Ask Natalie: How do I deal with mental health problems in my relationship?

“Dear Natalie,

How can I find the balance between supporting my partner with depression and taking care of my own mental health? I think I love them, but I haven't been feeling too happy with our relationship recently and I think combined mental illness is a serious contributor to that.”

This is going to sound all kinds of harsh, but you need to put yourself first. Your own mental health should always be your number one concern. You can't help anyone if you set yourself on fire doing so.

In a relationship a lot of mental health issues come up because you become so close and no one is their illness, but it can be hard on a partner, especially if you have your own mental health to worry about. No one can manage everything and not everything can handle certain things. Everyone has limits on what they can deal with. If this is something you can't handle, it's sad, but there is absolutely zero shame in it. Mental health is important and you need to make sure you're getting the support you need.

But you can try to make it work and stay and in a lot of cases you can find that balance. Communication is key. It's the key. If you can’t communicate with your partner, you're going to end up using a different door.

Talk about your needs, talk about your wants, talk about what scares you and what you wish your life was and how you feel when you wake up in the morning. Talk to your partner and hope they talk back.

If you love them or even think you could love them, give them a chance to discuss what's going on. Give them a month or a week or some deadline in your head that you know you can count on. If they don't make even an effort to work with you let them go.

Your mental health isn't worth a relationship.

“Dear Natalie,

I have a friend who, in brief, has self-esteem issues, mostly surrounding his attractiveness (physical, personality). I like him platonically and to be perfectly honest I think a huge reason for that is not his looks but rather that I want someone more mentally stable and secure.

He's begun to say undeniably romantic things to me and asking me out to do things, but I don't know how to reject him in a way that says ‘you're not undateable, but I'm not interested in you in a romantic way.’ I don't want to date anyone out of pity, and I want to be as honest as possible (not saying things like ‘I'm just not looking for that right now’ because who knows? If I met the right person I would date right now) but I don't want to flat out tell him what I think because I think that would just make things worse and make him feel worse about himself. What can I do?”

You're going to have to just be honest. Not “I'm lying to you to make you feel better” or “if I ignore this it will go away,” but just pure honesty. Many people seem to think that honesty is a bad thing. It's not.

Sure, if you said “Listen John, honestly you've been saying stuff to be that makes my bones want to jump out of my body and most of my distaste for you romantically comes from your horrible self-esteem,” I would argue that's a little more harsh that you need to be, but you don't have to go from zero to one hundred. There are 98 other stops along the way.

Don't react too happily when he says the romantic things to you. Try not to have too much one on one time if that gives him the wrong idea. Try to stop it before it becomes a thing.

But if — or more likely when — it happens and he does ask you out, make sure it's about you not him. “I don't think we'd make a good match” or “I've never thought of you that way before and I don't think I can.” You are the reason you can't get together — even if his personality is the true cause.

He's trying to ask you out, not ask you why he has trouble with dating. You don't need to tell him all the reasons. Besides, “no” is a complete sentence.

After you tell him, give him space and try not to bring it up too much. It's hard asking someone out and getting turned down sucks.

But what's worse is dating someone and then finding out they only said yes because they were worried about your self-esteem.

Need advice? Contact Natalie anonymously at or at and have your questions answered!