6) Teach yourself to read your ex’s “mood fluctuations”.
Get into the rhythm of the illness itself instead of getting caught up in the day to day emotions. In the beginning this can be hard because you have to kind of learn how to tell their moods by the way they talk and their body language, the hours and some times days when the moods start to get intense. For example when he/she begins to lash out, pulls away, gets angry, feels tired and when he/she is extra jovial, has high energy, is working lots, finishing lots of projects etc.
7) If he/she gets unreasonably angry, don’t let it get to you.
When you find yourselves getting into an argument, often over things you don’t even know what you did, it is important to remember the love you have for each other and not take the moods or things they said seriously.
Balancing how much you can take and when to stand up for yourself can be hard to do. The general guide is to always keep in mind that you are not responsible for his/her anxiety, depression or problem with alcohol. If it looks like you are being “blamed” for his/her struggles, speak up.
8) Let go of trying to change him/her.
Unless you are a well trained professional, or have gone through what they are going through, you can’t truly understand what the person is going through.
While your attempts to get him/her to “talk about it” may be well-intentioned, it may not always be well-received. So don’t try to be his/her therapist. Direct questions may be misconstrued as confrontation, questioning his/her every move or not understanding his/her struggles. This will often be met with “I don’t know” or dead silence. Giving advice can come across as “judging” or “pitying” which is the last thing he/she wants. And trying to “cheer them up” is a waste of time, let alone annoying.
The approach I use with my clients who are finding it hard to date and have relationships because of their struggle with anxiety and depression is what I call the “Help me understand you” approach. Let him/her open up on his/her own.
9) If you find yourself at the edge of your own rope, find some way to break free for awhile and re-energize.
Just as getting him/her to talk is important, it is also important to know when to back off and give both of you the space each needs. When backing off, be sure to let them know they have the security of your love to come to when they need it.
10) Don’t let him/her push/drive you away (now that you know about what their going through).
You may just be what he/she needs at the time. Your love, patience, persistence and hope can provide the inspiration or momentum for your ex to want to change.
Yes, it is a long and hard road but it can also be a useful experience for learning to love unconditionally. If the two of you can work together, you’ll come to appreciate the creativity that dealing with his/her illness involves.
Caution: Look out for early warning signs that your dating relationship is potentially dangerous; you are afraid of his/her temper and anger, you become isolated and have few friends, you are always walking on eggshells because you are afraid of “upsetting” him/her, or he/she threatens you with suicide or other violence if you leave.