3 Realities Of Dating Someone With A Mental Illness
In today’s day and age, dating can be a major struggle. It seems like everyday, a new dating app or website comes onto the scene. And the numbers tell us that we’re not far off—there are over 1,500 dating platforms on the market today, according to Marketdata Enterprise. But those dating sites don’t tell you much about potential partners, not to mention the stress of juggling conversations with multiple people at the same time.
Most people find dating to be inherently awkward, tiring, and sometimes a little scary. For people struggling with depression or anxiety, the stress of dating can be too much to manage. There’s a negative stigma around mental health, and some people dating might turn away from a potential partner if they knew they were struggling with mental health issues.
However, data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) shows that nearly 1 in 12 adults over the age of 20 reported having depression. Regardless of age, gender, or location, it’s likely that people who are actively dating will go on at least one date with someone suffering from a mental illness.
What to Know if You’re Dating Someone With a Mental Illness
When dating someone with a mental illness, there are certain things to keep in mind. It’s not a topic that is often talked about, but it’s an important one to discuss. If you’re dating, or in a relationship with someone with depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, or similar mental health conditions, here are some things to think about.
1. Know Your Partner Isn’t Unstable
One of the biggest misconceptions about people living with a mental illness is that they’re unstable, and at risk of having some type of breakdown. However, most people battling a mental illness don’t fall into that extreme category. Whether someone is undergoing treatment, or is dealing with their issues internally, they most likely have developed ways of coping that allow them to live a relatively normal life. If you’re dating someone who opens up about their mental illness, listen to what they’re dealing with, without assuming how it affects their life, or how it could impact your relationship.
2. Communicate Effectively
As with any relationship, communication is essential. It’s the glue that holds couples together, but when neglected, can cause partners to drift away from each other. When dating someone with a mental illness, communication helps each partner understand how the other is feeling. Sometimes, it might be difficult for someone with a mental illness to communicate openly, especially if they’re feeling angry, sad or worried. But in those hard times, voicing their feelings can help them feel better, and keep repressed emotions from turning into bigger issues. Relationships can be hard work, and it takes effort from both partners to communicate effectively during good times and bad.
3. Learn What Triggers Them
If you’ve been dating someone with a mental illness for a while, it’s helpful to recognize the situations that trigger them. For example, someone with social anxiety might feel uncomfortable being in busy or loud places, like bars or movie theatres. On the other hand, someone with an eating disorder might rather spend time doing something outdoors, instead of meeting for dinner at a restaurant. Overtime, pay attention to the places where your partner is the happiest and most relaxed, and build date ideas around their preferred environments. Their “normal” might not be the same as yours, but as the relationship grows, you’ll find activities that both of you enjoy doing together.
Love And Support
Love and support is the fuel of any relationship. In a healthy partnership, both people feel comfortable talking about their feelings, opening up about their internal struggles, and loving each other despite their flaws. If you’re dating someone with a mental illness, remember to show your partner that you love and respect them on their best days, and their worst. Talk about your feelings, voice potential problems early on, and strengthen the relationship by listening to both partner’s needs.
Elizabeth Rivelli - Contributor
Elizabeth graduated from Northeastern with a Bachelors of Arts in Communication Studies and currently is a freelance writer for a number of publications. She loves to write about mental health, substance abuse, mental health treatments, and depression/anxiety.