If you’ve swiped right on someone special, you may be wondering how soon you should reveal your mental health battles.
Whether you suffer anxiety or depression or a bit of both, Dr Owen Spear has some tips on finding the right time to enlighten your new partner about what goes on in your head and how they can (eventually, once the relationship progresses to status you’re content with) help become your greatest support.
1. Play to your strengths
Just like you probably wouldn’t bring up your bitterness over your ex or your trust issues on a first date, Dr Spears says it’s OK to leave the mental health history chat for a later discussion, when you’re feeling more comfortable.
“When you’re dating, I think early on, it’s a lot about revealing your strengths,” says Dr Spear, clinical psychologist at The Mind Room.
“You try to say, ‘Look, I’m worth it. You’ll start to see I’m not perfect, but here’s me at my best’.”
Revealing your mental health issues is something you want to share with people you trust. So just like you would with anything else super personal, waiting until you feel like you can really trust the person you’re with is always a good guide.
2. Make it casual
If you’ve decided to see each other again and things are looking promising, Dr Spear says introducing your depression or anxiety in dribs and drabs is a manageable approach.
“There’s no need to have it all come out in one hit — generally I think it works better if you say little bits here and there and test the waters, seeing how the other person reacts,” he tells 9Honey Coach.
“If the person asks questions, then answer them. I would be careful not to lie because that will break trust later on.”
Having it out in the open will also help if you need to cancel a date or change plans slightly due to your anxiety or depression.
“I think you have a responsibility to say something if it causes behaviour that affects the other person,” Dr Spear says.
“Say if you get overwhelmed and think, ‘I can’t handle a date tonight’, the other person is going to feel rejected and upset when it actually has got nothing to do with them.”
3. Own your situation
The more confident and forthright you can be about your mental health, the more likely you are to put your new partner at ease.
“I’d own it and have no shame about it — saying, ‘I have this and I’m okay with it’,” Dr Spear says.
“I’d show that I’m managing it and be clear about the impact it has, because if you are okay with it, it will make it a lot easier for the other person to work with.”
If you feel like you haven’t got your head around your own mental health, then Dr Spear recommends working with a professional — preferably before you even start dating, given it has the potential to put you in triggering, high stress situations.
“If you feel like you’re not owning it or feel ashamed about it, I’d be seeing a psychologist to work through things before heading into heavy dating,” he says.
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4. Give them instructions
Most people want to help but many don’t know how — so make it easy for them by keeping an honest and open dialogue.
“You might say something like, ‘I suffer from depression and during the periods that I am really down, I just need you to call two times to check on me and if I don’t respond the third time, maybe come around. When I show no interest, it has nothing to do with you, so don’t take it personally. Push me to go for a walk but if I really say no, then don’t push me further. Maybe ask how I’m feeling’,” Dr Spear says.
“If you give them a list to follow, guys, in particular, tend to love that — they know what to do and why they’re doing it and are happy to follow.”
5. Be specific if things are getting serious
Whether you’re talking weddings, cohabitating or even going on a big trip, if you’re taking things up a notch in the relationship stakes, then Dr Spear says you really need to make sure your partner knows about your mental health.
“Just like if you didn’t want kids or you had a chronic illness, you should probably raise that around that time, if not before,” he says.