10 Important Things To Know When Dating Someone Who Has A Mental Illness

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How to love your mentally ill partner relationship with someone who has a mental illness

If someone you love has a mental illness like anxiety, depression or PTSD, then you already know how difficult it can be to connect with them on a deeper level sometimes. Life is overwhelming enough without adding the stress mental illness brings.

However, dating someone with a mental illness is a lot like dating anyone. They have needs, dreams, fears. They love, hate and change their minds.

RELATED: Read This Before Divorcing Your Mentally Ill Partner

Before delving into a relationship with someone with a mental illness (or even if you are already dating that someone), read this list of 10 things to know and remember about dating someone who has a mental illness:

1. Don’t “fix” them. (FYI: You can’t, anyway.)

YOU ARE NOT A DOCTOR. Well, you’re probably not a doctor. And, if you are, YOU ARE NOT YOUR PARTNER’S DOCTOR.

Only trained psychiatrists can prescribe medication to treat mental illnesses, and counselors have received years of specialized training to ensure they help people with mental illnesses effectively.

Regardless, “fixing” has a negative connotation. You are dating them, so you must love them for who they are, mental illness or not. They are them, and it’s not your responsibility to change that.

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2. Find their normal.

Your normal and your partner’s normal will be different. In fact, everyone’s normal is different. Find how they operate, and work with it.

This doesn’t mean you have to completely appease them and sacrifice what you want to do. Introduce them to things slowly that they may not be familiar with or want to engage in like social situations, and don’t be disappointed when they’re not as comfortable as you may be.

3. Speak up about your feelings, too.

Your thoughts and feelings are just as important as theirs. Never let your partner’s mental illness trump you. A relationship requires two people, and both people must be equals for a relationship to work.

Talk to your partner about how his or her illness may affect you and how you are feeling in general. You should always discuss issues you may be facing with your loved ones.

4. Educate yourself on their illness.

Learning about the causes, symptoms and treatment options of your partner’s mental illness can be instrumental in providing advice and advocating for them at the doctor’s office. You are encouraged to take an active role in their treatment (to the extent that your partner feels comfortable with).

You might be able to better understand why your partner acts the way he or she does and offer more productive help.

5. Take a breath and be patient.

They will have good days and bad days. Like you, they need encouragement, love and support. They need to know that you have their back and will be there for them, even if they dissociate for a bit. No relationship is simple.

You’re bound to get frustrated with your partner and his or her mental illness, but you must take a deep breath and remain calm to allow the relationship to continue.

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6. Listen without interjecting similar experiences.

Being a good listener can get you far in life. When you’re listening to your partner explain how he or she is feeling and how the mental illness is affecting him or her, avoid comparing your partner’s plight to others’.

For instance, you shouldn’t say things like, “It could be worse; I knew this guy who had cancer,” or “Oh, that’s exactly how I felt when I broke my arm.”

It’s good to express empathy, but these statements only belittle the pain those suffering from mental illnesses experience on a daily basis. Just listen.

7. Remember that you are in a relationship with them, not babysitting them.

Although you will want to help your partner overcome his or challenges caused by mental illness, you must not get into the mindset that you are the caregiver, or babysitter. Rather, you are a friend and a lover. A partner.

Your partner probably has a support team of doctors, family and other individuals ready to serve as their caregiver when needed, but they don’t immediately want you to become their caregiver. Have fun with them, and don’t let their mental illness rule your relationship.

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8. Know when to ask for help.

You can only do so much for another person before you use up all of your energy or exceed your abilities. Sometimes, people with mental illnesses need professional help in the form of counseling or medication to alleviate some of issues.

If you are unable to assist your partner and believe he or she needs personalized attention and care, then seek it out. You may not be you partner’s favorite person for doing so, but it’s worth it in the end.

9. Try not to take things too personally.

People with mental illnesses may act out on occasion, depending on the illness they have. They may lash out with aggression, sadness or just retreat into themselves (sometimes becoming catatonic).

It’s easy to assume you’re the reason why your partner is acting this way, but you have to accept the fact that mental illnesses are unpredictable. You are likely not the reason your partner feels the way he or she does, and, as long as you try to comfort him or her, you are doing all that you can to help.

10. Acknowledge that their mental illness isn’t going to magically go away.

While dating someone or in a relationship with someone who has a mental illness, you may be expecting them to “get better” or at least improve after some time, but that’s not realistic. The reality of mental illness is that people suffer from it off and on for their entire lives.

Understanding that mental illness is a lifelong struggle is the first step in leading a successful life with it. People can control the symptoms of their mental illnesses and even go into remission, but the scars will always remain.

Still, you can have a rewarding relationship with someone dealing with a mental illness.

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Meaghan Summers is a writer who covers astrology, pop culture and relationship topics.