The Bipolar Relationship: How to Understand, Help, and Love Your Partner by Jon P. Bloch, PHD, Bernard Golden, PHD and Nancy Rosenfeld is a very detailed and helpful book meant specifically for romantic partners of bipolar people. Though it contains a large amount of information that could be helpful to an actual bipolar person, the book focuses on the role that the partner plays in their partner’s mental health. It covers all aspects of daily life from basic definitions and types of the disorder to the effective management of a healthy sex life and overall adjustments that can make life easier for both parties.
The book begins by going over the most basic definition of the disorder. It discusses the symptoms of mania and depression, lists the types of the disorder in very simple words, and touches briefly on the current research. The first few chapters do not contain any groundbreaking revelations because they use that time to help the reader get their bearings on the subject.
Someone who knows a lot about the disorder may want to bypass pages 1-14 — this information could be found online or in any basic bipolar publication. After page 14 though, it goes into more depth about the behavioral signs of the disorder and becomes much more interesting.
One aspect I had not considered is the need to address how others perceive the bipolar partner. It makes a very strong case for listening to doctors, friends and even people who don’t have any clue that the person you are dating is bipolar. Sometimes when you are in a relationship with a bipolar person it can seem like you are the only person in the situation. This book urges you to realize that you most definitely are not.
The book also notes that bipolar is different for each person, but it does list commonalities to help the partner try to diagnose the issues and combat them. This section of the book is, in my opinion, the most interesting and helpful part. It talks about approaching bipolar anger in a calm and collected way (most people react in an equally angry fashion, causing more issues in the long run), trying out couples therapy and the options for medication. The book’s authors clearly are pro-medication, but to their credit they do mention the importance of therapy in conjunction with pharmaceutical treatment.
A vast amount of attention is paid to the role of the partner in the bipolar person’s path to a healthy life. The book mentions how your views can directly harm or help the person with the disorder. For instance, if you are anti-drug, this could mean that the person you are dating will not take the prescriptions because they trust your way of thinking and that can be disastrous. Even your speech patterns play a role in how your partner hears you. For example, on page 41, the book mentions how using statements with the word “I” in them are much easier for the bipolar person to appreciate than others. “It is often tempting to say to another person, ‘You are sloppy,’ or ‘You drive me crazy.’ However, studies reveal that people respond better to ‘I’ statements—declarations that emphasize how you are impacted rather than your thoughts or feelings about your partner. For example, ‘I don’t appreciate having to pick your pajamas up off the floor’…in this way you’re communicating your discontent about certain things rather than instructing your partner on what to do.”
Later the book goes into greater detail about simple, and not so simple ways to continue your relationship — including reducing stress patterns in the workplace and avoiding temptations such as drugs, alcohol, and gambling, which have much worse results on a bipolar person than they would on a person who does not suffer from the disorder.
The second section of the book goes over commonly asked questions and concerns: What kind of habits need to be formed to make sure the relationship last? It address monetary concerns, the level of honesty that should be used on a regular basis, how important sex should be, how to stay compassionate, learning not to blame the bipolar person and of course, learning how to stay mentally healthy yourself.
Finally, the book’s last few pages mention that if the relationship ends, it was not necessarily a failure. It tells the person to make a list of things that they learned and move on happily. It also offers many avenues to pursue such as advocacy groups, charity organizations and the need for people to educate others on the disorder. A few ending pages list support groups and organizations that can help people understand and cope with a bipolar mate.
Overall, I thought the book was fascinating and addressed all the concerns that I could think of regarding the disorder. I have personally had the experience of having a person in my life that mixed alcohol with this disorder. Although I was not in a romantic relationship with this person, I saw how it affected the person’s life and intimate relationships. I think a book that focuses on the dating and marriage aspects of bipolar disorder is a much-needed contribution so that both bipolar people and those who love them can have a chance to live in harmony.
The Bipolar Relationship: How to Understand, Help, and Love Your Partner
By Jon P. Bloch, PHD, Bernard Golden, PHD and Nancy Rosenfeld
Adams Media: November 2009
Psych Central's Recommendation: Worth Your Time! +++Your Recommendation (if you've read this book):
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Fournier, G. (2010). The Bipolar Relationship: How to Understand, Help, and Love Your Partner. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 20, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/2010/the-bipolar-relationship-how-to-understand-help-and-love-your-partner/
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
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