This article is an opinion. It is not designed to offer relationship advice, or mental health advice. It is based upon observations and experiences only.
Relationships are difficult. There is a lot of thought and effort that goes into forming any relationship. Dating can be a nightmare for many people. It takes time, money, and a level of emotional commitment that is often frustrating. Relationships can be especially difficult for people coming out of a long-term relationship, whether due to a break-up, a divorce, or the loss of a loved one. Hopes can be dashed, hearts can be broken, and dreams can…well…die. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you can meet someone and have it lead to romance. You can fall in love with the right person. You can have happiness and a rewarding relationship with someone meaningful.
The trouble with dating or seeing someone new is always the same: we don’t really know that person at all. In fact, even once we think we know them, it can sometimes be years before we really, really know them well. Even then, many men and women will have certain secrets that they chose to keep. In most relationships, you may never know the other person’s entire story. It is very plausible that you can end up dating someone with alcoholism, an addiction to drugs, or any number of mental illnesses like bipolar disorder or depression. Mental illness and dating certainly don’t go together like two birds of a feather.
Mental Illness and Dating – The initial relationship
So, what if you just started seeing someone and they have a legitimate mental illness? Sometimes, this may be painfully obvious after a short time. If you find yourself sitting at a table eating dinner with a potential partner, and saying to yourself, “oh my God, this person is nuts,” you may be right. Or, at least somewhat right. Often, red flags go up when something doesn’t jive and that becomes the end of the relationship.
We all know or have known someone who is seeing another person who is “crazy,” as they may describe it. Perhaps the person acts or behaves in a certain way that is not how most would choose. Or, maybe the person wants attention, or wants to get their way. Maybe they are trying to win an argument. We can chock a lot of the so-called “craziness” to the obvious and common knowledge that vast differences exist in the way that men think and react, and the way that women think and react. Men don’t understand women. Women don’t understand men. This may just be nature’s way of confusing us, frustrating us, and keeping life interesting at the same time.
In truth, many people who seem “crazy” may just suffer from any number of conditions that make social interactions awkward for them. This could include anxiety, dementia, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder. These conditions may not be apparent at first. After all, this other person could be undiagnosed or untreated, and not realize they have a mental illness. In other cases, they may not want to tell you about potential issues for as long as possible. Once you discover it, you may feel like you have walked into a minefield. This isn’t to say they are bad people, or wrong people, or anything like that. It is just to point out that it may be important to be aware of complications that could jeopardize or ruin a budding relationship, or even prove detrimental to one or more persons’ physical well-being.
Mental Illness and Dating – Show some compassion.
If you are seeing someone who has an actual mental illness, and isn’t just weird or eccentric (or a number of other things), you probably have dealt with frustration, annoyance, aggravation, and had to exercise a lot of patience with that person. I know how this goes, becomes I was with someone for many years who had severe, crippling anxiety problems. I sympathize with you. And how did I handle it? With love, care, compassion and every possible human effort to be available for her. With that in mind, my advice is the following: if you are with someone who has a mental health problem, try to put yourself in their shoes. Recognize that they may not be able to help some of their issues, and do your best to offer support.
Mental Illness and Dating – Dating an Alcoholic or a Drug Addict
If you are dating someone with an addiction, or alcoholism, the best bet may be to offer them professional help. Sooner or later, if they do not address the problem, I can promise you one thing: it will only get worse over time, never better. Eventually, if you continue to date someone with an alcohol or drug problem, it will ruin your life and theirs. If they are unwilling to get professional help, it may be best to end the relationship. The worst thing you can do for the other person is to enable their addiction, which could lead to financial strain, physical or emotional abuse, or their early death.