For many years I was able to hide my depression and anxiety with the help of a supportive family, medical management, and learned coping strategies. Recently I started dating and feel judged by those choosing not to date me. I am not my disability. I have many wonderful traits that can and should be appreciated in a relationship. It is hurtful and now kicks up even more anxiety in me, which I certainly don’t need at this time. Don’t I deserve to be married too? How early on am I required to disclose this information? How should I feel about those choosing to not give me a chance?
I deeply feel your pain. This can present a significant struggle for both those with the illness and the people they date. Here are some thoughts that may help navigate this sensitive topic and give it the respect it deserves.
Go where you are wanted: We all want to be with someone who can appreciate our inner and outer beauty. All disabilities aside, we obviously won’t be a fit for everyone. Many waste time chasing those that don’t want them only to find themselves in deep heartbreak, disappointment, and frustration. There is nothing wrong with aiming high, but be realistic about who you are. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for failure.
If a clear message of disinterest is given, move on. If someone won’t give you a chance, why spend your life or even a date with them. No need to be upset. Accept that it’s not a match, and move on. This leaves you more time to spend with the right one instead of spending time with someone else’s spouse.
The benefit of this approach is that when we do find the right person we know they are invested in the relationship because they want to be, not because we chased, begged, or had others push them to date us.
G-d Knows your address: G-d knows where to find you when it is the right time for you. Having few or many dates is a poor indicator of marital success. Use your single days productively and rely on the fact that when the time is right for BOTH of you, it will happen. When integrated, this mindset does wonders to calm anxiety.
If a clear message of disinterest is given, move on…This leaves you more time to spend with the right one instead of spending time with someone else’s spouse.
Having mental illness does not mean you are unstable: Most individuals with mental illness are medically managed, have developed coping strategies, have a great support system, and enjoy an active and stable social, work, and family life. If you’re managing your condition properly, don’t worry about “them”. They probably don’t know, and if they do they’re in the minority.
Consult an expert: “When do I have to tell my date?” “Should I break up?” “How serious is this condition?” “What ramifications will it have long term?” Every scenario is different. Therefore, a mental health professional, rabbi, and or dating coach should be consulted when trying to answer these hard questions.
Building with honestly: All healthy relationships are built on a bedrock of trust and honesty. Not sharing sensitive, yet vital, information can eat away at the foundation of a relationship and often end it. Front load the relationship with non-judgmental connection and openness so that there’s some level of safety when divulging your condition. This will allow them to see you for who you are and not just a diagnosis.
It is not your job to fix him/her: If you choose to continue a relationship after information has been disclosed, keep in mind it is a relationship like any other. It is not your job to fix your date or point out their shortcomings in any way. That would only destroy the connection and respect between you. Accept their flaws, be supportive, and move forward as you’d want them to do for you.
Respect: Always maintain respect for someone who’s disclosed difficult information or had to hear that without knowing how best to respond to someone they clearly like. As I always say, we don’t have to date or marry anyone we don’t want, but being a mentsh (kind hearted person) is not optional.
And remember: Dating is about finding that ONE that is suitable for you. Everybody and everything else is a distraction.
Wishing you the shortest route on this sensitive journey to your longest relationship