Dating Someone With Bipolar Disorder

You can find love, but it may include a few more steps

Dating With Bipolar Disorder
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If you are currently dating someone with bipolar disorder, you may struggle with a number of challenges like how you can support him or her while still caring for yourself. 

Here are some real life tidbits on dating a person with bipolar disorder:

Gain Knowledge

Knowledge is power, so learn as much as you can about your partner's disease. This will also be a healthy sign to him or her that you care. That being said, bipolar disorder is a complex disease, so try not to get too bogged down in the details.

Instead, focus on the big picture like what a manic episode is or how to recognize signs of depression

Separate the Person from the Disease

It is important when you are dating someone with bipolar disorder to recognize that their disease is a piece of their life pie, and not their whole identity. That being said, to a large degree, a person's bipolar disorder contributes significantly to their behavior, personality, and relationships. With that, you do have to learn to love the whole package, so to speak. 

Discuss Major Topics

Whether or not you are dating someone with bipolar disorder, it's important to discuss major topics, when you are both ready. For instance, if you really want children, but the person you are dating does not, this may be a deal breaker. 

Be an Advocate

First, it is important that whomever you are dating is seeking out care for their mental illness, whether that is through medication and/or psychotherapy or group therapy.

If not, it's unlikely he or she is ready to be part of a committed relationship.

That said, if your boyfriend or girlfriend is undergoing therapy, it is reasonable to discuss whether attending doctor's appointments with him or her would be helpful—and do not be offended if they say "no." It may be that your loved one prefers to keep the management of his or her disease process out of the relationship for now.

When you do start to become more involved in your loved one's life and care, discuss warning signs of a manic or depressive episode. Perhaps, there is a phrase or signal you can provide to clue your loved one in that he or she is having a rapid mood change.

It's also important to establish a plan in case the person you are dating develops suicidal ideation, as approximately 30 percent of people with bipolar disorder attempt suicide, according to an analysis in Bipolar Disorders

Of course, this is all best reviewed under the guidance of a mental health professional. This way you and the person you are dating can navigate any mood shifts safely and carefully. 

Care for Yourself

It is absolutely critical that you take care of your own physical and emotional needs. You may consider seeing a therapist for yourself, as a means of evaluating your own thoughts and stresses from being in a relationship with someone who has bipolar disorder.

You also have to know when and if you need to leave a romantic relationship—like if the person you are dating becomes dangerous, stops getting therapy, or becomes too unstable for you. Understanding your boundaries and what you are willing to accept needs to be crystal clear.

In addition, continue to take care of your own body's needs like eating nutritiously, sleeping, and exercising. Be sure to keep up your relationships with other friends and loved ones too, as embarking on a relationship with someone with bipolar disorder is not the time to isolate yourself. Joining a support group to both gain knowledge and emotional support can also be incredibly helpful.

A Word From Verywell

You can have a fulfilling and loving partnership with someone who has bipolar disorder, but it will require work on both sides, boundaries, and professional support and guidance. 

Sources:

J., M. (2016). The Love of My Life has Bipolar Disorder.Psych Central

National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2017). Personal Stories: Living With Someone With Bipolar Disorder.

Novick DM, Swartz HA, Frank E. Suicide attempts in bipolar I and bipolar II disorder: a review and meta-analysis of the evidenceBipolar Disord. 2010;12(1):1–9.

Price AL.. Marzani-Nissen GR. Bipolar Disorders: A Review. Am Fam Physician. 2012 Mar 1;85(5):483-93.

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