The world of mental health can be an intimidating one. Certainly, for the 1 in 3 of us who are living with such a condition, and the daily challenges it can bring. But also, for those looking in from the outside, whether that’s supporting a friend, family member or even a colleague. This can be an even more complicated situation if you find yourself dating someone with a mental illness.
Thankfully, through education and an ever-expanding number of charities and organizations increasing mental health awareness, there is now far less of a stigma attached to the problem and this is a very positive thing. Finding out your partner is suffering from a mental health condition doesn’t mean the relationship is ill-fated and it is now easier than ever to access information to help you understand what your partner may be experiencing. To make that process even easier, we’ve distilled some of this advice into 7 steps that will help that relationship to flourish.
- Understand their condition: I’m not just talking about being understanding, but actually understanding the condition your partner is suffering from. Encouraging your partner to share this information in the early days of a relationship may be easier said than done, so choose a moment when you’re both relaxed and comfortable together—and remember they’re potentially sharing something deeply personal. Now is not the time to be judgmental, but simply to appreciate what is going on in their life, both body and mind.
- Offer continuous support: Once you know what condition your partner is living with, you can continue to be a source of support for them, to learn from them, and to do you own research on the matter. “Knowing what triggers can cause them anxiety or discomfort (whether this is in your behavior or the behavior of others) means you can be better prepared to deal with, or even avoid, these trigger situations altogether,” says Eugene Morales, a lifestyle blogger at Boomessays and UK writings.
- Now, BE understanding: Patience is key here, and although your partner is not looking for a savior or healer, simple things such as maintaining a gentle tone and not raising your voice when a difficult situation arises can alleviate stress. Remember that staying calm yourself is far more effective for avoiding conflict than telling your partner to “calm down!”
- Try to put yourself in their shoes: It’s almost impossible to put yourself directly in your partner’s shoes, and to see the world exactly as they do. However, understanding that they do not react to stress in the same way as you do is vital. Typically, it may take your partner far longer to get over a disagreement than it does you, and even after you’ve discussed it and forgiven each other, the stress may stay with them for far longer. Be prepared to talk about things again.
- Don’t be their doctor: Ultimately, you can offer all the support in the world (and I hope you do!) but your partner is the one who is responsible for their treatment and journey. Whether they are self-diagnosing, seeing a therapist, or are on daily medication, it’s not your place to ‘treat’ them. Psychologists have undergone years of training to understand and attend to such problems and attempts by you—however well intended—are likely to be very unwelcome.
- Don’t be your doctor: Do however, look after yourself. Maintaining such a relationship has the potential to be challenging at times and you will be a far better support if you’re feeling well yourself. There’s no shame in finding your partner’s symptoms frustrating and talking to your own counselor may be a very useful way to deal with any resulting stress. “Don’t be afraid to talk to your partner about your feelings as well. Any relationship is a two-way street and you should be equals,” explains Jack Cesar, a health blogger at Academized and Revieweal.
- Commit to the long haul: Our seventh, concluding point is an acknowledgement that often, mental illnesses are long-term conditions. Many people are able to manage and live with their condition, leading fulfilling lives. And though some days may be easier than others, being aware that those symptoms will not miraculously disappear is an important stop along what can be a long and rewarding journey together.
*Nora Mork is a lifestyle journalist at Paper Fellows and OX Essays. She loves yoga, hiking, and sharing her stories at blogs, such as Elite Assignment Help.