Love, Self

5 Not-So-Scary Truths About Loving Someone With A Mental Illness

Photo: weheartit
loving someone with mental illness

We've all heard (or have) horror stories about dating people who turned out a little "crazy." Maybe she moved from the "like" stage to the obsession stage too quickly, or maybe he reacted by burning your stuff when you ended things.

But when it comes to talking about potential partners, most people don’t mention how to approach dating and loving someone with mental illness. This is something that we should definitely be talking about.

For one thing, it is very likely that you will at least go on a date with someone who is suffering or has suffered from mental health problems. After all, 1 in 10 people throughout the world will fall into this category in their lifetime, and the more we pretend we don’t know someone in this group, the more we build on the stigma surrounding it.

Here are some things to think about when it comes to getting into a relationship with someone with depression, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, or similar mental health conditions:

1. Having a mental illness doesn't mean they are unstable.

As mentioned above, it is likely that you have already encountered someone with mental health problems in your dating life. While the first people who come to mind might be those that went to the extreme, there's a good chance that the person you're thinking of wasn't someone who fit into this category. 

Someone with mental illness, whether she's sought out formal treatment or knows exactly what her condition is, has developed ways of coping so that she can live as normal a life as possible. It is just as likely that the guy who wouldn’t stop talking about himself suffers from anxiety issues as the guy who asked to try on your shoes at the end of the date. 

If someone you’re dating confides in you about dealing with a mental illness, listen to what they have to say without assuming that you know what they are dealing with and how this has altered their life. 

2. They need an open line of communication.

This is something that holds true no matter what type of relationship you are in, but it's definitely one of the keys to making things work when mental health problems play a role in your relationship. In order to maintain a line of open communication, your partner needs to know that you are okay talking about his mental health without judgment or assumption

One good thing that you can do is have a weekly check-in with your partner. This gives you both a chance to bring up feelings and issues that you might be having that could affect your relationship. The more open with your feelings, the more he will feel that they can share with you.

3. It's not your job to "fix" them.

Watching someone you love suffer from anything — whether it be physical pain or mental or emotional turmoil — is one of the most heartbreaking and difficult things you can do.  It's something that can definitely cause tension, confusion, and anxiety when one party in a relationship is suffering from mental health issues.

One thing that you need to remember about loving someone with mental illness is that while it is great to offer support to your partner when she's going through a difficult time, finding the solutions that she needs to live the happiest and healthiest life possible is up to her. While you can listen, cheer her up and help her cope, she needs to discover which treatments work best for her and needs to add those solutions into her daily life.

Keep in mind that there are all sorts of different stages that people go through when dealing with mental health problems and that you can’t force your partner out of one stage and into the next. You just need to accept them at whatever stage they are currently in with honesty and compassion. This doesn’t mean that you can’t suggest they make a change or get help, but you need to be prepared for the possibility that they might not follow your advice.

4. They have his own version of "normal."

Going off of the same idea, there are likely some quirks and elements of their life that you are going to need to adapt to if you’re going to make the relationship work — just like you would in any other relationship. For example, if you’re dating someone who suffers from social anxiety, it is not very likely that you will be spending your weekends out at crowded bars and loud parties. 

When you’re deciding whether or not this person is right for you, you need to approach it just like you would with any other potential relationship. We all have those things about us that are not going to change and that our perfect partner will either appreciate or will learn to live with and those who suffer from mental illness are no different. If you're not someone who can deal with his everyday habits or schedule, he's likely not the right person for you.

5. The standard relationship rules still apply.

While some things are different when you’re dating someone with mental health issues, the core of your relationship and how you feel when you’re with her shouldn’t be any different from when you date anyone else. After all, she's just another person. 

You should feel like her equal and that there is a good balance of give and take in the relationship. You should also feel that she treats you well in return and gives you the attention you deserve.

There will always be times when one person in the relationship is more vulnerable and needs additional support. Dealing with constant changes is one of the keys to building a strong and lasting relationship. Don’t let someone make their mental health issues an excuse for always taking and never giving. Just because they are dealing with something doesn’t give them the right to be a jerk.

In today’s world, we need to erase the stigma surrounding mental health and we need to realize that those suffering are the same as any other person — amazing people who are capable of great things. You never know who your perfect partner might be, so stay open to all of the possibilities.

If you have a mental illness and are having trouble learning how to deal, watch the video below for tips on coping:


Karla Stephens–Tolstoy is the Founder and CEO of Tokii, a lifestyle brand that seeks to help people strengthen their mental health and empower them to reach their full potential.