Those suffering from anxiety and depression often crave a new relationship, but also fear it. They may have come from a past relationship which was abusive, and fear a repetition. They may have spent a lot of time alone, and fear getting out and about. Self-esteem may have taken such a battering, that they can’t believe a new relationship would sustain itself in the long run.
THE LOGIC OF WAITING
If we suffer from mental health problems, there is a strong argument for waiting before entering into a new relationship. Most mental health issues have a relational dimension, and therefore we need to ensure that our partner will have an understanding of our character and needs.
Even when we start to date, it may be that the dating process has to last a long time. Trust can be a huge issue, and the physical side of a relationship requires a lot of trust. We are making ourselves vulnerable, and we are trying to match the changing and variable needs of two complicated human beings.
Above all, any relationship is a continuous negotiation. If we are already spending a lot of time and energy in negotiation with ourselves and the world, then it can be extra difficult to add a significant other to that equation. Waiting, or dating slowly, enables us to integrate our lives slowly, and change, at a manageable pace, any significant habits that need modifying.
THE LOGIC OF TRYING AGAIN
Despite all the potential problems of a new relationship, there are several benefits of being open to the possibility.
We can get extremely rusty and atrophied in our personal skills. Spending a lot of time alone can make us extremely intolerant of interference, and it may be healthy to open ourselves up to friendly disruption.
Also, in overcoming the fear of personal intimacy, it can be extremely helpful to expose ourselves, albeit gently, to safe situations where we can learn more about another person, and let our sense of attraction gain some power over our sense of fear.
Friends can be extremely useful in the transition. If a potential new partner is open and friendly, then they won’t mind mixing in with others in our family and friendship group. Keeping in touch with familiar faces, while experiencing new ones, can help provide a safe way in to something new.
Finally, as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy often argues, our life is one long set of experiments, and we may discover new things we didn’t know about ourselves and others. Being open to a new relationship involves an attitude of exploration which enables us to grow and develop our own character and personality.
A wise way to seek new relationships is not to expect too much, nor too little. We needn’t expect too much because no partner can be a saint. But neither should we expected too little, and we have a right to set boundaries of behaviour.
A wise attempt at new relationships finds a balance between optimism and pessimism. It is entirely possible that there is something nice around the corner. But you’ll never know unless you walk there.