Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Help please! Conflict with Schizophrenic bf


#1

Hi everyone,

This is my first time posting here. I really need help. Sorry this post is long. But I want to include detail. I am the girlfriend/partner of a schizophrenic man. We are both in our thirties, been together 14 months. We are having repeated conflict & I am unsure if it’s down to the illness, if there’s anything I could do differently to help and/or if the issues are not truly related to schizophrenia & he doesn’t recognise this.

Basically every 6 weeks or so he has a flare-up, meltdown or similar and every time it’s intensifying. He says he feels that way as well. I am at my wits end as I can see a clear pattern and possible causes but he refuses to take any pro active action. He never speaks to me about his symptoms at all except during these meltdowns when he angrily tells me everything he sees and hears.

Most of the time he is basically affectionate and good towards me. He’s had schizophrenia since his teens and hasn’t been hospitalised in over 10 years. He has weekly therapy and is on clozapine. He does voluntary work now for a couple of years and has lived independently over 10 years. He is high functioning and rarely shows any obvious symptoms.

We effectively live together even though he has his own flat - he stays with me all of the time unless he wants time in isolation to feel better - turns out this is fairly often but he’s been giving other reasons for leaving my house, go “home”. In 14 months he’s stayed at his flat overnight just 4 times but often goes back there during the day. He calls my house home and he calls the flat home so it’s very confusing.

He says he needs his flat for mental health reasons but it’s become upsetting for me because I feel rejected and like he’s implying I make him more ill. Its also very expensive when he spends so little time there. He says he can’t de-stress in the same house as me - but honestly (I am really being truthful) there is no conflict on a regular basis, I can’t think of anything I am doing to cause him to want to be away from me. He says he knows it upsets me but insists it’s essential he keep the flat. He avoids discussing it most of the time. He also won’t take steps towards any kind of paid work even though he has a lot of responsibility in his voluntary job, so I think he could, & basically financially I am not in a good position as a result.

He says during the 6 weekly meltdowns that he needs to isolate himself when he’s under stress so needs the flat to do that. He says he’s not sure he can handle being in a relationship, not sure if he loves me, not sure he wants commitment and that he’s not sure I am more important to him than the flat. This obviously hurts me. He gets angry and rants to me about his hallucinations and messages he gets daily. Then he says he has to leave and goes to the flat. This can go on for hours or even a whole day. Afterwards he will say he is sorry and that he loves me. He says the only reason he says those things is because of the illness.

Then he wants to pretend nothing has happened unless I bring it up and insist on a plan to make sure it doesn’t happen again. He usually says he’s not sure he can stop it because it’s out of his control. I can see a clear trigger which is usually that I am upset about something or feeling less than happy myself, about things not related to him. It seems he tries to “out do” me (or maybe gets triggered by my mood) and show that he feels worse on these occasions. Which leads to getting very stressed out and having these meltdowns. He denies there is any link between my mood state and his reactions…

I’ve been asking for over 6 months to meet with his therapist, he agrees in theory and then stalls the arrangement so it doesn’t happen. He says the therapist says the flare-ups are down to him not speaking to me more about his feelings. But he doesn’t ever do this & just announces he is going to his flat. I’m hoping it’s clear why I’m so frustrated by this and can’t see any route forward.

Can someone please tell me if he’s able to control this behaviour or not? I want to believe he’s being truthful, but I have a nagging feeling he has much more control over his behaviour than he says he does. My feeling is that there are challenges with the illness he could face better but for some reason he isn’t doing this, even though I am obviously very affected by it. He says he forgets it affects me as well.

Any help greatly greatly appreciated!

Thanks everyone,

Liz Ferris


#2

Hi @lizzy1984. I am sorry that you are having issues with your boyfriend of 14 months. I can say from my own daughter’s illness that sometimes the behavior can be controlled by her and sometimes it can’t. Sometimes she seems aware she is acting out hallucinations, and other times she obviously can’t see at all that what she is doing is, well, weird to everyone else. That is why it is an illness and not a discipline problem. The illness makes her very unpredictable and causes me emotional turmoil. I am getting better at handling it. So is she.

Is your boyfriend on medication?

Have you heard of anosognosia? Sometimes a person just cannot see inward at all, and so cannot see that they are ill. This lack of insight can also come and go, from what others have stated. So he might not be able to see his own illness.

Do come back to the site and read, there are many people here who can offer advice and help you sort out what is going on.


#3

Hi there,

Thanks for your response. He is on clozapine, has been for around 10 years. He was unresponsive to other medication.

I haven’t heard of the not being able to look inward - I’ll look it up online & learn about it.

Yesterday he said he might be better off if he left the relationship, after I tried to talk things through with him. He seems unable to handle any discussion.

