When you and the person you’re dating live with bipolar disorder, open communication can help keep the relationship strong.
Many people with bipolar disorder have loving, committed intimate relationships. The symptoms that often come with the condition — such as episodes of mania or depression — can put a strain on those relationships.
When just one person lives with bipolar disorder, the other partner may take on additional tasks and responsibilities, providing invaluable support and care. When both people in a romantic partnership live with the condition, they may have to rely on each other for support.
If you and the person you’re dating are navigating this type of relationship, you’re not alone. Personal support networks and mental health professionals can help you find solutions along the way.
If you live with bipolar disorder, you may have several questions about dating.
You may ask yourself:
- At what point during the dating stage should I tell my partner about my condition?
- Will my date reject me if they know about my condition?
- If I enter into a committed relationship, will my partner’s feelings change over time?
It may help to recognize that all relationships come with challenges. Bipolar disorder may be just one of the challenges you and the person you’re dating have to manage.
This is possible with ongoing communication and compromise.
If you’re dating someone with bipolar disorder and also live with the condition yourself, you may have some empathy for your partner.
You may have less work to do when it comes to educating your partner about bipolar disorder. There may be less worry about rejection or stigma from the one you love.
Everyone’s experience with bipolar disorder is different and can depend on the type of bipolar disorder a person has. Still, it’s important to discuss symptoms and treatment plans with each other so that you can understand better what your partner is going through.
One particular challenge when one person has bipolar disorder and the other doesn’t is that the partner without bipolar disorder may take on the role of caregiver.
This can cause additional stress, as the caregiver may neglect their own wellness to care for their partner. This may especially happen during episodes of mania or depression.
When two people in a relationship live with bipolar disorder, they may have to balance managing their own condition and acting as caregiver at times.
Knowing as much as you can about your own needs, as well as your partner’s, can help you plan ahead for times of stress and put a support system in place.
You and your partner can help strengthen your relationship using a few different strategies.
Some of these tips may look similar to what you might do even when your partner doesn’t have bipolar disorder. But they can take on new importance as you both learn to manage your conditions together.
Engage in self-care
Caregivers need time to re-energize and recharge. Being the best partner often means taking care of your own mental wellness first. This can mean working to understand your own bipolar disorder and following a treatment plan.
Involve your partner in your treatment
By sharing information about your treatment plans, you can support your partner as they manage their bipolar disorder symptoms. At the same time, they’re better able to support you by helping with medication and therapy session reminders.
Make a plan for manic episodes
Together you can decide how to manage things when one person experiences a manic episode. You can work on this plan in advance, covering things such as sleep and eating routines and managing money.
Discuss challenging behaviors
Both you and your partner may find it difficult when the other is experiencing bipolar disorder symptoms. Talk about these behaviors when you both experience more stability.
Sharing your feelings can help you work through underlying tensions that these may be causing in the relationship.
Identify warning signs and triggers
By learning what often comes before a mood episode, you can help reduce your partner’s triggers, and your partner can do the same for you.
Both of you can also notice early signs that a mood episode is about to happen and take steps to avoid it.
Seek family or couple’s support
Bipolar disorder affects not only you but the entire family. A family or couple’s therapist who specializes in dealing with mental health conditions can provide guidance on how to keep your relationship healthy and strong.
It’s not easy if you and your partner have to support each other and take care of your own bipolar disorder. But this can also lead to increased emotional intimacy and care.
Allowing your partner the space to manage their condition on their own terms, and offering validation and acceptance, can go a long way to helping you both.
Romantic partners are essential sources of support and caregiving for people with bipolar disorder. When both partners in a relationship live with bipolar disorder, self-care, open communication, and empathy become even more important.
Try to manage your own bipolar disorder by following a treatment plan. Support your partner by learning their triggers and developing a plan for mood episodes. Seek out help from mental health professionals and your community when needed.
For a comprehensive guide on mental health resources, you can check out Psych Central’s hub on finding mental health support.