It’s kind of like having a sneaky little secret.
I wonder if they can sense my crippling anxiety?
(The answer is yes, your damaged cuticles and tapping feet sold you out by date #2.) While many people would argue that mental health supersedes participation in the dating scene, I’d like to offer an alternative perspective.
For some people, it is essential to let romance take the backseat while mental health is prioritized. If it requires most of your energy to maintain your basic needs (i.e. hygiene, food, water), then it’s safe to assume a new partner may not fit into your picture. Likewise, if you believe your current emotional state cannot cultivate a healthy romantic bond, it’s critical to do the inner work before searching for a significant other.
However, if you struggle with a chronic mental illness, or face daily struggles with anxiety and depression, you should not be excluded from the pursuit of happiness. Your mental struggles do not make you an unworthy partner. It’s up to you to determine whether your current mental status allows for new love. Fortunately, dating around is a commitment-free activity. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the expectations, you can simply exit the scene. Grimy bars and Tinder catfish will be patiently waiting for you!
Like any life struggle, mental health waxes and wanes with the passing of time. Those with chronic mental health conditions know this reality all too well, as the severity of symptoms drastically evolves depending on the month, week, and even day! If you are entering a potentially serious relationship, it’s critical to have honest discussions with your partner, so they know what to expect, and how to best assist you. If your partner hesitates at the first hint of commotion, they may not be ready for a real, adult partnership. A healthy relationship allows space for some instability and unknowns. In fact, it should provide a sturdy foundation as you navigate uncertain waters - mental health related, or otherwise. Life will never provide the “ideal” time for a relationship. Family drama, career changes, health struggles, and other obstacles will flare up. If romantic involvement merely magnifies these challenges, it may be time to step back from your current partner, or from dating all together.
So, the question remains: should you be dating while struggling with your mental health? If you’re looking for a clear-cut answer, I regret to inform you that there isn’t one. Each individual case presents with specific benefits and repercussions. All in all, it is important to remember that your mental health will never be perfect. If you’re waiting to achieve impeccable emotional clarity before dating, then you’ll probably be single forever. A genuine partner will provide support as you navigate life’s various obstacles.
However, it is not your partner’s job to act as your therapist, psychiatrist, parent, and significant other. If they don’t feel prepared or willing to support your needs, you must allow them to take the space they need. This doesn’t mean you aren’t deserving of love. This doesn’t mean you are broken. You just haven’t found your ideal match! For now, focus on healing and make peace with uncertainty. Remember: you are not a burden for struggling with your mental health. Facing obstacles is part of the human experience, and the right person will ride the waves patiently by your side.
Written by: Brianna Rauchman