My Bipolar Boyfriend Is Pushing Me Away

By Holly Counts, Psy.D.

I started dating the most wonderful man 4 months ago. We hit it off instantly. He was so excited for our first date he told his parents and his family in England about me. Being with this man made me feel things that I never thought could even exist. I have so much love for him. He was so attentive and loving with me. He always wanted to spend time with me. Then one day he went on a trip with a friend and returned very depressed. He called me on his way home crying. His depression lasted about a month. He wasn’t talking to anyone except his parents and me. The entire time in his depression he would tell me that he was glad I was there for him and I was very helpful in getting him through this. This was when I learned he was taking medication for anxiety and depression. After the month of depression he finally started to feel up for seeing people. He decided to go out with his friends to just relax and drink. I was worried this would set him back but I didn’t try to stop him. The next day we had plans and he canceled on me saying that he wasn’t feeling well and just wanted to stay back and sleep. I just said ok but was feeling upset because I knew this would happen. I didn’t try talking to him for 2 days. He didn’t try talking to me either. After the 2 days I text him asking how he was doing. He seemed cheerful and was talkative with me. Then I just got upset (because he was feeling fine and I didn’t understand why he wouldn’t try to talk to me). I questioned him about why he hadn’t talked me and he couldn’t really answer me. Later that week we were supposed to hang out for the weekend and he started acting distant with me. The following week he came out and told me he needed space and thinks we should go on a break. He couldn’t give me any reason for this sudden decision. The next day he contacted me saying he was sorry and didn’t want to break up. He said he really loved me and wanted to make up. We made plans for that weekend to get together. The weekend came and he tried to say he just wanted to be by himself. I started questioning him and made him feel guilty by saying that he broke my heart the past week when he said we needed a break and I just wanted some alone time with him before we went off to a party the next day. He did end up coming out and we had a good time. He even made plans to see me in a few days.  When that day  came he totally blew me off. He didn’t even call. He just went to a bar with some friends. I confronted him about how it was rude and disrespectful to just not even notify someone if their plans change. I was worried about him. He broke up with me that night again over text. He didn’t contact me the next day this time but something inside of me told me to check on him that night. I found him crying in his bed having a panic attack over the things he said to me. He said he didn’t mean what he said and didn’t know how to talk to me. He told me that I shouldn’t believe him when he talks like that and that he just doesn’t really know what he wants right now. The following week was pretty good. The only issue we had was that he didn’t want to be intimate. But the second week after the last break was bad. The week before we had agreed to take a week off and plan a date night for the next time we saw each other just to get back in touch with ourselves. Date night came and he forgot about it. I showed up at his house and ended up having to wait over an hour for him to get there because he met up with some coworkers for dinner after work. We seemed to have a pleasant evening.  It was just his roommate/cousin and a girl the cousin brought over. We stayed in listening to music and drinking some beers. Then all of a sudden out of nowhere my boyfriend blurts out that we should break up. I told him we weren’t going to discuss this when we were both drunk. So we ended up going to bed. He started going on about how he was a bad person and I should see other people. I tried to console him which turned into him being intimate with me. We cuddled all night and in the morning were intimate again. He continued to cuddle with me. The next morning I asked if we could talk about the night before. So we talked and he said he wanted to still go out with me, attend events together, have me spend the night but do it all without the label of being a boyfriend. He then said that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to sleep with other people. He asked me to leave then and I did. He has talked to me a little bit since then.  Most of the time it was me initiating. I would say simple things like have a good night, hope your day is going well, I told him I missed him once. One day I left an encouraging note on his car at work just saying “you are a wonderful person. I want to always be by your side to be there for you. We can get through anything together”. He thanked me for that note and said it was very sweet and went on to say that he was glad I was still talking to him because he missed me too. So later on that week I decided to ask him if he would meet up with me to go for a walk, lunch, or movie. He said he had plans with family. I asked him about another day. He said he was going to have too much homework (which later found out he went out with other friends). So I asked if he would like to meet up for lunch through the week before work. He said yes and to let him know what worked. I responded back the next day giving him days I was free. He never responded. I sent him a message after not getting a reply for a day that he didn’t have to meet up with me and that I would understand but just wanted to let him know that I am there for him. I didn’t want to add pressure to him. He thanked me for being understanding and said I was so nice and that he wished he could have been there for me more. We’ve had a few text conversations since then. The other day I surprised him with his favorite meal for his lunch break. He let me stay and eat it with him. He kept thanking me for coming by and said he wanted to do something nice for me in return. The next day I thanked him for letting me stay and eat with him and that it was nice to see him. He replied that it was good to see me too. I just asked if he wanted to get together this coming week and he hasn’t responded. His mother and I have been in touch. She can see that he isn’t doing well either but he refuses to see a psychiatrist to get diagnosed for what we think is bipolar or to get his medication changed (even though he admits his medication makes his depression worse). His mother is very supportive of me being in his life and really wants us to be able to work this out as well. Will my boyfriend come back to me after he has cycled out? Is there something I could to do help him through this?

A: I’m sorry that you are finding yourself in such a frustrating situation, but I’m not entirely convinced that your boyfriend’s erratic behavior is due to Bipolar Disorder. You have documented some significant depressive symptoms and lots of inconsistent behavior, but I don’t see much evidence of mania or even hypomania. From an outside perspective it seems like he might not be ready for the same level of commitment that you are. It also seems like he does what he wants without much consideration of your feelings. Could that be related to a mental health disorder? Sure, but it could also be a lack of maturity, lack of commitment, etc.

I’m wondering if you may have more feelings for him than he has for you at this point. I’m also wondering what his history of long term relationships has been. If he has not had a significant long term relationship in the past, your heart might be in for a roller coaster ride.

Regardless of his diagnosis, you can get some support and resources from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). It might also be a good place to get potential referrals for him, if he is willing to pursue help for himself. You can speak to him about the benefits of therapy and the importance of seeing a psychiatrist for a medication evaluation, but you can’t make him do either if he is not interested. Four months may be a little soon to seek couple’s therapy but if the relationship lasts, yet is still plagued with problems, it would be a good idea to seek this out as well.

However, I would suggest that you step back and take a hard look at how he treats you and if your needs are really being met in this relationship. It may be that it’s time for you to take a break of your own (longer than one week) before you decide how to proceed.

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 Jul 2014

APA Reference
Counts, H. (2014). My Bipolar Boyfriend Is Pushing Me Away. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/07/17/my-bipolar-boyfriend-is-pushing-me-away/

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