Making the case…

The question I get asked most often regarding Nolongerlonely (other than why haven’t I
found a wife on the site yet) is whether it is a good idea to pair together two people with a mental
illness. The arguments/hesitations usually fall along two separate lines of thinking: one that
envisions an emotional Armageddon and another that foments eugenic reasoning. Whether the
perceived problem is in the neuropathways of the brain or in the genetic code, both objections
reflect a cynical outlook that doesn’t take into account the benefits of a relationship with the
common underpinning of a psychiatric diagnosis.

While I am firmly committed to my mission these criticisms do have some merit so I will
address them. There is in fact a genetic component to serious mental illness and it should be
taken into account. Such concerns should be discussed. There are many options for a committed
couple that wants children. In my mind, sabotaging the potential for a loving relationship based
on hypothetical percentages is not a good idea. The other criticism has significantly more merit.
The volatility inherent in managing a mental illness can cause problems when two people’s
minds are clouded. Just like any kind of relationship (“healthy” mind or not) it requires serious
work to negotiate complicated emotions. It is possible that certain mind disorders do not pair
very well. Keep in mind as well that the severity of mental illness covers a broad spectrum. A
schizophrenic just out of the hospital is probably not a good match for a lawyer managing her
bipolar quite well on stable meds. I find this idea that Nolongerlonely users can’t discern these
things independently underestimates their capacity to make adult decisions about their own
social lives.

The prevalence of stigma about mental illness is the number one motivator bringing
people to the site. Misunderstandings abound. From personal experience, in the general dating
pool my diagnosis always loomed heavily upon my mind. At what point would I reveal to the
other person that I have a psychiatric history and how would they respond. This anxiety of
disclosure is much less of a concern when that dating population is upfront about their mental
health status. It is a real comfort for my users. Many are giving romance a second chance after
having been scared away from the general dating pool.

There is also the shared sensitivity of those who have managed mental illness. Some
things are impossible to explain or describe to those who have not experienced them. As
someone with a gift for words, I still feel that even my closest relations are in the dark when it
comes to even a fundamental understanding of my experiences. While most of my users have
access to talk therapy, the unique benefits of peer support I think outweigh the traditional
approach. Nolongerlonely is not just a site for dating. Many members use the site as a forum for
emotional support. Socialization is a powerful tool. I am a firm believer that future progress
will come more from a robust peer movement than any advances in pharmacology.

Another criticism I’ve fielded repeatedly comes from the other end of things—those that
argue against restricting my audience. One is financial—why restrict your audience to 5-10% of
the entire dating pool? This one is easily quashed. I tell my “advisor” that if they want to fund a
multi-million dollar ad campaign to go up against Match and eHarmony I’m all ears. The niche
is what makes the site unique. It is what gives it value. The other argument I hear is that
restricting the population of users somehow propagates stigma by suggesting we are undesirable
to the broader community. I tell them Nolongerlonely is a tool in their arsenal to quash
emotional isolation but certainly not the only available to them. There is no harm to also
maintaining a presence on other mainstream dating sites.

In the end, online dating is not for everyone. I receive many enthusiastic testimonials
(including dozens of marriages) but there are many people who I am sure didn’t enjoy the
experience. What I usually tell wavering users is to give it a try. Nolongerlonely offers a two
week trial period free of charge so there is no pressure or commitment. If you decide perhaps
you are not ready for dating come back another time. We’ll still be here (I hope LOL).

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