Ask Abby: Mental health in your dating life

Question: I’m dating someone who struggles with mental health. I really like them but it’s difficult because they’re not giving me what I need in a relationship (emotionally). I can’t really blame them because it’s not their fault. What should I do?

Mental health is such an essential topic of discussion. We are all dealing with something, so it’s not shocking when you encounter a romantic partner who may face some problems. 

Acknowledging that your partner is not emotionally giving you what you need is an excellent first step. Many people deny this and will view blaring red problems with rose-colored glasses. Just because you can’t see the problem doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Haley Alvarez-Lauto | Senior Graphic Artist

Now is the time to run by possible solutions that work for you and your partner.

Finding support for your partner

The first thing is to get support for your partner if they don’t already have it. Your partner confiding in you is great, but I assume you are not a licensed therapist. You can only do so much for them. 

Look for a licensed therapist in your area, resources in college or even things that can help with mental health and do them with your partner. Grounding techniques for anxiety, breathing practices for panic attacks or journaling your thoughts can be a lot easier for your partner to do if you do it together. 

Doing these things together will show your partner how much you care about them, and could encourage them to seek out help if they are holding out on doing so.  

Communicate with each other

Next is communication. It can generally be corny to say that communication is key, but the saying is true. 

Have you told your partner they are not giving you what you need? Have you given them a good list of what you are looking for? If you start a relationship with someone, unless their looks are just that good, it is likely because they care about you. Tell your partner you need more emotional support and what that may look like. 

Know when it is okay to step back

You may need to take a break from the relationship until your partner is in better mental standing. I’m not trying to encourage people to break up with their mentally unwell partners, but coming from a person who has loved ones who struggled with mental illness, it can put a massive strain on you.

Along with carrying your own problems, you’re also supporting your partners’. Trying to help your partner get better is wonderful, but if you are not careful, you can be dragged into the deep end and drown. 

Putting a brief pause on the relationship so you can figure out where to go with it in the future is okay. You can do everything in your power to support this person, but they have to be willing to get help. Their choice may affect your view on whether or not the relationship is viable. 

I don’t doubt for one second that you care about this person (hence why you are asking this question to begin with). You can find numerous ways to support and show the love they deserve, but you must consider what you need. Your needs aren’t selfish. Both parties should feel mentally well for a good relationship.

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