Why Are Romantic Relationships with Mental Illness Hard?
I thought of three reasons why it's hard to have a romantic relationship when you have a mental illness. Three? Perhaps 100 reasons is more realistic. 100 reasons sound about right, but then this post would feel like reading a bad romance novel. That said, I want to focus on the biggest reasons why romantic relationships with mental illness are so difficult and how they connect to the smaller reasons--like a web of very bad dates.
Challenges of Romantic Relationships with Mental Illness
Oh, dear! I must stop myself before I launch into a horrid story of my less than stellar choices in 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 (Coping with Extreme Anger as a Symptom of Depression). 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.
1. 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.
2. Fear of Disclosing Our Illness. Sometimes, we feel having a mental illness is something we should hide (What is Stigma?). 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 (What to Tell a Date About Your Mental Illness). We might rather watch reality TV alone to avoid it (AKA me).
3. 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.
Relationships with a Mental Illness Are Possible
We all have skeletons in the closet. Or, you know, five bottles of pills under the sink. 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.
Champagne, N. (2013, February 28). Why Are Romantic Relationships with Mental Illness Hard?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2013/02/romantic-relationships-and-mental-illness-three-reasons-why-its-hard
Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne
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Dr. Brandon, on the other hand, analyzes the nature of love and argues that romantic love and love in general are two sides of the same coin. He appears to believe in the state of romantic love and welcomes it into his life and argues for the Love (or limerace if you choose).
He makes several profound statesments that I have never forgotten.
"Love implies that the love object is a source of pleasure or a potential source of pleasure."
"Love implies that there is a disire for contact witht the love object."
Finally, at the age of 68, a friend referred me to her psychiatrist. I was tested and diagnosed with ADHD, LD (Learning Disability) & Dyslexia. I could finally put a name to and a cause of my sometimes hellish life. I asked why I wasn't tested sooner and was told that the testing was "expensive."
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.
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?
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...
So thank you, your posts remind me to try and to try to look at things different.