When Love Isn't Enough in a Relationship with Mental Illness

May 17, 2018 Jonathan Berg

When love isn't enough in a relationship it feels heartbreaking; and when that relationship includes a partner with mental illness, it can feel especially rough. Visit HealthyPlace to learn how to prevent losing someone you truly love when love isn't enough in a relationship.

Sadly, there are times when love isn't enough in a relationship. There is a song that sometimes plays in my head. It is by Patty Smyth and Don Henley, and it is called Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough. It is hauntingly beautiful, speaking of love and loss, and of when to give up in a relationship. It speaks to when love isn't enough in a relationship.

There's a danger in loving somebody too much;

And it's sad when you know it's your heart they can't trust.

There's a reason why people don't stay who they are;

Baby, sometimes love just ain't enough.

Love is a complicated concept to begin with, and adding mental illness into the picture complicates it even further. Both for the person struggling with mental illness and his/her partner, it can be a rough road navigating this love, and determining when love isn't enough in a relationship is heartbreaking.

Learning When Love Isn't Enough in a Relationship

I have my own story of discovering when love isn't enough in a relationship. I loved my ex-wife very much, and she loved me in return. I met her during a stable and happy period of my life, but a few years after we got married, my bipolar disorder and lack of awareness in how to healthily cope with it dragged me down into a prolonged depression (Men with Depression). Ruth was there with me, by my side, being as supportive as she knew how to be. It wasn't enough. I was drowning. Many days I was unable to get out of bed. She would try to force me up and out of the house, which I know now was the wrong approach, but I was so unaware of my own needs that I couldn't tell her what I was truly looking for in those situations; I didn't even know myself.

We loved each other deeply, but it wasn't enough to save me or our marriage. What else could we have done?

What Do You Do in a Relationship When Love Isn't Enough?

Love is incredible. The Princess Bride calls it the most powerful force in the world. Sadly, though, it isn't the only thing necessary in making a relationship work, especially one with the added factor of mental illness. So what else is needed when love isn't enough in a relationship?

Communication is the most important factor. Always be open and honest with your partner about what you need, what you expect, and what you are feeling. If you don't know, as I didn't, it is fine to say that. Had I been able to communicate that, maybe things would have turned out differently.

It is also key to have outside help, whether from a professional therapist -- individual or couples -- or amateur help from friends, family, support groups, or other sources (Why You Need a Wide Mental Health Support Network). People out there have gone through what I was going through and had I/we had the insight to seek them out, perhaps we would have learned things we weren't able to on our own.

Finally, it is important to recognize that sometimes relationships go through cycles, just as our mental illness goes through cycles. Navigating the lows is hard, and nobody does it perfectly. It is okay to have moments where you don't have the energy to give 100%. In my low, I felt guilty. I wasn't able to be the partner I wanted, to reciprocate the love she gave me, or to express the love I felt. I let that guilt rule my actions. If I had recognized that this was simply a prolonged, deep down-cycle, perhaps I would have been able to move past that to a more healthy place with my thoughts.

Love Wasn't Enough in My Relationship

The songs in favor of love are many. If we listen to those, we would think that all we need is love. But that isn't true. Sometimes, love isn't enough in a relationship, and we must look beyond that on what it truly takes to make a relationship work. I failed in that endeavor, and my marriage failed with me. Hopefully, someone out there can learn from my mistakes and have a different result when love isn't enough in a relationship.

APA Reference
Berg, J. (2018, May 17). When Love Isn't Enough in a Relationship with Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Jonathan Berg

Jonathan Berg is a former non-profit executive who decided to chuck it all and become a travel blogger. He is passionate about good food, amazing experiences, and helping those who struggle with mental illness as he does. Find Jonathan on TwitterFacebookGoogle+ and his blog.

February, 13 2020 at 10:43 am

I think its true that love it not enough. Sometimes when I am depressed I don't feel any love for anyone. That's why I feel glad that my husband and I have a good partnership as well. I know even when I don't feel his love, I feel his support and to me that is a good base to rest on.

Izzy Honey
August, 17 2018 at 7:34 am

This is a really moving article, thanks Jonathan. It is such a horrible and difficult situation when someone has mental health issues in a relationship, it can be so hard for both sides.
It's so sad to think that the only answer is to break up when there is so much love there, but I can understand why that would be the case.

Kirsty Love
August, 13 2018 at 8:49 am

It's sad when this is the case, but it's completely true, sometimes, mental illness can be so bad that even love itself doesn't help. This is coming from experience.
Thank you for posting this article to raise awareness and to improve others understanding, I really enjoyed reading it. I'll be around to read more. x

May, 24 2018 at 12:40 pm

But when the person cant communicate and cant have outside support involved and cant see things as they are most of the time, ......i dont know what the next step would be. Well, i do, but love is powerful, and if you truly love someone, you never give up. Some say that you have to love yourself more and not allow yourself to be treated a certain way, well i agree, but loving yourself makes it easier to continue on with the person who obviously needs you there. When your strong in yourself and strong with your boundries, your strong for that other person, no matter how weak you may feel at times, ..... faith is almost as strong as love. If you can give faith to the other person theres even more power in yours and theirs hands. You gotta laugh or you will cry. And theres too many reasons in life to laugh,

May, 30 2018 at 1:09 pm

Hi Kelsey. The decision on when to stay and when to leave a relationship is a very personal one, and I can't give advice to anyone else except to share my own experience. I don't know that I would be as healthy as I am today had I not gone through my divorce, as the dynamic she and I had was not the one - unfortunately - that forced me to get the help I needed. I wish that love were all that I needed, but it wasn't the case. I hope your situation resolves itself in a manner that brings you happiness, whatever that looks like for you.

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