Mental illness puts a lot of strain on a marriage. On the one hand it’s painful to see the person you love most in the world struggle so badly. On the other hand, helping to care for your spouse’s needs can be extraordinarily stressful and draining.

As a pastor, I talk to many people on a regular basis who have a spouse who suffers from mental illness.

How can you be there for your spouse while also taking care of yourself? How can you help them with their mental health without going crazy yourself? Here are a few tips.

1. Show love and support.

Colossians 3:14 says, “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” There’s a lot of stigma around mental illness. Your spouse is probably worried about where they stand with them. Reassure them of your love and faithfulness.

2. Search for reliable resources.

Proverbs 19:20 says, “Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life.” There’s a lot of great resources out there to help you help your spouse. Talk to your spouse’s doctor. Learn all you can. Here are a few resources you may want to look at:

3. Seek counseling.

Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.” It’s okay to admit that you and your spouse aren’t okay. Encourage them to get help. Dealing with someone who has mental illness is challenging. Consider meeting with a counselor yourself to help support and guide you through this.

4. Set healthy boundaries.

Proverbs 25:28 says, “A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.” Loving your spouse doesn’t mean being their doormat. Let them know if they yell or hurt you, you will need to leave the room until they’ve calmed down. Don’t take responsibility for their actions. To learn more about setting boundaries, consider reading Boundaries—When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud.

5. Stabilize yourself through self-care.

Jesus took time to rest and so should you (Mark 6:31). Eat healthy. Stay hydrated. Exercise and rest. Spend time on a hobby you enjoy. Go outside and spend time in nature. Read a good book. Cut back on news and screen time. REMEMBER: Self-care is not selfish.

6. Select your support system.

Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” Reach out to family and friends you trust for help. Open up to them about what you’re going through. Ask for their encouragement, support, and prayers. Get plugged into a good church and join a small group or Bible Study there.

7. Strengthen yourself in Christ.

Jesus said in Matthew 11:28b, “…Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”  God has not forgotten about you. He is with you and he is for you and your marriage. Spend time in God’s Word and prayer each day so you can plug in to his power for your life.

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