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Unhealthy Relationships

Years ago, I was the queen of passivity, but the dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) FAST skill helped me overcome it. It used to be that I avoided conflict and difficult conversations at all costs and refused to put my needs and desires first. I would come up with scripts in my head of what to say; however, as soon as an intense conversation would begin, I felt my self-respect fade away ("Show Yourself Respect: How to Communicate with Confidence"). I wished that I could trade in my copious amounts of passivity for self-respect, but something always got in the way. Fortunately, in the past year, I have learned how to maintain self-respect during a conflict by following a few simple steps set out by the DBT FAST skill. 
Being in a relationship with a partner who is experiencing suicidal ideations can be emotionally taxing and daunting. There is this complicated pattern in my dating life in that the partners I loved most threatened suicide at least once. I am still trying to figure out exactly why I am drawn to individuals who experience such turmoil. Perhaps it is because I had ideations when I was in high school, and I feel like these partners understand me. Maybe I cannot compartmentalize the social worker in me when it comes to dating, and I want to try and "save" everyone I meet. Regardless, here are the things I wish I had known when I dated someone who threatened suicide. (Note: This post contains a trigger warning.)
Do you know how to recognize an emotionally abusive relationship? When our society discusses relationship abuse, there is often a focus on the more overt forms such as sexual abuse and physical abuse. It is not uncommon for emotional abuse, which can often take on a more subtler form, to slip by unnoticed. In my experience, there is also a hesitancy to acknowledge this form of abuse and validate its existence. However, being with an emotionally controlling and manipulative partner can have lasting detrimental effects on our psyche. Therefore, it is imperative to recognize an emotionally abusive relationship's signs, even the ever so subtle ones, that you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship.
The symptoms of my sexual assault affect my relationships by cropping up in unexpected ways, years after the traumatic event. As I slowly came to terms with what happened to me, these symptoms began to interfere with my romantic relationships in a variety of ways, both subtle and overt. I tried to navigate these symptoms of sexual assault and the further I strived to avoid them, the further they popped up unexpectedly and uninvited. Over the years, I have discovered that there are several things that my partner and I can do to help ease my mind and work towards understanding the aftermath of my assault.
You probably should expect less from people because people are going to disappoint you. Let me repeat that. People are going to disappoint you. This is a widely understood truth in the world and applies to everyone. For those of us with mental illness, the dynamic changes a little bit. Here is why we should expect less from people and why we shouldn't.
The danger of comparison is very real. Last weekend, I spent some time with a friend for her birthday. Many of her other friends were there, nice people all, and yet I found myself unhappy. Why? I looked around the room and saw happy people. They were smiling, joking with their significant others, discussing their lives, and I felt different. Why didn't I have a significant other? Why don't I make as much money, or have as seemingly nice of a life? Most importantly, why am I stuck with this mental disease when they seem like they have everything together?
Today is the Fourth of July, American Independence Day. After celebrating the holiday with a nap (self-care is always the priority, even on a day filled with barbecues and friends), I turned on the news. I could not have made a worse mistake. The news is always negative and, worse than that, is always triggering for me. After quickly changing the channel to a baseball game I asked myself what I can do to make myself less upset at all of the negativity going on in the world around me.
Balancing one's emotional needs with the responsibilities of any kind of relationship is one of the hardest aspects of being someone with a mental illness in a positive relationship. Where is the tipping point where one takes too heavy a toll on the other? How do you deal with emotional needs in your relationship?
Sex serves many positive functions in a relationship, but you may choose abstinence during bipolar recovery anyway. Sex can bring people to a new level of intimacy, it can provide a physical stress release, or it can simply be about expressing a mutual sexual desire (What Is Healthy Sex?). In spite of these functions, sex can be damaging at times, particularly at various stages of bipolar disorder. Choosing abstinence during bipolar recovery can be a way to remove a trigger from your emotional life.
When there's infidelity and mental illness in a romantic relationship, it causes pain for both parties which is often irreparable. When infidelity and a mental illness collide, the fallout can cause the most harm to the person dealing with the disease. Whether one does the cheating or is cheated upon, managing the emotional damage of infidelity in a romantic relationship can be enough to cause or worsen a mental illness episode.