Getting into a new relationship can cause mixed feelings. On the one hand, there’s excitement at the thought of something new and different. But there’s also the fear of rejection and misunderstanding when discussing your mental health with them for the first time.
Many people will avoid opening up to their new partner about their mental health struggles, but this can cause problems before the relationship has even begun.
It’s important to be honest with a partner from the very beginning. This will help you to build a stronger, healthier relationship that can withstand anything.
If you are struggling with the thought of opening up to your partner, here are a few tips that will help guide you in the right direction.
1. Write Down What You Need To Say
It can be hard to find the right words in the heat of the moment. When you’re anxious or uncomfortable, you are likely to lose track of your thoughts, and you might leave out important details.
Instead of relying on your memory, write down everything that you need to say in a notebook or on a notes page on your phone.
It will feel overwhelming at first, but by the time you’re finished writing, your head will feel much clearer and you should feel less anxious.
If you’re comfortable enough, you can sit down with them and read out your notes. Or you can hand it over to your partner who can read it silently. The latter option is particularly helpful if you’re struggling with anxiety or trauma.
2. Choose The Right Time
There’s a right time and a wrong time for everything.
You should wait until you feel most stable and comfortable around your partner before you open up about your mental health.
This could mean holding off for a few weeks or months until you know that you can trust them.
Coping with a mental illness can feel lonely and isolating at times, which is why you need your partner there to support you and help you through difficult periods.
If your partner is a caring and thoughtful person, they should respond well to the conversation, rather than pushing you away.
Having this conversation might be difficult for you, but it helps to determine whether you want this person in your life.
3. Choose The Right Place
Talking about your mental health struggles can make you feel vulnerable, which is why you should be surrounded by a positive, uplifting environment.
Choose a place that makes you feel calm and safe. This could be your house, a local park, or a location that feels nostalgic and familiar.
Try to avoid busy restaurants or places where you could be overheard, as this could cause you to feel awkward or uncomfortable.
If at any time you feel like the location is too crowded, simply ask your partner if you can continue the conversation somewhere else.
4. Help Them To Understand
Not everyone is familiar with mental illness, which can create confusion and misunderstanding.
To avoid any miscommunication issues, encourage your partner to ask you any questions to help them understand it more clearly.
You can also prompt them by asking, ‘do you want me to explain this in more detail?’ or ‘Is there anything that you would like to know?’.
If this person really cares about you and can picture a future together, they will want to know everything there is to know about you.
There might be some memories or details that you would like to keep to yourself for now, and that’s completely acceptable. Just politely tell them that you need more time before you can fully open up.
If your partner asks you a question that you are unsure about, tell them you will consider it and get back to them. This shows that you are taking their thoughts and feelings into consideration as well as your own.
5. Involve Them In The Conversation
If you want to make your partner feel understood and supported, then you should involve them in the conversation.
It’s possible that they have experienced mental health struggles in the past as well, so this would be the best time to discuss it.
You need to make sure that you don’t push them on the topic, as they might not be comfortable opening up just yet.
Asking questions such as, ‘do you know how that feels?’ or ‘have you ever experienced anything like that?’ could prompt them to open up about their own experiences too.
Try to avoid making it feel like a one-way conversation because this could make them feel like they have been shut out or excluded.
Make eye contact as much as possible and ask them questions to check that they are engaged in the conversation.
If they start to open up about their mental health, encourage them to say as much or as little as they feel comfortable with.
Give them time to process their feelings, as this could be the first time they have discussed it with anyone.
6. Explain What You Need From Them
It’s important that the conversation leads to useful tips on how they can help you throughout the relationship.
A new relationship can be challenging for anyone, but it presents new and complicated issues for people with mental illness.
You need to make sure that you and your partner are both on the same page by making it clear what you expect from them.
Try to avoid unrealistic expectations or using phrases like, ‘you should’ or ‘you need to’ as this puts unnecessary pressure on your partner. Use helpful phrases like ‘can you…’ or ‘I would appreciate it if…’ instead.
If your partner hesitates at any point, try not to get frustrated with them. This could just come as a surprise to them, and they might need time to process everything.
Sometimes, taking a short break to reflect on the conversation is a good thing. You can always come back to discuss it later.
7. Tell Them How They Can Spot The Signs
It’s useful for your partner if they know how to spot the signs that you are struggling with your mental health.
Of course, this varies from person to person, but write them a list of the signs they should look out for.
Some of the most common signs and symptoms of mental illness are:
- Irrational fear
- Mood swings
- Changes in behavior
- Changes in eating habits
- Difficulty sleeping
- Crying frequently, often for no reason
- Avoiding people
- Disregarding personal hygiene
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches
- Irritability or anger
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Prolonged boredom
Consider what your partner can do or say to you if they spot any of these symptoms. Think about what will help you the most and express these ideas to your partner.
This could feel overwhelming for them at first, especially if they have little to no experience with mental illness. But it’s important that they are informed and educated so they can give you the right care and support.
8. Don’t Expect Them To Be Your Therapist
No matter how good of a listener your partner is, everyone has their limits. Of course, your partner is there to support you and help you, but you shouldn’t view them as your therapist.
It’s unfair to put a huge amount of pressure on your partner to always be readily available when you need them.
If you regularly offload your problems on to your partner, it can cause them to feel stressed and anxious, and they might start to distance themself from you.
Just like you, your partner also has fears and worries, but they could feel like they are being overlooked.
The last thing you want to do is inadvertently push your partner away by expecting too much from them. If you feel yourself doing this, take a step back to reflect on your emotions.
If you are struggling and in need of urgent help, contact your doctor or seek guidance from a qualified therapist.
9. Discuss The Positives
It’s easy to get carried away when discussing the negatives, but it’s important to you and your relationship that you find ways to see the positives in the situation.
Learning to cope with a mental illness takes time, but you need to find solutions that work for you.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What will help me progress?
- How can I deal with these feelings?
- Do I need to talk to a therapist?
- What do I want out of my relationship?
Answering these questions will help to guide you in the right direction and make you focus on the positives instead.
If you are unsure, talk to your partner about it and try to come up with a detailed plan for your next steps. They will appreciate seeing you take control of your life, and this will bring you closer together as you begin your journey.