From the U.S.: I’m 20 years old and have been with my boyfriend for about 4 months. We started at the beginning of the spring semester after Winter Break. During Winter Break I had told my parents about him and that he had bipolar disorder and some other personal things about his life. They told me to stay away because I didn’t need that kind of crazy in my life, and I, striving to be the perfect daughter, told them that I didn’t like him anyway, even though I did. I just didn’t want to cause any waves.
Upon arriving to school, him and I hung out a few times and quickly fell in love with one another. He had recently gotten on medication (he wan’t on medication for the past few years for personal reasons), and was stable. I talked with him about his illness and found out that He is a very high-functioning individual and that his bipolar is quite mild compared to many people with the illness. So we started seeing each other and I didn’t tell my parents because I was unsure of how to tell them I was doing something I knew they wouldn’t accept.
I recently told them (a couple weeks ago) and they have called me many bad things, said that I have destroyed any relationship they thought they had with me by not telling them, that they will never accept my boyfriend, that our relationship will degrade into emotional abuse and I will never achieve my personal goals, that I will have to take care of him as if he were a child, that I’m destroying the family and torturing them, that I’m only seeing him to be defiant, and that I never respect their opinions or take their opinions into account since I chose to act against their opinions.
I don’t plan to break up with my boyfriend any time soon, but I don’t know what to do with my family. I don’t know if I am doing all of the awful things to the family and them that they say I’m doing. I’m very confused about how to feel about their actions in relation to my own.
A: What a difficult, difficult situation. I understand that your parents believe they are acting out of love for you. They don’t want to see you getting more deeply involved in a romance that could lead to heartbreak. What they don’t understand is that a mental health diagnosis, especially when well-treated, doesn’t have to lead to all the dire things they think it will. Sadly, their fears have led them to say some very hurtful things to you. Do see it as their fear talking. What they are saying is not necessarily what they really believe.
At 20, you are no longer a kid who only has two choices: Go along with your folks or be defiant. You have a third choice: You can do your best to keep your head and to respond more maturely than your parents are able to. Explain to them, gently, that they did not raise someone who can’t be rational. Let them know that you understand their fears for you and appreciate the loving intentions. Let them know what you told me: That your boyfriend is taking charge of his illness, that he is on medication and that his prognosis is good. Ask them for their respect and support as you explore for yourself whether this is the relationship for you.
Do not get angry. Anger will only prove to them that you are an immature child who needs their protection. Stay calm and loving and give them some time. If that doesn’t prove effective, you have some hard choices to make. You are an adult and are entitled to make your own decisions. However, I suspect that your parents are helping you fund your education. That complicates things for you. Only you can decide what sacrifices you are willing to make to keep this man in your life. I hope it doesn’t come to that. I hope you can appeal to your folks to trust that they raised you well and that you can make healthy decisions.
I wish you well
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 2 Jun 2014
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2014). My Parents Won’t Accept My Bipolar Boyfriend. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 5, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/06/02/my-parents-wont-accept-my-bipolar-boyfriend/