this thread (use google and you only need to read the first post of each thread) there outlines basic expectations someone with a mental illness should have for their carer.

Topic: who cares for the carer?- beyondblue

There is also poor attitudes that might have snuck under the radar over the last 6 years

Topic: your attitude is not a mental illness- beyondblue

If your relationship carries any emotional or other abuse this might or might not be relevant

Topic: the definition of abuse- what is it?- beyondblue

Topic: caring for your "well" partner- beyondblue

Topic: being "reasonable" in arguments- beyondblue

By far the best method I've found in defusing argument is in this one

Topic: relationship strife? the peace pipe- beyondblue

Topic: testing family members to their limits- beyondblue

Of course more important than all of this is to get him to his GP and dump the reality on him then. If his GP realizes you are at the end he/she might make changes to meds or some counseling. Then if the worst happens and you leave they will know where he is at.

I hope you like the reading and by all means reply either in those threads or in this one. We do understand and are here for you.


Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni
Hi Kate, a very interesting post and I would think a common situation for many people, never the less it's your post so it is important.

He was mentally ill before you met him, and you have said a few times 'that you believe you are part of the problem', not blame yourself if he had you or anyone else then the same situation would have happened.

You have endeavoured to stop the next deterioration, that's hard work but what it does is stop you from enjoying yourself and unless he gets help then you will join him, you almost have already, although you have changed, hardened up and become different, maybe against your wishes but forced to.

I know that he has seen some professionals but that doesn't mean there will be no one else who can help him, somebody will click with him and direct him in the right direction.

Secondly, you need a break, whether it's long term depends on how you feel and if you do leave, you can still be in contact with him, that's your decision. Geoff.

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi Kate and welcome,

I underdtand how you feel. I am about to leave for the morning but will reply in more detail when i can later.

Take care


Community Member

Hi Katie.

You have said that the pressure is always on you to stop the next deterioration - is this pressure that you put on yourself or is this something your partner expects you to do?

My partner has both depression and anxiety - we have been together for a very very long time. It has taken me years and years to realise that I can't fix him. I cannot stop the next depressive episode or anxiety attack. I used to beat myself up over the fact that nothing I did helped him. All I wanted was for him to be well and happy. We cannot make this happen. We cannot stop the next deterioration or bring them back from a black hole. My approach is to try and make life as easy for him as possible, to give him space when he needs it, to let him spend the weekend in bed if that's what he needs. It also means never having any expectations because that just leads to dissapointment.

I guess my advice is this: don't take his problems as your own. You cannot fix things. You are not the problem, mental illness is.

I too have gone through that anger, hatred, frustration... I used to be so angry with him. I have learnt that depression and anxiety is not something that a person can always control. Being angry at him didn't help....If they could change how their illness affects their relationships and their life, they would chose not to have it....but they were not given that choice and they cannot control how it makes them feel.

I don't know if any of this is helpful. But I have been there and felt what you feel.

Thank you all for your generous replies.

I attended a session with his pyschologist, and as TonyWK suggested, let it be known that I was out of energy. I also spelled out some simple things I needed. Since then there has been some change. From basic things like putting some more effort in with housework, or occasionally making me a cup of tea, to more difficult things, like respecting my need for some solitude and privacy. The first time he offered to make me a cup of tea I nearly fell over. Such a small thing - but such an impact on me. It totally busted down my defenses! It's pleasing that these small kindnesses help me in turn reclaim my own kind attitude towards him. I think it also gives him a sense of self respect when he exercises his own power to tip things in a positive direction? Might be imagining that...