Liz Ferris


#4

One thing I can recommend is that when your bf says he needs space, give it to him. If he needs to go to his own flat, let him. As long as you don’t think he will hurt himself.

It’s a good thing that he recognizes that he is unwell, and doing what he needs to do to get better. It’s probably best for both of you if you spend those periods apart. Try not to take it personally.

Good luck!:tulip:


#5

Hi Jan,

He doesn’t say he needs space - as in, he generally never mentions why he goes to the flat unless it’s in the context of an argument. I agree it’s a good thing he recognises he’s ill - but he rarely discusses it properly with me. I would love to take it less personally, but when I really want to move in with him I’m struggling with the idea he can’t find space under the same roof (ie another room) rather than having to go to a separate house?

It does affect me quite a bit because as long as he needs this we can’t live together, obviously. And I’m thinking there must be a way he can get his needs met in the same house?

Am I being unreasonable?

Liz


#6

@lizzy1984 I agree with Jan - if he needs to keep his flat and retreat to it to regroup himself, let him do that. I would try to not take offense but try to be more supportive. Try perhaps - “I totally understand that you need to regroup, can I give you some leftovers to take with you. Let me know when you feel better and maybe we can do something when you are comfortable. I love you”

I understand that you (Lizzy) would like to develop the relationship and usually the next step would be live together or marriage, but it sounds like this may be a bit too much for you boyfriend at the moment. If you want the relationship to work imho (in my opinion), give him space and when you are feeling down about something take space so he doesn’t feed off your mood. Develop the relationship into a place where your boyfriend feels safe and comfortable.


#7

Hi Diane,

Thanks for your response. When you say marriage and living together would be normal next steps, do you mean that shouldn’t be the case if he has schizophrenia?

The replies I’ve got to my post seem to be centring around him going to his flat - I feel like people are saying that if I worked harder to make him feel better he wouldn’t do that. So does that mean I have to take full responsibility for how he behaves? What I mean is, because he is ill, is it down to me alone to ensure he feels comfortable enough to want to stay?

Am I right in thinking that?

Liz


#8

I’ll be honest and say I haven’t read the full convo.
Based on the original post:
Big lesson I learned from my brother, people make choices and take action. At the end of the day, the effect is what matters most.
Destructive, hurtful or poisonous behavior isn’t a demonstration of anything other than destructive, hurtful or poisonous intent. Especially if it’s consistent and predicable.

Also,
If you aren’t safe, make yourself safe.
If you fear you might become unsafe, make yourself safe.


#9

No, I disagree, the effort you put into it shouldn’t be a measure against you or a measure against or for his progress. We don’t Cause their scz, We can’t Control their scz, and we can’t Cure their scz.

I think people want you to support his coping behaviors.


#10

Exactly. It’s not a knock against you. I just think you should respect his need to be alone to cope w his illness.


#11

Hi Wreklus,

Thanks for your response. Don’t worry about not reading the convo! I gather from your response that you don’t think my boyfriend is unable to control his actions?

The actions during conflict definitely repeated; he says hurtful things such as he’s unsure if I mean much to him and he’s deliberately mislead me about wanting to move in. He has said he might want to break up with me. Usually he says he needs to leave that night and either walks out or says he will until I talk him out of it. Then next day says he didn’t mean it and wants to carry as normal. Obviously high stress and upset can impact on someone’s behaviour even if they don’t have sz. But I’m not sure in my bf’s case he is totally unaware of what he’s said, as he claims afterwards. There’s nothing to suggest he’s having a psychotic break, so surely he has at least some control. And the repeating of the actions would also suggest he does.

If there’s a level of intent there I am clueless about what the motivation is. Does he resent me in some way, does he want me to feel pain because he does, or is it some kind of control tactic I wonder…

People are saying that his space is a good thing, I understand that it is. But I feel it is used against me in a conflict situation. Ie. He knows that leaving will ‘win’ the argument.

I appreciate your reply,

Liz


#12

Jan & Hope,

Thanks for helping me see that more clearly - that I’m not wholly responsible for how he behaves. I understand what people are saying about time alone being heathy - it is, and I do respect his time alone, as I would anyone’s.

The main reason it worries me is that it’s raised in a conflict situation most of the time and his language around it strongly implies that I am worth less to him than this part of his life. He doesn’t raise it to me in a positive way…

Would meeting with the therapist help do you think?

Liz


#13

Meeting with his therapist (if he’s okay with it) or with a therapist for you ( strongly recommended for family members) is a good idea.

Whatever coping skills our family members have worked out that help them - well- they are a big priority.

There are times when a person suffering from scz is dealing with their brain disorder so intensely that they can’t really fulfill their part in a relationship until the cycle eases up.

