Dating and Mental Health: How Open Should You Be?
“Adventurous, compassionate soul seeking fun-loving female to wander the world, discuss latest New York Times headlines, and exchange witty political banter.”
“Thoughtful, humorous goofball in a long-term relationship with road-trips, hole-in-the wall Vietnamese restaurants, and family eccentricities.”
“Public interest lawyer — and current nonprofit liaison — specializing in Monopoly, farmers markets, and the occasional run-on sentence. Vintage stores, 90s hip-hop, and a hand-crafted IPA keep the world a-spinning.”
“Mental health advocate committed to health equity. Wrestled with OCD, depression, and anxiety since teenage years. Hardwired perfectionist embracing self-acceptance after summer’s mental health stumbles.”
It’s the dating dilemma: How open should you be when broaching your mental health struggles?
From your self-appointed relationship savant, the answer is: Well, it depends.
Dating is an inexact science. We enter the dating scene with different motivations, beliefs, and core values. Some of us are looking for marriage; others are seeking a casual relationship. All of us are yearning for a personal connection.
Before baring your soul, be honest with yourself. Get yourself to a place where you can flourish in an authentic, healthy relationship.
Before discussing personal health information, ask your romantic interest to respect your confidentiality. Mental health issues are pervasive (look at your favorite Hollywood starlet) and misunderstood. When broaching an admittedly delicate topic, be strategic. Introduce the mental health diagnosis, highlight its impact/treatment, and emphasize the positive attributes. Yes, there are positive attributes. Your mental health has humanized you; your compassion and thoughtfulness stem, in part, from your lived experience.
For me, the ‘yellow light’ philosophy guides. At the outset, I generalize about emotional hardships. As the relationship grows, I divulge more of my story. The most important factor: comfort. However well-intentioned, I retreat, laboring in clipped tones and vague clichés, when a love interest quizzes me about mental health struggles. Let the conversation occur when you are ready.
In turn, her reaction may pleasantly surprise you. On multiple occasions, romantic interests have thanked me and, in turn, entrusted me with their deepest secrets. Following our tell-all, we grin—one of those toothy, ear-to-ear grins—at each other. Prepared to check into separate wings at the Heartbreak Hotel (complimentary drink, ice cream, and sappy movie included), the reservation has been changed to the honeymoon suite. Party of two.
Dating brings a whirlwind of competing emotions: Heart-racing anxiety before a blind date, lust after a sensual kiss, a hearty laugh after a whispered joke. And, I hope, a heartfelt conviction that you deserve a loving, fulfilling relationship.
Swipe right—for you and your emotional health.
First date photo available from Shutterstock
Loeb, M. (2018). Dating and Mental Health: How Open Should You Be?. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 24, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/dating-and-mental-health-how-open-should-you-be/