Go on the internet, or any social media app, for any length of time nowadays and you will no doubt see Mental Health being discussed.
And rightly so!
As one of the world’s largest killers – with suicide being the largest killer of men in the UK – there has never been a better time for mental health to be taken seriously and acknowledged in everyday life.
Be it depression, anxiety, or stress (to name but a few.) Mental health effects a huge amount of people’s standard days. Work and sleep are two of many issues negatively impacted by mental illness. However, dating is often one that gets forgotten.
Many a blossoming, or in fact stable, relationship have been put to one side because of difficulties found when trying to juggle everyday life, dating and one’s mental health.
It doesn’t have to be that way though.
One of the best ways to cope with the strains of mental health is company. If things are going well with someone, why separate yourself from someone who, not only could be a fantastic partner, but also a great support?
Here’s some of our advice to maintain a dating life or a relationship with mental illness:
More open communication
Opening up to someone else about how you are doing can really help you day to day. It can be difficult to even start the conversation with yourself. However, opening up a discourse with your partner could prove to be integral to the sustainability of your relationship.
As the old saying goes “A problem shared is a problem halved”. This doesn’t mean you have to discuss everything, only what you are comfortable with.
It’s also important to note that whilst the person you’re seeing may be happy to listen, they may struggle to deal with hearing everything at once. Therefore, it may be healthier for you both to take it at a pace that feels natural to both of you.
Knowing what the person is suffering from
Needless to say mental health is confusing for all involved. Especially for someone on the outside, looking in. A lot of conditions share symptoms and have similarities, in terms of how they are expressed. However, the nature of mental illness is not as easily expressed physically. Not in the same way as say, a cold. Because of this, it’s not easy to recognise what is really going on with someone or how you can help them.
There are some obvious signs that someone is on edge or is going through a particularly stressful time. It can be clear, just in how they’re acting. Meanwhile, depression is a condition that may go completely unnoticed. This could because someone just looks to treat their condition, as if nothing is going on.
Therefore, it’s important that even brief conversations can be had about what in particular someone might be struggling with. This is so you can do your own research on the best way for you to support your significant other.
Become aware of triggers
Once you’ve learnt a bit more about what someone (or yourself) are going through, you can discuss it more openly. Then there’s space to start working out what the triggers that set off a downturn in mood may be.
Once again, this can be more clear in certain situations, for example if someone suffers from OCD. Mostly, it’s just about being as sensitive, perceptive and aware as possible.
Learning or picking up on what might make someone anxious is a great start. Likewise, if someone has mentioned any clear phobias like water or animals, that is a super easy and direct way to learn how to live with that going forward.
Whilst caring for and supporting someone is often appreciated, constantly stressing the necessity for contact can be overwhelming to someone going through a rough period.
If you’ve just started dating someone, you may feel the need to try and think of something funny or caring to send to someone as much as possible. Try holding back though. Even without suffering from a mental illness, everyone knows how stressful it is having to look at your phone all day and feeling pressured to reply. You can easily go a few days without texting or contact and it doesn’t have to put a strain on your relationship.
Obviously, this is totally up for discussion between the two of you. The person you’re with may, in fact, want more contact, but they may also really appreciate the space.
It will also mean that the time that you guys are physically hanging out feels more meaningful. It can become easier to communicate effectively, without deciphering/misreading the tone of texts, emojis or the time taken to reply to texts, which we are all guilty for.
Organise fun and/or healthy activities together
To start dating someone, you must’ve established some things you guys have in common. There’s arguably no better time to explore those commonalities than when one of you is struggling with issues related to mental health.
This could be getting out to an exhibition, gig or a play. However, why not try something more active and make use of the benefits of exercise together? Maybe not to the level of the couple above though…
Going for a long walk, jog or getting involved in gym or yoga classes could act as a welcome way to shake up some of the physical and mental cobwebs.
Alternatively, introducing mindfulness to your relationship could also be a valuable way of developing a healthier way of living your shared lifestyle, without having to spend any money on memberships or gear.
Dealing with mental health is difficult. Looking after someone else with mental health issues can feel just as hard. It may sound simplistic, but it’s crucial to do the best you can to just listen to the person you’re with. You don’t always have to respond, but being an open ear is potentially the most effective thing you can do. Show that you can really be there through the good and bad times.
Similarly to learning how to listen properly, being genuinely supportive can often get lost in all of the ins and outs of mental illness.
Sometimes it really can be as easy as just asking how someone is and bringing someone in for a hug. It can be more complicated, but always aim to get the basics right.
It’s important to remember that YOU ARE NOT A THERAPIST!… unless it’s your job… then cool, I guess you are… BUT (in this potentially rare scenario) you are NOT their therapist.
You have a personal relationship with this person, so treat it as such.
Be kind, be loving and be supportive.
So, there is some of our advice for continuing dating whilst you, or your significant other, are going through a rough time with mental health.
Remember to look after yourselves and be aware that these patches come and go. They can be worked with. They don’t have to ruin some of the best and most fulfilling parts of your life.
Be there for each other and remember you are strong and deserve to be loved, no matter how you feel.
For any immediate advice or support with mental health issues, if you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, please see this list created by the NHS. – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/
By Lucas Galley-Greenwood