I’m going to set about to guide you on the subject of dating someone with mental illness. Why? Because I have been living with (and married to) someone with mental illness for about 18 years, and I feel I can offer some help on how to navigate a situation such as this.
My History Of Mental Illness
Only my closest friends and family know my husband and I suffer with mental illnesses.
He has been suffering for many years, and is currently receiving weekly CBT (cognative behavioural therapy) councelling for obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD).
This brings anxiety and other issues with it.
Pretty much my entire life, mental health issues have been very prevalent.
I am ashamed to say that I did not understand it, nor support it until the last few years when I started to suffer with mental illness myself.
My mum suffered with eating disorders, PTSD and anxiety for as long as I can remember, and I found it really hard to deal with.
When I was younger, I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t know what to do, and I certainly didn’t know how to help.
It ashames me to admit that the words, just eat something, snap out of it, you’re not ill, it’s all in your head kind of phrases would pop out of my mouth.
I had no idea what my mum was going through, and why she was acting the way she was.
Then I get together with my husband, who suffers terribly with OCPD, and who has been on a high dose of meds for many years.
That puts a huge strain on our relationship, and only recently have I learned how to manage living with someone with a personality disorder and mental health issues.
I thought it was something you could just fix with a bit of positive mental attitude, and a bit of councelling.
How wrong was I?
It turns out that it takes some actions from my side, too. Considerations, compromise and empathy.
Dating Someone With Mental Illness. So, Where Do We Start?
I’m not going to gloss over the subject of dating someone with mental illness and say that it’s all sunshine and roses, because sometimes it isn’t.
But it’s how you deal with the wobbles that matters.
1. Firstly, We Need To Break Down The Stigma Of Mental Illness
In recent times, mental health is getting the attention it needs.
We’re talking about it a lot more, and practising self care is no longer frowned upon.
We’re putting ourselves first, saying no to things we don’t really want to do, understanding what makes us happy, and holding onto that tightly.
It’s a lot more ok to admit to people that your mental health is suffering than it used to be.
No-one used to talk about it, and we kept it a secret.
I don’t talk about my mental health to many people, but when I do, I recognise that more often than not, I’m not the only one in the room with stuff going on in my head!
But, what we need to remember is that we’re still mums, dads, sisters, friends and kick-ass workers.
Our mental health doesn’t define us.
Dating Someone With A Mental Illness Doesn’t Mean It’s Going To Get All Crazy
If you meet someone and they tell you they have a mental illness, it usually means that they have accepted it, are comfortable with it, and they have it under control.
They are not going to get all crazy on you.
The people that get crazy in relationships are the ones who are jealous, egotistical and controlling!
Now, those are the people to avoid!
2. Communication Is Key When Dating Someone With A Mental Illness
Say you’ve found a beautiful, blue eyed, single dad on a free dating site. But you’re finding it hard to set a date to meet up.
He mentions he’s nervous about being out of his comfort zone, and that first dates are really challenging for him.
They haven’t been on any dates since he split with his (ex) wife, and his social life diminished when he had kids.
He opens up and says that he suffers with social anxiety and depression, for which he is taking meds for.
What do you do?
Shut the dating app?
You thank him for opening up, and that it means a lot that he can be honest with you.
Then, you ask him what would be the easiest thing for him to do in terms of meeting up in person.
He says a quick take away coffee in his local park on Sunday would feel quite comfortable.
You then set times that you’re both comfortable with. Also setting a time limit to the date, so you know where you stand.
If it is going well, and your time’s up, you can message later to chat about your second date.
The admission of a mental health issue does not mean that that’s all you have to talk about.
You don’t have to talk about it all.
It’s a detail, just as what football team he supports is, and what the ages of his children are.
3. The Normal Dating Rules Still Apply, OK!
If you’re dating someone with a mental illness or not, whether you met on one of the dating websites or not, remember, a date is still a date.
You must make sure that the usual first date rules are being adhered to, for the safety of the both of you.
- Don’t meet your date at either of your homes or workplaces.
- Arrange to meet in a public place, in daylight.
- Don’t give your date your address or any personal details such as where you work just yet.
- Don’t drink too much alcohol; keep your wits about you.
- Tell a friend where you’re going and at what time.
- Take your charged phone with you.
- Excuse yourself if the date is getting weird in any way.
- Don’t go home with your date, or vice versa.
It’s also important that both parties are respectful and kind to each other.
4. You Don’t Need To ‘Fix’ Them, But You Do Need To Support Them
Someone suffering with a mental illness is most probably not expecting you to ‘fix’ them.
But, they are probably wanting you to like them.
And maybe further down the line, love them.
With love, comes respect and support.
Having been dating someone with a mental illness for years, I have learned that support and understanding can go a long way.
Support could be reading up on the things they are experiencing, and getting to grips with some of the challenges they face.
It could be giving them a bit of space when they are having a wobble, or asking “is there anything I can do to help?“
It might be as simple as making them a cuppa when they are feeling overwhelmed, and giving them a hug.
Support comes in many forms, and it’s a simple fact of what makes a relationship work, mental health issues or not.
5. Accept That Their Normal May Not Be The Same As Your Normal
We’re all different, right?
No human being is the same.
They like to start the day with an instant decaf coffee with lots of milk in the same mug every day.
You like to pop out to the coffee shop for a strong, freshly ground barista-made brew.
They might need space every so often to binge watch the latest Netflix series on the sofa, whilst you wind down by going running every saturday morning.
They might not drink caffeine or alcohol as it makes their anxiety worse, whereas you get your kicks from the complete opposite!
So, when dating someone with a mental illness, accepting their normal might be different to your normal, and vice versa, is the first step to supporting one another.
Dating Someone With Mental Illness Is Not All That Different To Dating Someone Without Mental Illness
Hopefully from this post you can see that it’s not going to get all crazy out there on dates with people who are suffering with a mental health issue.
Overall, it takes understanding, kindness, empathy, compassion and a listening ear to make any relationship work.
Good luck, and have fun finding someone special!