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You’ve met someone who you really like. He listens to you. Finally, someone who really listens and asks questions, who shows genuine interest in you. And he’s funny! And he thinks you’re funny, too. Your first several dates flew by, each one of them ending with the two of you staying until closing time, just talking and laughing. You really like this one.

Then, when things are starting to get serious, he tells you more about his family and family history. He tells you that he’s bipolar, just like his mom. What do you do? Does this change how you feel about him?

Dating is complicated enough already, but throw mental illness into the mix, and harmful assumptions can escalate quickly. Misrepresentations in cultural media remain dangerously misleading about what mental illness really looks like. Perhaps when the guy you’re dating tells you he’s bipolar, you remember “Silver Linings Playbook”, and think about what it’d be like to date Pat (Bradley Cooper’s character from the film). From that movie, you’d think that everyone with bipolar disorder beats people up and throws things through windows.

Fortunately, this isn’t the truth. One of the best things you can do when you learn that someone you’re dating has a mental illness is to first hit the pause button. Bring to mind all the associations that you have with that mental illness. It’s great if you can write them all down in a list (you don’t have to show this list to the person you’re dating). Then, once you’ve collected all of your associations with that mental illness, you can begin doing research, and asking the person you’re dating thoughtful, compassionate questions about how their mental illness manifests in them. Listen to their experiences without making assumptions. Remember that mental illness can show up in many different ways for different people. Having a mental illness doesn’t mean that the person you’re dating is unstable.

Remember too that vulnerability is a two-way street. If this person has trusted you enough to discuss his mental health, then a great way to recognize that vulnerability is to be vulnerable yourself. Even if you don’t have mental illness in your background, there are always ways to relate to folks who do. It’s important to remember that vulnerability, trust, and empathy are at the heart of any conversation about mental illness.

Be mindful that it’s not up to you to solve this person’s problems for them. If the person you’re dating is telling you about their mental illness, then they’ve already been dealing with it for awhile, and they know a lot more about it than you do. Approach the situation with an open mind, an open heart and humbleness … while bearing in mind that mental illness is not an excuse for being cruel or thoughtless to you. Be careful not to let the situation become an excuse for things. While it’s true that you’ll need to understand areas where this person may require extra patience or compassion, those exchanges can still be done in a way that feels good to both of you.

Therapy isn’t just for those struggling with a mental health condition – it’s great for anyone who whats to learn more about how they can help their loved ones and stay mentally healthy themselves.

CLICK HERE for a list of therapists near you who can help strengthen your relationships.

We want to hear from you! Send comments you want to share with us to blog@mindpathcare.com. These messages will remain private and, while we may share details of your thoughts with others or online, we will do so anonymously unless you state another preference.

Please note that, while we publish accurate information with professional input, no information in this blog is intended as a replacement for medical advice from licensed providers. To receive such advice please contact MindPath Care Centers at mindpathcare.com or call us at 877-876-3783, and we will connect you with a professional who can further assist you.

Tropical Storm Isaias is headed towards the Carolinas

Tropical Storm Isaias is headed towards the Carolinas. Please note that we plan to be open for appointments; however, be aware that power outages may be widespread which may impact telehealth and other appointments. We may not know until the last minute in all of our locations on Tuesday. Please be patient. We will waive missed appointment charges on Tuesday, August 4th in light of complications from the weather. If you and your provider are unable to connect, we will reach out to reschedule your appointment as soon as possible.