Nice words, positive phrasing at such times, it’s just too much to ask.


#14

Hope,

Ok I understand! Nice words definitely seem like too much to ask, he finds it hard to represent in words what he actually wants/feels at the best of times! So obv it is even more like that in times of stress.

Apparently therapist has agreed to see me along with boyfriend, I just need to go one of his booked sessions. I’m not sure if the session will be constructive/practical or more informative. I asked my bf if we’d be doing any “work” around specific behaviours with the therapist, he said he thought we would be…

So it sounds like it could be good.

Liz


#15

lizzy1984,

It is really wonderful progress for your boyfriend that he is willing to have you join him in a meeting with his therapist.

I don’t know how his therapist works, but for many of our family members, the therapists do allow our family members to guide the direction of the therapy. My son is a good example, he is unmedicated, but seeks help from therapists from time to time (usually after a bad episode). While I would hope they would work him toward meds, their priority is usually in helping him in the area that has motivated him to show up asking for help.

My son was willing to work with a therapist trained in CBT in order to grocery shop for himself. The bad news was that he had begun to believe we were poisoning him through his groceries. He had not been able to grocery shop for himself for several years. After he achieved grocery shopping, he wanted to be able to work a few hours a week. He does now work a couple of hours each week. Following their motivation seems to be the key to progress.

My friend who taught and trained Family to Family for many years, gives the example of her son who was medicated on clozapine. He wanted to return to college. She believed (and was right) that his cognition had taken too much damage to return to college. Rather than tell him that, she supported his desire by pointing out the mini steps that would be necessary to work him towards college. Step one for him was getting dressed each day. After he achieved step one, step two was being able to leave the house. He loved Half Price Books so they started with trips to HPB. Later they added all the errands, the bank, groceries, etc. She was getting him back into life, HE was prepping for college.

Let us know how the meeting goes, Hope


#16

Hi Hope,

Thanks so much for your reply & telling me about your son. What you are saying about breaking goals down into smaller targets makes sense, it’s great your son wants to work towards goals and has so much perseverance. You sound like a great mum.

It helps to know that someone is listening. I had a long conversation with my boyfriend tonight - I tried to speak to him again about our practical situation & he ended up saying he knew what he needed to do (leave me), and his feelings about me “weren’t that strong”. Then he laughed. I was devastated. I was about to ask him to leave.

Then I had a moment of clarity. He rarely describes his symptoms to me. But unable to make sense of what he was doing I realised that the voices were speaking to him and telling him to say and do things that were harmful to me. I asked him if the voices interrupted us and told him to say and do things that were against me. He said yes.

Turns out I was right to be concerned about him going to the flat - he says tonight the voices tell him to go there because he deserves to be alone and is evil. He says they tell him I don’t understand him or the illness and I never will. And that if he tries to move in with me then something terrible will happen because he deserves to die.

You’re right it’s good he wants me to speak to his therapist, people are right it’s good he knows he is ill BUT and this is a big but, he’s told me tonight he can’t always tell the voices aren’t real, and he has listened to their instructions to harm me verbally/emotionally & to cover up the reasons. I’m sure it’s mild compared to what some people have experienced with this illness but it’s left me so concerned.

He’s just opened up to me about something he claims to never have told anyone besides his therapist. I’m now left with the knowledge that he is far more affected by voices than I ever realised.

Is he stable enough to be in a relationship?

Liz


#17

Hi lizzy1984,

Sorry for the delay, I’ve been trying to catch up with too much stuff. You got some really good replies on the other thread from some of our wisest forum members.

I hope you are doing okay today, your boyfriend has shared some things that can be really difficult to get your mind around. When I first realized the depth of my son’s issues, it did feel as though the world had tilted slightly.

People who are in relationships with our family members can be in a relationship that places them in a caregiver position. Its not fair to expect more of our family members than is actually possible.

Take care, Hope


#18

Hi there,

Thank you for your help. I’m so sad to say this but we have split up tonight, the relationship is over. I have decided to stay friends with him though as I’m genuinely concerned for his welfare.

It was a mutual decision, he said he wasn’t willing/able to fight for the relationship, but he also disclosed to me that he doesn’t believe his diagnosis is correct and that he hasn’t been honest with his therapist about his symptoms. From my side - I called the outreach team and they indicated that he wasn’t stable and that I should be concerned.

I am devastated to have lost someone I had so much affection for - I have decided to stay friends with him and I hope we can maintain this. Only time will tell though if that will work.

I am in a lot of pain right now.

Liz


#19

Liz,

I am so sorry, this is a really difficult time for you.

There are times when our family members’ brain disorders bring so much grief to the people who love them.

Take care of yourself, Hope