If you feel bipolar disorder isn’t interfering with your relationship, this article may not be for you. The condition can sway your impulses, perceptions, and mood, which impacts some partners.

Living with bipolar disorder can sometimes complicate your relationships. Those relationships may involve your:

  • friends
  • family
  • romantic partner

Unpredictable or intense mood changes define the heart of bipolar disorder. It can cause you to unwittingly withdraw from the people you love, or overly engage them. This can leave them feeling bewildered or concerned.

In striving for better relationships, it’s important to make sure that you’re actively engaged with your treatment plan and that you’re communicating with your loved ones.

Ensuring that everyone is on the same page can foster clarity and stability in the relationship and potentially avoid romantic breakups or dysfunction in other relationships.

The symptoms of bipolar disorder can easily create friction in your relationship. Since bipolar disorders are part of a spectrum, each type can lead to its own set of unique challenges for different reasons.

Here are some reasons why bipolar disorder can cause relationship problems:

Mood shifts

In bipolar disorder type I, for example, you’ll likely experience severe manic episodes between periods of calm, or euthymic spans. When you shift into mania, you may be energized or edgy with an elevated mood.

You might just feel happier and want to engage with others to share your good mood with them.

What you feelWhat you partner may observe
on “Cloud-9”hyper and elated out of seemingly nowhere
alertoperating at “full-steam ahead” despite needing little to no sleep, fidgety
full of ideas,
racing thoughts
sudden flight of ideas,
fast speech
“on a mission”goal-oriented behavior,
starting new projects or endeavors without finishing them,
suddenly hypersexual
impulsive with high-consequence behaviors
full of laughter, light moodmanic laughter
people are trying to dampen your vibe,
rain on your parade,
out to get you
possibly experiencing delusions

Even though you may have good intentions, engaging with others may sometimes feel intrusive to them. Consider that your loved one may want to relax and unwind during times that you’re feeling active and energized, so this may emotionally impact them.

It’s important during these times to communicate with your loved ones, as manic episodes can last from days to weeks.

Letting them know where you’re at and how you’re feeling will help them know what to expect and how to best support you.


Taking medications irregularly is a known obstacle to treatment in bipolar disorder. If you’re feeling good, you may not see the point in taking them. But the purpose of the medications is to help you maintain a stable mood. Ultimately, forgetting to take them or intentionally avoiding meds may lead to an episode.

Some couples may also experience the harm and danger of forgoing meds for recreational substance use or overlapping medication management with:

It could also be that the medications produce side effects that make you feel worse. If that’s the case, it’s important to consider changing to another medication that may work better for you. This could help you stay on track and prevent mood cycling.


It’s no secret that sex and intimacy are an important part of some relationships. If that’s true for you, consider the effect that a manic or depressive episode — as is part of bipolar disorder II and cyclothymia — can have on your libido.

When depressed, for example, you may be withdrawn and totally uninterested in sex. Or you may not even want to be touched at all, as Table 1 of this 2017 study shows some folks with bipolar disorder have reported.

If your partner prefers touch and intimacy to express their love, it can feel like you’re withholding your love from them, as this study shows.

Understanding the way that both you and your loved one expresses love can be critical in fostering a healthy relationship. This is also known as your love language. If you’re not feeling like being intimate, maybe there’s another love language you can use that you know will be received well.

Changes in dependability

If you’re married, then you may share a division of labor with your partner. You may be responsible for taking the kids to school, whereas your partner may be responsible for cooking dinner.

When you’re thrust into an episode, it can force your partner to take on more responsibilities. This could take a toll on:

  • your health
  • their health
  • their mental load
  • your relationship altogether

Re-evaluating your division of labor may prove a valuable effort for the times when you do have episodes. Maybe there are a few certain activities that you can still do during mild episodes, and larger ones that aren’t feasible for you.

Anywhere between 29-39% of marriages in the general population have resulted in divorce. The divorce rates for those living with bipolar disorder can be a much as 2-3x higher the general population, according to 2021 research.

Although divorce rates that high may scare you, it does depend on various factors, according to a 2017 study.

Some of these can include:

The study noted that ensuring you get adequate treatment for additional conditions is protective against divorce.

If your relationship does end in a breakup, consider taking some time to evaluate why it may have occurred. It’s usually not the fault of one person, and both you and your partner likely have something to learn from each other.

You might also make some extra time for self-care and reaching out to your support system. It can be helpful to talk to friends and family about how you’re feeling.

Worth listening

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Couples counseling

At the heart of any healthy relationship is communication. Talking with your partner or loved one in a nonjudgmental setting can help clarify any obstacles in your relationship.

Couples counseling can help you identify opportunities to strengthen your relationship and develop improved communication skills.

It’s important to know how your behavior is affecting your partner and vice versa. Similarly, your partner would benefit from knowing how to best support you by giving you space or even just a hug.

Stay on top of your treatments

Whether it’s routine medication or individual psychotherapy sessions, keeping on top of treatments is key to your own self-care. Working with a clinician to develop a good plan is only half the effort.

The other half is ensuring you carry it out the best you can.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

As someone living with bipolar disorder, your relationships require some extra care and attention to create and maintain a foundation that’s built on compassion and understanding.

Being aware of this can make a difference in how you approach your relationships. It can also influence how you manage your own self-care and ultimately your overall health.