According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five people suffer from a mental illness. Due to the stigma that often surrounds the topic, many individuals who suffer from it may find it harder to date and develop meaningful relationships. When they find someone, it is important that he or she is understanding and is willing to build a good relationship, in spite of the condition. Dating someone who has mental health issues may be challenging, but it is possible to construct a healthy relationship with a solid effort and the proper boundaries. Following the best guidelines can ensure that both individuals can find the greatest joy and happiness possible while in a romantic relationship.
Supporting the Individual
Since dating with mental illness can be challenging, it is fundamental that a partner is understanding and supportive. A partner who can provide wholesome support can prove invaluable on the road to recovery. However, knowingly entering a relationship with someone who has a mental illness only to walk away from them in their time of need can be cruel. What a person often needs when he or she is suffering from anxiety, depression, PTSD, or other mental illnesses is warmth and support from people who genuinely care and have their best interest at heart.
Exercising Patience and Kindness
It can be difficult to avoid frustration and remain patient with the other person when the factors of mental health and dating collide. However, individuals who are patient and kind when dealing with a partner who struggles with psychological disorders can soften the blow of mental illness, and even encourage the other to cope at his or her own pace. Sometimes, a partner who suffers from mental illness may change their personality, or end up on either end of the emotional spectrum on any given day. Unexpected fatigue, mood swings, or a lack of concentration may also occur as a result. It is important for partners to avoid taking these changes too personally, especially if they are direct symptoms of the condition that the individual has. If a romantic partner can exercise the utmost patience and kindness in the face of such changes, then the relationship can be preserved.
Encouraging Open Communication
Quality communication is highly necessary for successful dialogue when dating with mental illness. It can be extremely difficult to voice thoughts and opinions clearly when one’s mind and heart is troubled. If there is a breach in communication, the lack of understanding will make the relationship more difficult for each person involved. However, encouraging open and honest communication is key to ensure that each person understands where the other is coming from. Being in a relationship with a partner who understands that mental illness may affect actions, words, and feelings can be a relief for the person who is struggling to communicate and be understood.
Granting Space When Necessary
Since caring for one’s mental health and dating can be stressful, romantic relationships may have to be placed on the back burner in order for the person to concentrate on his or her mental health. This means that on some days, one’s partner may want to be alone, and other days, he or she may be eager for company. A caring and understanding partner is able to give the other person the space that they need for the cultivation of balanced emotions and ample recovery. In some cases, taking time away from a person so that they can focus on rehabilitative care (without being penalized in the relationship) may be the wisest choice for the well-being of a partner who is deeply affected.
Removing Triggers From the Environment
Avoiding the introduction of triggers into the environment that can provoke the symptoms of mental illness in a partner is paramount. If a person is dating someone who suffers from addiction, they must avoid introducing triggers into the environment that may cause their partner to relapse. For example, an individual who is battling with alcoholism or smoking should never be taken to a bar or a wild party where drinking and smoking are openly done. Their partner should also avoid those activities, especially when their significant other is near. Cutting out certain triggering situations that may serve as subconscious triggers may be necessary when the person is the most vulnerable at different phases of treatment and recovery.
Encouraging the Other Person to Get Help
It is crucial to remember that one should never try to become the personal therapist to someone special in their life who suffers from a mental illness. Attempting to remedy a partner’s psychological issues without the proper training and methods could prove to be a nuisance, or even disastrous. However, helping the person to find the right treatment options is a great alternative.
Sometimes, a person may be in denial of their condition, and may not in a position to seek help without outside motivation. When the individual is not currently seeking treatment to soothe and eradicate their mental condition, symptoms and discomfort may persist and grow more significant. When dating someone who has a mental illness, it is crucial to encourage him or her to get the help that they need to begin to heal and thrive in life. Even if he or she may not feel comfortable confessing the realities of the issues that cause stress, encouraging him or her to do so with a mental health care professional can be crucial on the journey to wellness.
Watching Out for Warning Signs
If one sees that the person that they are dating with mental illness is getting worse or showing signs of suicidal behavior, it is critical to help them get help immediately. Waiting until the other person is comfortable asking for help may never come, so concerned partners should watch closely for warning signs of more serious symptoms. It is wise to watch out for red flags that imply the person is seeking to harm themselves in some way, or even attempt suicide.
It is possible to develop a loving relationship despite the presence of mental illness in a partner. By showing compassion, patience, support, and consideration in many ways, it is possible to help your loved one find the light at the end of the tunnel, grow in a romantic relationship, and become healthier and more vibrant over time. Many people who suffer from mental illness have a strong desire for a romantic relationship like others do, but it may be hard to find that special someone to be with. Being in a romantic relationship with someone who has a mental illness may not be something that everyone can handle, but those who are compassionate, patient, and proactive can build great relationships and influence their partners to take sound steps toward overcoming limitations and getting better.
If you or your loved one are struggling with signs of mental health disorders, contact us for resources to help.