I’m not going to lie, folks – some discussions are sort of awkward in a relationship. I know that all the life gurus tell us that communication is key and the secret to happiness, and they’re certainly not wrong. That said, no one ever said it was easy to do that and be open. 

There’s also a certain notoriety that comes with certain discussions in relationships. Particularly the agonisingly vague ‘We need to talk’. I’m sorry if you’ve just got a WNTT because they’re rarely good news. Or a sign that a relationship is thriving. However, it’s closely followed in terms of panic inducement by ‘What are we’. WAW is more positive and largely more hopeful for the future, but it has to be tempered with honesty. This is literally your point to speak your truth. To try something out or figure out whether you want commitment or long term or long distance or just something casual. 

But it can be hard. Things change.

Sometimes we’ve been burned before. However, you can’t let heartbreak prevent you from loving again. Or committing to another person. Or let that experience convince you that that’s all you will ever get, or deserve. 

Heartbreak is one of those words that everyone knows about. We all know the ways that a heart can be torn apart or stretched to within an inch of it’s existence. The real kicker though? It’s not always just a case of relationships breaking up and then having to deal with that. That’s a fairly linear form of grief to deal with. In as far as it’s linear and you know you is hurting you and who is to blame. The heartbreak that I’m here to talk to you about is all about family and identity. Specifically about what we do and do not owe one another of ourselves. And the fallout that comes with people either asking for too much, or of people not feeling comfortable giving anything. 

It also means that you have to think about what you owe the other person and what you’re getting out of the relationship. This is where you grab some friends to work through your gut feelings – which should always be trusted – with some external perspective too. They won’t necessarily be unbiased, but sometimes you need other people as a sounding board. 

An uncomfortable truth to start the day with…

When approaching matters with a partner with mental health problems, lots of decisions you make will be contentious. The hard line: you will make some wrong decisions. And many right ones. Decisions that will be right for someone else but not immediately clearly right for you. Bitter pills to swallow? Yes. 

The premises of both are predicated on emotional co-dependency and a willingness to go probably too far to get them to smile. Oh the things I’d do to make my partner laugh when they’re having an episode. You finally fully empathise with how your mother cried when you had tonsillitis and she couldn’t do anything about it other than wish she could absorb your pain. That’s great. That’s why we cry to Adele songs and really mean the tears. Those tears are a piece of art, damn it!

The difficulty here, in the subjective issues – if we are to call it such – of mental illness and responsibility in relationships, is we need to know our own limits.

It’s also a truth universally acknowledged that you only discover where a line is once you’ve long since passed it.

C’est la vie, baby. Some things you have to learn through experience because no amount of people telling you what to do can determine what’s best for you. Actually, not even that. The pursuit of what’s ‘best’ for anyone is inherently presuming that we can be perfect, soul mates or heartbreakingly, enduringly what you need. Do you sense from my tone that that’s perhaps not realistic? And yet, how can we live life pursuing anything other than things in our interest and that we believe will improve our lives? Well, we can’t. 

So what I’ve concluded thus far is that we have to sacrifice for love, but we can’t sacrifice too much – unless it’s worth it. But then, what is worth the loss of our own identity and mental health. Like the bridge in any post-2014 era Taylor Swift song, you have to grit your teeth and fall in line with the new beat as it slowly consumes you. 

Mental health is something that is contentious in relationships.

Frankly speaking – everyone with mental health issues deserves and will have someone come along that can look out for them and respect all of who you are. However, not everyone is capable of offering that dependency, or educated to be able to safely. So that’s another consideration when debating the next step in a relationship. But most of the time you will know in your heart what you are willing to do for your partner. For most people, it’s most things. And that will be fairly clear.

A general rule – the more you’re weighing it up, the less conviction you implicitly have in the relationship.

Maybe it’s worth giving it more time.

Just make sure you aren’t wasting each other’s time though. This is the time to make mistakes, but to learn from them too.