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Romantic Relationships and Mental Illness: Three Reasons Why It’s Hard!

Three. Three? I am currently asking myself this. Perhaps 100 reasons is more realistic? That sounds about right but that would be like reading a bad romance novel. That said, I want to focus on three of the biggest reasons and all of these connect to the smaller ones–like a web of very bad dates. Sarcasm aside, it’s a serious issue and let’s explore it as such.

Why Are Relationships Difficult When You Live With a mental Illness?

Oh, dear! I must stop myself before I launch into a horrid story of my less than stellar choice of partners. I think they would say the same about me. When I am depressed I am not fun. I do not laugh. Everyone, including the pets and dust on the table, pisses me off. It takes a, well, very unique person to hang on for the ride.

Enough about me, let’s focus on three reasons why it’s hard to be in a romantic relationship.

>Confidence! Lack of confidence (unless you are in a manic state in which you are probably certain everyone loves you.) For those of us who are not in a meaningful relationship, we may feel like we don’t deserve love. We might feel certain that once a person really gets to know us they will leave. As a result, we fear abandonment and this may lead to isolation. The entire thing becomes messy and, quite frankly, terribly sad.

>Fear of Disclosing Our Illness. Sometimes, we feel having a mental illness is something we should hide. Of course we do not tell everyone. You don’t shake a person’s hand and state, for example: “Hi! I’m Natalie and I have Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, a history of substance abuse problems, disordered eating and some other things, want to go to the movies?” You get the ridiculous drift.

When we first meet someone special, as time progresses, we begin to feel the need to tell them. Because we really do. But this isn’t easy; it’s like putting our heart on the line, hoping it won’t get smashed.  The fear connected to sharing that part of us and the impact it has on our lives is hard. We might rather watch reality TV alone to avoid it (AKA me).

>Fear of the Future. Everyone grapples with the future: we wonder what it will look like, if we’ll be happy, have 2.5 kids, a dog and a white picket fence. Maybe a mortgage paid off. It’s different when you live with a mental illness. The future can be scary. We often cannot predict how we will be feeling–our level of stability and functioning. Adding in another person, someone we can see a future with, can be scary! It brings us back to fear of disclosing our illness.

Looking On The Bright Side. . .We All Have ‘Skeletons in The Closet’

Or, you know, five bottles of pills under the sink. Bad jokes aside, it’s absolutely true! Everyone goes through pain in their lives, all of our experiences are unique, but pain and struggle is a shared experience. Call me altruistic (unfortunately, I’m not) but I really believe this.

If we can step outside of our lives, our illness, we begin to see that the world isn’t cruel just to us. We all fall from time to time and so when we fear romantic relationships try to remember that you are not damaged, you are just human and deserving of love.

17 thoughts on “Romantic Relationships and Mental Illness: Three Reasons Why It’s Hard!”

  1. Natalie as I wrote in another reply there was always a mild alienation & discrimination I faced & certain phobias which complicated things for awhile.Being disabled back in the 70’s & 80’s was wmaybe far different then it is today!I know in my day very few bipolar & schizophrenics were ever married in fact especially since they didn’t have the medications they have today!I dont know if this helps you at all but just saying.

  2. I love your posts. I read them and its like ya that’s me. I still have problems seeing others are struggling and when I find out some are its like they hide it so much better. What is wrong with me that I cannot hide it like they can. So it just puts them back up there because well now they are stronger then me. The worst is when I break down at work and its like I have to go back in there and I can’t hide that I’ve been crying. They will know and they will know I’m just so weak. I look in the mirror now I see a little boy with no strength. And when I start to see a man and start to see strength something happens and poof I’m a scared little boy with no strength again.
    So thank you, your posts remind me to try and to try to look at things different.

  3. I LOVE this blog! I am still suffering from having a mixed state episode in front of a great guy (who has a friend that is bipolar) and it scared him off with all that he was going through himself…can’t blame him as it frightened me too! Right into the crisis stabilization unit…

    I have loved and lost and loved again. Some have been great;some have been questionable and some…well, they ended badly but I knew that they would going in. I’ve never married and at my age (I’m 47) I don’t think I will ever have the family I always thought I would at this age but I do have something else…my freedom. I cannot help but think of how I would be able to handle children when I can barely handle bathing and brushing my own teeth. I have 2 cats, who seem to know when they need to snuggle up next to me and when they need to go off and do their own kitty thing. And they don’t seem to mind my skankiness or bad breath.

    At some point, though, I know that I will find (to quote Sheryl Crow) someone “strong enough to be my man”. Never lose hope…

  4. this is empowering.
    my take on the ‘love life mental illness’ department is a bit different!
    I feel completely deserving of being loved.
    However my episodes of depression tear me to the ground and i lack complete confidence in meeting anyone.. it’s painful, it’s my challenge to overcome. It’s a bizare reality, some days i can talk to even the most attractive of women because i have that “she’s cute, and i deserve a girl like her, i’m gonna go say hi’!!” feeling … and then i do and it usually turns out well ( we exchange numbers, hang out) but it usually falls apart because i have a mood episode and i’m no longer that cool, confident man that introduced himself to her at the grocery store or whatever. they lose interest quick! what i’m trying to communicate is that from time to time i feel utterly lacking in confidence! my looks, my personality, who i am as a person; i just lack that comfort with being myself and it affects my dating life dramatically.

    it’s really hard to articulate but i’m sure some of you who read Natalie’s article either understand where i’m coming from or have a different, but similar experience with their dating life being affected by mental illness.

    Anyways! I love this article, thanks, Natalie!
    unrelated: lately when i’m feeling down about life i talk outloud to myself and say with a smile and laugh “dude! it’s ok to feel down everyonce in a while! you’re not the only one and you certainly wont be the last! we all have bad days! it’s ok, man”.. just some self talk, ya know?

    god bless!

  5. So question… Do you think it is even something to contemplate when you have DID and so does the person you possible would want to be in a relationship with does…do you think this would work or SO NOT WORK AND WHY?

  6. I was romantically involved with someone. I told him today of my condition, he responded “i hope you work through your problems”. He no longer wants anything to do with me. Not sure how to handle being rejected

  7. I am in a relationship we both have a mental illness I suffer from bipolar and he has depression.
    We are 1 year together we have good and bad times its important to have good communication, honesty, compromise and patience. We are working together to make our relationship work.

  8. I told my gentleman friend that I was bipolar after a few months and he just said that is all part of the kit. What an uplifting and optimistic viewpoint. We are still friends after six months.

  9. Try being in a relationship where both of you have a mental illness, different types as well. That’s a ride for sure.

  10. Everyone is deserving of love, with my mental illness, I accepted what I call scrapped love. If he gave enough just to satisfy what is needed at that time, alright with me. I’ve been married twice/divorced each one took full advantage of using my condition against me. A song ‘titled ‘Only the Strong Survive’! Surviving if love comes/Surviving without it!

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