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Romantic Relationships:“How Do I Communicate When I Have a Mental Illness?”

The dating world is hard enough as is, but when you have mental illness, it can feel even harder.

No matter your diagnosis, romantic relationships can be intimidating. As a person myself with

mental illness, I can understand the fears of judgement, rejection, and abandonment. Here’s

the thing: Those are fears everyone has in the dating world!

Just like how you would approach any relationship, mental illness or not: Communication is key.

We’ve put together a list of five comprehensive communication tips specifically for persons

with mental illness who are pursuing romantic relationships. As you read, you may notice that a

lot of the principles of communication in a relationship without mental illness are just as

relevant in a relationship with mental illness.

1. Communicate that you have a mental illness. Don’t hide it.

What is the number one piece of advice you hear the most concerning dating? Be honest

and open. We’re not saying that you have to tell someone right off the bat that you have a

mental illness, but it’s a good idea if you are pursuing a relationship with someone to let

them know. It can be scary to tell someone you want to date about something that feels like

a flaw, because it’s possible that you might face rejection. In our experience, most people

are understanding and usually ask questions about the illness instead of dismissing it or

judging you for it. However, it is always possible that someone will react negatively.

Remember to ask yourself: “Do I really want to date someone who won’t accept something

that I can’t control?”

2. Explain what your symptoms are, and what they feel like for you so that your partner

is prepared.

Most people hope that their partner will never have to see them at what they think is their

worst. The problem is that there is always a possibility when you have a mental illness that

you will have a bad day with overwhelming symptoms, and your partner may not recognize

what’s happening and feel lost. For that reason, it’s important to explain what your

symptoms feel like, and then give examples of the types of symptoms you may experience,

so that your partner can get an idea of what to expect and feel more prepared.

3. Tell your partner what coping skills work for you and what you typically need when

you’re having symptoms.

By telling your partner what coping skills work for you when you’re having symptoms, they

will most likely have a better understanding of how to help you. It is often even more

helpful if you are able to specify what coping skills work best for each individual symptom.

You can also clarify for which symptoms you need or want your partner to be physically

present when you are struggling, just send you text messages to check on you, talk on the

phone with you, leave you alone completely, etc. If you are specific about what you need or

want, your partner will most likely feel more comfortable with your symptoms and may

even feel more empowered by knowing how to help.

4. Let your partner know when you’re having symptoms.

Communicating when you’re having symptoms and what types of symptoms you’re

experiencing at the moment will help your partner to be more aware of what you currently

need and be more prepared. This will be especially effective if you have already utilized Tip

3 by letting your partner know what helps when you’re having symptoms, and what

specifically works for each of your individual symptoms.

5. Tell your partner that it’s okay if they get overwhelmed and that they can

communicate when they’re feeling that way.

In a safe, healthy relationship, it’s often important to establish trust by making sure your

partner feels comfortable with communicating when they’re overwhelmed too. Often,

someone who loves or cares about you may feel like they’re not allowed to feel negatively

in any way about your relationship. It can be helpful to remind your partner that it’s okay to

be overwhelmed or tired and to communicate how they’re feeling.

We at Two Faces of Jane truly hope that this list for persons with mental illness who are

dating will make romantic relationships a little less intimidating. Having a mental illness or

mental health challenge does not make you any less deserving of a healthy and honest

romantic relationship. As you venture into the dating world and try to find the right person for

you, remember that you are, and always will be, worthy of love and respect.


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