Updated: Oct 26, 2022
What do you look for in a potential romantic partner?
For many people, it comes down to things like compatibility, attraction, and shared views on important lifestyle choices. After all, these are the foundations of a long-term connection. But in the last few years, there has been a rising interest in something else: a commitment to good mental health, usually in the form of regular therapy appointments.
In fact, it’s becoming increasingly common to find people who make mental health care a priority. They won’t even consider dating someone that doesn’t feel the same. Big publications like The New York Times and USA Today, among many others, are writing about this phenomenon.
Where is this mindset coming from? And as a single person, how can you navigate this changing environment?
The Importance of Mental Health in Relationships
To figure out how to approach this situation, think of how therapy works elsewhere in our lives. It’s a way to uncover, cope with, and overcome trauma. It’s a place where we can safely discuss our anxieties and fears. And it’s one of the best ways to get enhanced perspectives on our own behaviour – meaning we see opportunities to improve our treatment of ourselves and others.
With all that in mind, why wouldn’t we want someone who takes those steps?
This is all even more important in the aftermath of the pandemic, when social isolation and increased stress brought mental health to the forefront. In a world where everyone is dealing with these effects, getting help is vitally important – and that means more than venting to a partner after work every day. It means putting in the time and the effort to be our best selves, with a professional that can guide us down the most effective path.
Is There Less Stigma Around Mental Health Now?
One of the factors contributing to this shift in dating behaviour is the slowly-reducing stigma around mental health and treatments. Once upon a time, bringing up a therapist on a first date was a recipe for disaster – but now, it is often viewed as just another part of a person’s health and wellness routine.
This is also affected by the changing demographics of the world – online, offline, and in all the places between. As Gen Z has come of age and become a driving force on the internet, many of their generational habits have also created quite a splash – including more openness about their struggles, more normalization of treatment, and more recognition that “bottling it up” doesn’t actually solve any of the root problems. Admitting these difficulties is much more acceptable among younger demographics, and as a result it trickles through to others, too.
Another big plus of prioritizing mental health in a relationship? Therapy can lead to more empathy, better communication, stronger boundaries and self-confidence, and a lot more understanding and maturity. For many people who don’t want to run the risk of dating someone with unresolved trauma or other personal issues, knowing that they are taking control of their emotional and mental health is a huge relief – and a big green flag.
How to Talk About Mental Health While Dating
So, you’re single and wanting to find someone who is well into their mental health journey, but you don’t want to spook them. (Though the stigma is reduced, there is definitely still some out there.) How do you bring it up before you even truly start a relationship?
Put it in your profile. Don’t be afraid to show your cards up front. This way, you’ll know two things right away: people responding don’t mind your own mental health considerations, and they are much more likely to have their own. Win-win!
Ask guided questions on the first date. You don’t have to awkwardly try to bring therapy up in conversation. For example, if your date mentions having a stressful job, you can use that to see what measures they take to help with that.
Bring your own therapy up first. You can be direct, too – sometimes people appreciate that. Take the opportunity to discuss your own mental health work or discover any supplementary tactics they might have (e.g., meditation or journaling). This will be a highly contextual conversation, so always be sure to gauge responses and avoid making your date uncomfortable.
You might have more questions about how to work with therapy before – or during – relationships. Luckily, we’re here to help! We offer free consultations over the phone, where we can help you decide the best course of action for your particular situation. The time is always right to choose better mental health!