On Mental Health and Relationships: Learning to Recognise Manipulation

How shame around our personal struggles creates problematic connections

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Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

The Real Experience

I was briefly with a man who was convinced we were made for each other. He told me he loved me after barely a month, because he was convinced I understood him to his core and he understood me. After only a few months, he wanted me to live with him and I really strongly considered it.

‘You should be so grateful I put up with you.’

Guilt and shame, manipulated

When I started to express some reservations about aspects of our relationship, that sentence came out of him. I should be grateful, he said, because of my mental health issues. My depression, he said, made me difficult and made me a less than ideal partner. He let me know in order to remind me just how much I should thank him for deigning to be with me.

What’s hard, and what’s easy

Relationships aren’t always easy. There are times when they are hard. That’s obvious.

  1. Your mental health isn’t everything about you;
  2. They aren’t allowed to add to your insecurity, for the hell of it.

The Reality Check: Respect should come first

The irony of my situation was that I was someone with a job, a place to live of their own, as well as hobbies and interests. I happened to be depressed. The man in question had no job, lived with his parents, and complained regularly about how little things mattered to him. Sometimes I wonder: who of us was really depressed? Was he trying to make me smaller, to help himself feel bigger?

The Reality Check: Your mental health concerns are not everything about you

Making out as though your mental health concerns are everything there is to know or appreciate about you is simply unfair. Yes, when the worst depression hits, it can feel all-encompassing. But that wasn’t always the case.

The Reality Check: You don’t need the added insecurity

Chances are, if you’re starting to get to grips with your mental health, you might find it hard to do this on your own. We all do. We need friends, family, and sometimes, a significant other — we need all the help we can get.

Some final words…

Some other, more specific advice that might assist you:

Written by

Trying to live better. Writing on Mental Health, Relationships, and Living Ethically. Editor/Podcaster.

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