For over nine months now I have been in a romantic relationship with someone who struggles with mental illness. She has also been in a relationship with someone who deals with mental illness – myself. Through this, I have started learning what it means to truly love someone who struggles with this, as well as what it means to truly be loved with a mental illness.
I will admit that I’m not an expert by any means. This is solely my opinion based on my experiences.
If you are dating someone with mental illness…
- Acknowledge what may seem like small victories and achievements. If your significant other (SO for short) has social anxiety and he or she makes it through a social event with an abundance of people he or she doesn’t know, be vocally and visibly proud of that. If your SO comes down from an anxiety attack, tell them how good he or she did while dealing with it and how proud you are of your SO for beating it.
- Remember that people with mental illness don’t choose their illness or how it affects them. You have to be patient and realize that sometimes your SO acting out is them reacting to stress from his or her mental illness. However…
- Don’t let your SO use their mental illness as an excuse. Have compassion and be understanding, but don’t let them get away with bad decisions consequence-free. As Pete Davidson said, “Being mentally ill is not an excuse to act like a jackass.” Hold your SO responsible for his or her actions.
- Mental Illness is not the same every day. Some days your SO will seem like they have never struggled a day in his or her life. However, some days it can be crippling. Recognize both types of days. If he or she has a good day, acknowledge it. You have no idea how encouraging that is. If your SO has a bad day, be there for them as much as you reasonably can. Every day is different. Be adaptable.
- You are not responsible for “fixing” your SO. Please DO NOT go into a relationship with someone that has a mental illness expecting to be able to “love the mental illness away.” You may make your SO’s mental illness better or easier to deal with, but don’t put the pressure on yourself to “fix” it.