To Whom it May Concern:
Dating and relationships are hard. When one of the partners has a mental illness, it can complicate things even further.
Just because the person you're seeing has anxiety does not mean that you have to stay with that partner for the rest of your life. However, it does mean that there are certain moves you should absolutely avoid during the breakup process.
Here are my top four tips of what NOT to do when breaking things off with a person who has anxiety. (Please note that these apply whether you are dating men or women, but just so I can stay grammatically correct without repeating "him or her," I'm just going to refer to the anxious person as her. I am a lady after all!)
1. Do not ghost the person. Ghosting is when you just stop replying to someone with no explanation rather than break things off. To avoid an uncomfortable discussion, you just go AWOL. This is cruel and selfish to do to anyone, but it is especially horrible to do to an anxious person. One of the worst parts of having anxiety is the worrying about uncertain outcomes. It may seem silly, but the pain and discomfort of worrying can be ten times worse than just knowing the worst is true! Don't let her sit there restlessly waiting for a text, holding on to smaller and smaller slivers of hope as the time passes...Just let her down gently. It's not that she wouldn't ultimately connect the dots, it's that you are prolonging the suffering.
2. Do not tell the person it is because of the anxiety. I am sure it took a lot for this person to share this aspect of life you. If you bring it up in the breakup, it means you either completely lack sympathy or have not even taken the time to consider the implications. You literally just gave someone who you already feel is too anxious one more thing to be anxious about. Stop and think! When you say this you are also basically admitting to breaking up with someone for an illness, so you are making yourself sound terrible.
3. Do not postpone the breakup while insisting everything is fine. More likely than not, your partner knows that your feelings have changed and can sense that something is different. She likely struggles with differentiating between her own intuition and her anxiety, and she may be particularly sensitive to changes in behavior as she is prone to considering worst case scenarios. This lady often suspects the worst when it isn't there, so don't let her feel "crazy" for a time when she's actually right.
4. Do not tell everyone your ex was "nuts" or "crazy". Most mental health struggles are very personal and likely did not really harm you in any major way, so there is no need to try and trash her name when she is just trying her best to work through her own stuff. She shared personal details with you that should neither be ridiculed or gossiped about. Now, if she tried to burn down your house or get you fired from your job... I'm not going to blame you for needing to talk and handle that. However, even in these rare, severe cases, it is better to phrase the issues with empathy, recognizing that she was unstable and really needed help, rather than summing her up as a "lunatic."
The breakup part of dating is often very painful, and remembering to treat other people with respect in the process is critical. It is actually kind to follow these four tips even when your partner doesn't have anxiety. Whatever that person's struggle, while you are breaking a heart try your best not to pour salt in the wound. Avoid carelessness and choose compassion.