In season one, episode three of Amazon’s “Modern Love,” viewers get a glimpse into the life of Lexi (Anne Hathaway). Lexi’s life is quite complicated, and after a few scenes we understand why. Viewers later learn her love life is complicated because she is dealing with bipolar disorder, but she hasn’t let any of the men she has dated (or her friends) know about her mental health diagnosis.
At what point in a relationship should you tell a partner you have a mental illness? Showbiz Cheat Sheet chatted with relationship experts and therapists to get some answers. Here’s what the experts had to say.
Disclose your mental illness before things get too serious
It’s OK to wait a little before disclosing a mental illness, but it’s not a good idea to wait too long. Dr. Wyatt Fisher, a licensed clinical psychologist and marriage counselor in Boulder, Colorado, recommends disclosing within the first three to four weeks of dating. “This should be disclosed within the first three to four weeks of dating before things get too serious, but after things have become serious enough to disclose personal information,” Fisher says.
Educate your partner about your mental illness
Education is key. In addition to revealing your diagnosis, it is also helpful to explain what the disorder is and how it affects you. Knowing exactly what’s in store can help your partner decide whether to proceed with the relationship or to end things.
Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, a licensed clinical professional counselor and a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist, recommends giving your partner an article explaining your mental health diagnosis. “You may want to print out an article about the disorder to let him or her know more about it and how it could affect them. Don’t spring it on the person–make a time when you can address it when they are ready and able to hear it, not caught off guard.” Fisher agrees, adding, “Don’t sugar coat it. Be honest about your history with it, what it looks like, and what they can expect in a relationship with you.”
Their reaction will show you who is and isn’t a suitable partner
It’s understandable to feel hurt if your partner rejects you after you make the disclosure. However, also realize that the way this person reacts is a good indication of whether the relationship would have been worth pursuing. You can learn a lot about a person by the way they respond to a tough situation. How someone handles the pressures of life can be very telling.
Yassin Hall, author of “Journey Untold: Twisted Love: My Mother’s Struggle with Mental Illnesses,” says it’s important to remember that you are not the one being rejected—your illness is. “If things were going well up until the time you told them, keep in mind that they rejected your health condition, not you. At the end of the day, it means that they were not the one or not in the position that they themselves can take this mental wellness journey with you.”
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