Should I Date Him?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. He tells me his family won’t talk to him-because they think he is bipolar: I have met someone who does not live close by to me-he lives very far away, however we have met and are at the stage where we would like to be in a relationship. Through discussions I have learnt that his siblings refuse to talk to him. Some live close by to him, and others live very far away-with one sister he has some contact, but with the others,he has none.

About 4 years ago,there was an incident where he realised that he had not been invited to a family function where all the rest of the family was present-he turned up unexpectedly and caused a scene,this later led to him being arrested and then put in a psychiatric unit for 2 weeks after which he claims that there was no official diagnosis of bipolar etc. His family relations have not normalised and i know that he gets very upset and depressed at what he believes is an unfair treatment of him by his siblings-there is other stuff too-his sister for example,banned him from coming near her,and had the law courts enforce this.

I am left with the feeling that something is the matter-he is either depressed or has bipolar-i have not met his family and cannot see how i can bring that up without causing offence.

He has also been working throughout all this time, apart from the last 2/3 months,where he is looking for work. I know he feels lonely and isolated, and I don’t know if I should be embarking on something with him or not. He keeps fit,exercises, seems to be together in the time that i have known him- i know that he wants to be in a relationship and is desperate to make this work,hence the honesty etc. I have also noticed that he can be moody-but I put that down to his diabetes-low glucose can also cause moodiness etc.

In short, any advice, seeing as I cannot see him face to face until at least another 3 months now, where we plan to spend a month together??

A. I am not sure what your specific question is so I will offer general advice. What you know about this situation is that he is estranged from most of his family. They do not allow him to be in the presence of the family. One family member had a restraining order placed on him. What you also know is that he told you he has a serious mental illness but isn’t sure which one. It may be bipolar disorder.

What you don’t know about him is why he has strained relationships with most of his family members. Why have they banned him from family events? What happened the day he was arrested at a family event? What type of “scene” did he cause? Why was there a restraining order placed on him by his sister? Before you pursue a serious relationship with him you need to find the answers to these questions.

It may be that he has a serious mental illness and his family has “given up” on him. What I mean is that sometimes families can become frustrated with a mentally ill family member and decide (usually for their own mental health stability or well-being) that he or she brings the family too much stress and they have to cut ties. I have worked with families for instance in which a mentally ill family member refuses to take their medication and abuses drugs and alcohol. By using the illegal substances and not taking the medications, the ill family member might become angry, out-of-control, violent and difficult to handle. If this situation were to occur repeatedly the family might grow frustrated and attempt to exclude the family member completely from their lives.

It might also be that his family simply abandoned him. Sometimes families stop interacting with their ill family member because they may fear that the ill member might tarnish their standing in the community or make them look bad.

I can only speculate as to why his family refuses contact with him. It’s important to find out why.

You said that he was hospitalized for two weeks after his arrest. Do you know what the grounds for this hospitalization were? Was he committed or did he go willingly to the hospital? It would be informative to know why exactly he was in the hospital.

The bottom line is that you need more information about him before you pursue this relationship. You said that you will see him in person in three months. Three months might be an adequate amount of time to learn more about him. Through interacting with him you’ll start to learn more about his personality and hopefully more about his personal and family life.

You should also try to gain information about him such as why did his sister have a restraining order placed on him. Was it because she was overreacting or was it because he tried to harm her and she feared for her safety? Why was he hospitalized? Why was he arrested at the family outing? Was it because his family exaggerated his behavior because they could find no other way to get him to leave the day of the family function or was it because he was a danger to himself or others? Has he been arrested before? Does he use drugs or alcohol? Why does he think he has bipolar disorder? Is he being treated for this disorder? Has he ever had another diagnosis? As you said he was at the hospital for two weeks but claimed that he was never diagnosed. Usually with every hospital admission a diagnosis is given. Did he just not agree with their diagnosis? You need to know all of this and much more before you pursue this relationship. Ask many questions and know who you are dating. That’s my general recommendation. Thanks for writing.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 Feb 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). Should I Date Him?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 30, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/02/17/should-i-date-him/