Dating With Depression: What Your Partner Should Know

This post is the third part in my “Dating With Depression” series. You can read the first post about putting yourself out there here, and the second post about talking about mental health with your partner here.

Dating someone while dealing with mental health issues, or living with a chronic mental illness, isn’t easy. It’s not easy for the people who are living with these issues (obviously), but it can also be very difficult for the other person, the other half of the relationship. It’s great that people want to help care and support their partners who live with mental illness, and it’s beautiful to see relationships thrive even though one (or both) people are dealing with mental health issues. But if someone wants to be as helpful and supportive as possible, what am I supposed to tell them? Even though my experience is specific, there are a few things you could tell your partner that might help them understand what you’re dealing with.

FYI these are general tips that I have either heard from others or given to my partner in the past. If I use myself as an example, it’s to help make things easier to understand.

My Mental Illness Symptoms Aren’t About You or ‘Us’

This first reminder is an important one, because many questions can be answered by making this point. It’s important that everyone in my life know that my depression has nothing to do with them, but it was especially important that my girlfriend understood that. When someone cares about you that much, they might think that something they’ll do or say might set you off, especially if that ‘something’ is a big part of your relationship. Your partner will need reassurance on this point, and you’ll want to remind them often because of how easy it is to forget this point.

I Don’t Always Know What’s Going On

The first conversation I had with my partner about mental health went very well, and one of the reasons it went well was because I knew what I wanted to say and what I specifically wanted to share. But as the conversations continue, they might not always work that way. Sometimes I’ll know when I’m not feeling like myself, and I know exactly what to say to her about how I’m feeling. Sometimes I’ll feel ‘off’ when I’m with her, but I don’t know why or how I can explain what I’m feeling. It sounds scary, but I don’t always know what’s going on. And before you object to that, or say it might make your partner feel bad to hear that, I’ll remind you that I’m thinking that either way. I’ve spent more time not knowing what’s going on than knowing how I’m feeling, and that’s happening whether I share that information or not. I’d want my partner to understand that, and support ways to get me out of that funk.

Certain Things Will Set Off My Symptoms

Otherwise known as ‘triggers’, I refer to events and situations that exacerbate my depression and anxiety as things that ‘set me off’ – that is, they set off my symptoms in a number of ways. Whether it’s a social situation, watching something that reminds me of a negative experience or something else, I have a sense of what makes me anxious or can cause me to lose some mental clarity. Since I know what can set me off, I can tell that to my partner, so she isn’t caught off guard when I’m not acting like I normally am. It’s also important to understand that not everyone knows what sets them off. I have a sense of it because of the seven years I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety, but it’s not easy to be tuned in to what makes you feel depressed or anxious all the time. Everyone is on their own mental health journey on their own time, and partners who understand this can help establish healthy norms for the relationship.

What Do You Think?

These are three of the more general things that I’ve come across in my own experience and talking with others, but I’ll turn it over to the readers! What do you think your partner should know about your mental health issues when it comes to your relationship? Has it worked for you? Personally, I think this is a topic that a lot of people can respond to, and since there is not one ‘right’ way to approach it we can find the ways that work for us.

8 thoughts on “Dating With Depression: What Your Partner Should Know

    • Nathan @ MBNB August 5, 2020 / 9:05 am

      I’m glad full disclosure helped you find the relationship you’re looking for! I always thought I’d have to hide some part of me, but it’s wonderful to be my own self πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mentally Ill In America August 5, 2020 / 10:41 am

        I may have gotten lucky. It’s a tough world. I made myself vulnerable at the right time and the rest is history. And, that may not work for everyone.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. mentalhealth360.uk August 5, 2020 / 3:36 am

    Great post Nathan! Like you, I learned to tell my partner “It really isn’t you.” and “I’m not feeling so good, so just let me feel that way – it will pass” and it does, eventually.

    Again, like you, I don’t always know what’s making me feel low or even why I’m having suicidal thoughts. There are many triggers like I can’t watch movies with certain content or I’m terrified when people are arguing loudly around me, even strangers say in a bar.

    I just tell him and my sons, and they support me whatever way I need. Sometimes I have to tell them what I need because they’re not mind-readers.

    Once again, an informative and insightful post Nathan. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nathan @ MBNB August 5, 2020 / 9:08 am

      Happy to hear you’re getting support how you need it. I lived way too long with the idea that my loved ones should be able to read my mind – what’s wrong with telling people what you need every now and then? Thank you for sharing your insight and checking out the post 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Corne August 20, 2020 / 9:39 pm

    I don’t even know why I’m replying, I guess i’m just looking for answers.
    My boyfriend and me are in a long distance relationship for over just a year now. And for the past months it’s been extra hard cause we haven’t seen eachother in almost 6 months because of Covid…. he lives in Canada and I live in Europe. Before Covid we saw eachother once every 2 weeks because I travelled to Canada for work all the time.
    He is living with mental illness. He told me the day we met that he suffers from depression and that wasn’t a thing for me at all, cause I felt instant chemistry and I saw the gentle and honest person he is especially with telling me such an intimate thing on our first date. I fell deeply in love with him.
    But I am struggling so much. He detaches from me a lot. He goes silent on me so often, sometimes even for 3 days where he does not respond to texts or answers the phone when I call and even declines my calls.
    He goes on weekly meetings with a nurse or a helper, however you wanna call it. I don’t know much more about that than that he just goes there to talk.
    I’m struggling cause he doesn’t hardly ever talk to me about what he goes through. Very sporadically he opens up and tells me about something he is dealing with. He will be crying and telling me how hard it is to fall a sleep at night, how he thinks everyone is against him or using him or conspiring against him. Sometimes he messages me with weird questions if I am in contact with his ex in any way. And I have never ever talked to his ex so I tell him that but he keeps pushing me in the questions and not believing me. Or he asks me if I’m in Canada, while he knows exactly when I’m there, and then video calls me for 5 seconds and hangs up. I think just to see where I am, if I am at home or not.
    And then the next day he acts like nothing has happened and doesn’t talk about it or responds to my questions about it.
    I know, cause he told me, that he is also dealing with substance abuse. And sometimes when he is acting that weird I’m not sure if it’s the mental ilness or the substance abuse that’s taking over him.
    All this makes me so insecure. Cause I try to keep in mind his mental illness but I can’t help feeling hurt and me being a very emotional sensitive person it makes me think he is ignoring me so he must be with someone else, cheating on me. And while he doesn’t message me I see him online or even posting pictures on social media with people. I can’t help getting jealous and even get suspicious thoughts about the people he is with. And when I try to talk to him about it I always try to approach it in not an attacking way but I do tell him I feel hurt and ignored. I feel I am always walking on eggshells.
    I have never dealt with mental illness or depression myself. I don’t know what that feels like or what that does to you. I’m just looking for answers if his behaviour is his mental illness. He doesn’t open up to me, even when I constantly tell him I am there to support him and he needs to tell me what I can do and what he needs.

    Like

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