Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Getting my family to treat my spouse like an adult

I am having a difficult time getting our close family to treat my spouse like an adult. My spouse is 36 years old and has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. She often is humiliated and talked down to when we are with other family members, including my 19 yr old daughter that lives with us. I have tried speaking to my family in private, my 80 year old mother and my daughter being the closest to us.
There was a great link to an explanation about how to talk to some one that you think is delusional a number of months ago (maybe summer 2016) and I printed it off and shared it with family and friends. But it did not really touch on our problem exactly, because still they treat my spouse like she is a child. She stands up for herself sometimes, other times I see what is happening and try to stop it in it’s tracks, but if the damage has happened then there is little to help us reverse the feelings of humiliation and hurt she feels. And then that usually turns into a couple of hours of emotional conversation with my spouse to calm her down.
I have tried to approach both parties about how to act and react to each other but I just feel that I am caught between them. Does anyone have any suggestions for me, either something to say to my spouse, or to my family, or something I could do to better the situation? Any advise will be appreciated. I am getting very tired for we have been together 7.5 years and I have had just about enough of playing the middle man. Thanks.

Tell your family that you don’t want them around if they’re going to shame someone with a condition that can happen to them. Your mom can get dementia and your daughter could eventually develop any disorder for all we know (I don’t know your genetic or your previous wife’s gene pool, so it’s just a postulation). Put them in her shoes so that they can feel guilty about hurting her and humiliating her. They’re both immature for their ages, but your daughter is a year older than I am and I would never do that to someone.

I’m constantly reviewing how I word things with my son - he’s 27.

Here’s an example. He’s taken to shaving his head and I was surprised at how nice he looks that way. It was a sunny day here, but it’s still winter. I mentioned he “needed” to use sunscreen on his head when it gets closer to summer because I’ve heard a sunburnt head is pretty painful.

His response was that he didn’t “need” to do anything.

So then, we discussed how I should have said it - because I naturally sound bossy & like I know everything, and it puts him off sometimes.

When my son’s delusional, I try to be reassuring without agreeing that the delusion is true, but I’m sure I come off sounding like I’m talking to a child sometimes, and he’s 27.

Can you give us a concrete example of what your wife might say or do, and how your daughter and mother might respond?


@slw I also have to watch my tone with my son, I have that direct authoritarian tone also…I have started trying to use neutral statements…Like (if I use your sunscreen situation as an example) Sunscreen is so important these days especially with no hair as protection against the UV rays. You never said “do it” or inferred he needed it in anyway,you just stated a fact… I reframe that approach for a variety of situations and it doesn’t seem to invoke any conflict. Sometimes my son thinks about it and does what I hope he will do and other times he sort of just says “whatever”. About the same payoff if I were to day “do it…or you need it” …just sharing my thoughts…hope you are well :slight_smile:


@Vee I think you have to be very direct and firm with your family on how you are willing to allow them to speak to your husband. I tend to agree with @Doctor to some extent that if they cannot be respectful, and educate themselves somewhat so they can understand what you are dealing with then you will have to limit the interaction and social encounters with them (as hard as that can be) until they come around. If you do have a close family then it will show them how very serious you are about supporting your husband with dignity and respect. You are his advocate in this situation.


Thank you for that. I need constant reminders to handle things differently with my son. After all, I may not be able to change him, but I can change myself.

And, I’m good. I had a couple bad days, but I bounce back quickly and seem to be able to accept just about anything as my new normal. Thanks for asking.


A couple members of my family sometimes treat me badly due to my mental illness and also due to us being an extremely dysfunctional family. I try to abandon hurtful conversations instantly by leaving the room politely or getting off the phone politely.

I don’t think you can get your family members to behave well with your wife if they do not already embrace this basic value.

I always say things like, “It was really nice to see you. I have to go. I hope you have a great day.” These are all true statements since the more content non-sociopathic people are, the less likely they are to become mean.

When I become triggered by cruel treatment, I am set back by days, not hours, of dysfunction (now; years ago it was hours). If I can, I attempt to avoid mistreatment in order to function somewhat. When my family member with sz is treated badly, the stress sometimes causes an increase in psychosis.

If a couple family members don’t understand that their behavior negatively affects another person’s health, they’re pretty far gone in some kind of world I do not understand. We are here to take care of each other, not hurt each other. I truly believe that my family members do not understand the extremely harmful effects of their behavior or they would not do it. But since they can’t figure it out, I have to get out of the line of fire. And when I can’t, I lose days (weeks if I enter a full PTSD episode) of my life.

An adult is, perhaps inaccurately defined, someone who can take care of themselves. If my family members wanted me to be able to be more independent, they would not purposefully hurt me and turn days of possible function into days of trying to stay alive. People with and without mental illness often do not understand how much we all affect each others’ mental states with habitual, unconscious negative behaviors. I am trying hard to learn how to be more stable, functional, and helpful, but it’s really difficult.

The good news is that these connections with others can also be positive and supportive.

My advice would be to just step aside and forget trying to control anyone else’s behavior. If the inappropriate treatment starts, get your wife out of the situation as quickly as possibly without creating any further negativity.

Some people with sz are extra vulnerable to criticism and mistreatment. People who are critical often mistreat others based on some total lack of boundaries that allows them to believe that it is appropriate to tell other adults what to do. Sad combo, but presumably everyone in the family has many good qualities as well. Play to everyone’s strengths…


Sure thing…sometimes I feel like you and other mothers here are like ‘sisters from other misters’…you know? Like we have a sort of “bond” whether we have met or not…funny thing…I just walked in the kitchen and saw the trash was full and said “Man that trash is starting to smell!” (directed at no one at all) and I walked into a different room and when I came out my son was taking out the trash…I think maybe I should patent this approach…LOL :slight_smile:


Catherine, that is diary worthy!

Thank you everyone. I am going to read all these over carefully again when I get home from work. And I will try to give some more solid examples @slw.


@Hereandhere Thank you so much for sharing this!
Its helped me understand some things i have noticed lately with my love one with scz, he has been mentioning the behavior of others around him, plus with the holidays, has been causing him to go into depression.
Thank you so much- i greatly appreciate your contribution to this blog please dont stop sharing with us. Its a tremendous help