In the first post of my Dating With Depression series, I wrote about how to put yourself out there and be open to meeting someone. I don’t think I’d have been able to put myself out there if I wasn’t prepared to handle what was next, which is how I’d like to segue into the next post in this series – how to bring up that mental health conversation with someone you’re dating. Obviously every relationship and person is unique, but there are a few bits of advice I’ve learned (and heard from others) about more approachable ways to bring up mental health that everyone can shape for their own needs and relationships. Let’s dive in!
Are We Ready to Talk?
While I’m mostly going off personal experience, I was fortunate enough to take advice I’ve given others about how to broach the topic of mental health in a relationship. Before I begin, I also want to be clear that your timeline for sharing your mental health journey with your partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc. is just that: yours. These tips and bits of advice are most effective when you’re ready to share your experience with someone else. Being prepared to share your experience is important because you’re in a mental state that is prepared for what’s coming next, even if you don’t share everything in one night. It’s also important to know if your partner is in the right place to have this conversation, and to understand their needs in the same way you’d need to understand your own. This conversation is a two-way street, and you’re both equal parts of it!
Easing Into The Conversation
If you’re ready to talk mental health with your partner (and you think they’re ready to hear you share) the next thing you can focus on is the timing. At what point in the relationship do you want to be that vulnerable with someone? For some it’s after a few dates, while others could take years, but usually it’s somewhere in between. I’d say that if you’ve been open and honest about other aspects of your life, you’ve set the groundwork to have this discussion, especially if you feel that it’s a relationship worth pursuing. If it’s not…well, that’s a conversation for another time!
Once you feel out that timing, you can start dropping hints. One easy way to do this is through the content you consume. Whether it’s a podcast, a book, music or something else, try to share something with your partner that’s mental health-related to get them in that arena. Also be aware that your own advocacy is also a hint. I have pictures from AFSP Out of the Darkness Walks all over my Instagram page, and I wasn’t aware at the time of how I’d laid that foundation already. If you’re looking for ways to ease someone in, they might be easier to find than you think.
Having That Mental Health Talk
Okay, now we’re where we want to be, and we’re going to have that talk with our partner! But what do we say? Honestly, I wish this part wasn’t so personal so I could give better advice, but it’s very personal. When I opened up for the first time to my girlfriend, there was a ton of emotion in the room, and while it was easier than I thought, it’s not simple. My best advice would be to treat the conversation like every other story you’ve shared before, because at the end of the day it’s information that your partner needs to know. Ultimately, we all deserve to be with someone who knows the important things about us – even the things that are uncomfortable and difficult. And if you’re with someone who understands that, you can remind them that this is just like any other illness. If I didn’t tell my girlfriend about a physical handicap I lived with, I’d be doing a disservice to both of us and our relationship. Why is this any different?
One more reminder: there will be a first talk about mental health, and it will be important, but it should not be the last one either. This is the beginning of a larger discussion, so don’t go into it thinking that you have to share everything at once. Putting things out in the open in a good way to keep that conversation going forward, and it will get easier to do with time. Much love to all who have taken or will be taking this step – sending you all the best!