I find these answers very interesting. And I think when we give advice on any thread, it’s normal to take our own experiences into consideration because that’s all we know. While I do think we also need to keep an open mind, sometimes that can be *really* hard.
My sister is 5 years older than me and when she was a senior in high school, she dated someone with undiagnosed depression and bipolar. He seemed great at first, but then he started to become very controlling, always wanting to know where she was every minute of the day. When she would go out with her girlfriends he would show up. But my sister was so head over heels for him at first that she didn’t see these things as problems (nor did she tell us what was going on). After some time, she did see that this wasn’t normal behavior. He constantly needed his self esteem building up and would guilt her and tell her she didn’t love him if she didn’t spend all her time with him. She tried to break it off and he told her he took an overdose of his parents’ medication (turned out he didn’t). But then he started doing drugs as a crutch. It took her a while to finally completely break free of that relationship – it took my parents stepping in and contacting his. After watching all this at the impressionable age of 12, I vowed that I wouldn’t date anyone with a mental illness.
What I didn’t realize as I got older, is that it is sometimes easier said that done. The guy I dated before my husband had very low self esteem and bad anxiety. He too needed constant reassurance from me, that I loved him, that I found him attractive, etc. He was a great guy….when he wasn’t in one of these moods. It started to become exhausting because these “moods” became more frequent, but I loved him and felt like I was a terrible person for not being able to handle it. He started to become obsessive, wanting to know where I was at all times (even though he already knew) and I had flashbacks of what my sister went through. When I tried to break up with him, he grabbed tightly me and that’s when I realized he had crossed the line.
He finally realized he had problems and started therapy after we broke up. Long story short, I actually almost took him back months later, but I found out he lied to me in order to see if I still had feelings for him. And that’s when I knew it would never work. I am still friends with him (he’s part of my friend group and even attended my wedding) and I see what his long term girlfriend, with whom he has a child but will never marry her, deals with. He has good times, and bad times, even though he is now finally on medication and recently started therapy again. I think his illness will always be a struggle because there are days he feels “better” and is in denial that he ever had anything.
But I have also learned, from my experience, that not having an illness in the past is not guarantee one will never have one. I recently was put on an SSRI for post partum depression. I fought that for a while because I felt like a failure. But when my husband was in a serious car accident and needed to seek therapy and medication to deal with the aftermath, I was his biggest cheerleader. He was also the one to suggest I may have PPD, so this is something we’ve had to deal with together. Obviously since we’re married we’re in a much different place than if we were dating, and we were both a bit stubborn at first in realizing we had some problems. We’ve been very open though and I think that is what has helped us a lot.
So sorry for this long post, OP. I think as long as you always keep the lines of communication way open, and your guy is actively seeking help, I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t continue to see him at this point. I have to reitterate that you need to set boundaries. You’re not his therapist. You’re not his punching bag. And you may need to watch for red flags more so than someone without mental illness. You also have to realize that his issues have nothing to do with “you”, and if he starts guilting you into feeling that way, it’s time to reassess the relationship. A PP is correct in that there are guys that are jerks that don’t have mental illness.
Tread carefully, but if you decide this is a deal breaker, I certainly would never judge you for that.