Bipolar Disorder and Relationships: Can a Person With Bipolar Have a Successful Relationship?

It’s constantly contemplated whether or not bipolar disorder and relationships can successfully work. I personally believe that individuals who have bipolar disorder, or any mental illness for that matter, have the same amount of risk in relationships as those who do not live with a mental illness. Here’s why:




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First of all, most people who live with mental illness, myself included, tend to have a negative self-image which can make them ultimately feel undesirable and develop constant worries and fears in relationships, …but guess what? People who don’t live with a mental illness can have those very same feelings and worries in relationships and in general too. As I’ve mentioned many times before, we are never alone in the ways we feel. It’s human to have feelings and emotions, but look at it this way, people with bipolar disorder tend to feel those emotions at a different extremity and more often. This doesn’t mean that people with bipolar can’t be involved in successful or happy relationships even though there may be very difficult and strenuous times, but this is true with any couple. Same goes for the bipolar disorder and having children debate as well. As humans, even with a mental illness, we have the potential and the right to be involved in relationships and have children. The debate whether or not individuals with mental illness are capable to successfully be in relationships or have children should not be an issue. They are still capable of being good spouses and parents. Those who don’t have a mental illness have the same amount of risk of making mistakes in relationships and in parenting. We are all human.

With bipolar disorder, individuals tend to experience periods of alternating highs and lows often referred to as mania and depression (manic-depression). Some people may be wondering or are curious as to why people with bipolar disorder may struggle in relationships. Well, there may be a few factors that relate with the mania and depression that cause symptoms which can make being in relationships a bit more difficult.

Some factors (but not limited to) that may affect relationships may be:

  • = advice for the partners of a bipolar spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend

-Excessive spending – Mania can cause times where those with the disorder may want to spend more money and this may even greatly affect a bank account negatively, worsen mood problems (guilt, depression, regret, sadness), and ultimately it can affect the relationship. Mania can also cause hyper sexuality, rapid and excessive speech, and irritability.

  • -When the partner of a bipolar individual notices any signs of mania and/or excessive spending, he or she should take control of the money (credit cards, check books, cash, etc) and also notify their doctor and/or document the mood changes noticed just to be safe. This also applies to other types of mood changes. It helps people with bipolar to have a responsible and understanding partner who can help support them when they experience the  mood changes.

-Mood swings/Anxiety – With the constant mood changes it can be very difficult to have a smooth sailing relationship without conflict. All relationships, no matter who you are, are going to experience conflict. With bipolar disorder, they often have times where they feel irritable, angry, emotional, and also have times of mania (euphoria- elevated hyper mood) and sometimes for no apparent reason or cause. Sometimes the trigger can be identified, but sometimes there are moods where everything flips the switch the wrong way seemingly without cause. There are also many moments where a person with bipolar may lash out in anger such as throwing objects, hitting, crying/screaming, and saying/yelling hurtful things. This can make for a very frustrating and rocky relationship without the right strategies to control it.

  • It is important that the partner can help redirect him/her when the bipolar individual is experiencing mood swings and or obsessive thoughts. It may be helpful to have a partner that knows when to help the person struggling with mood swings or worries calm down appropriately, but also knows the times when to walk away from behaviors (attention-seeking etc). Sometimes staying around while he or she is experiencing a mood swing can also make matters worse. The key is to know when, because there are times where things could go horribly wrong. When its noticeable that the bipolar partner is starting to get irritable, is yelling/screaming, throwing things, etc, it is best to try to catch these mood changes very early to prevent it from escalating any further, if possible. There are times where they may say or yell hurtful things that may possibly make you second guess or become really frustrated or angry in your relationship. It is important to keep in mind, for the sake of the relationship and sanity, that these moments do not last forever and more than likely the bipolar individual is just having a mood swing and isn’t meaning to anger you or upset you. Sometimes a good strategy would be to ask them “Talk to me about it.”, “What’s bothering you?”, “How can I help?”, “What would make you feel better?” ,”Let’s go find something enjoyable to do.”, etc.  More than likely your bipolar spouse would love your attention, know that you are listening, and they can see you care. Support is huge for those struggling to have in their lives.

Advice to those in a relationship with a person who has bipolar disorder: Research! Research! Research! Learn about the disorder, go to doctors’ appointments, and listen to them. Also, observe and get to know them both inside and out. Know what their triggers are and recognize the mood changes. This is very important advice.
Lastly, the key to making a relationship work when someone struggles with a mental illness would be ultimately to have the right person by their side who they know will support and understand them- that is key. Someone who is open-minded, patient, dependable, willing to listen, and who is willing to help them. Also, communication is essential. I cannot express that enough- that is also a key to any successful relationship. A lot of common mistakes in relationships is not being with the right person. This is true for everyone including those without mental illness. If it’s not the right person, the relationship, but most importantly the mental and emotional health of each individual, will be negatively impacted causing more complications.
In closing, can a person with bipolar disorder have successful relationships?  YES, yes they can! It is a matter of having the right person, both being aware of any sudden mood changes, and patience. Patience is also a huge helpful factor in relationships.
Never give up thinking that a person who has bipolar disorder means they cannot have successful relationships. It is possible, but it takes time and patience as it does for everyone.
Keep your head up and always be good to yourself =).

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52 Comments

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  3. What about the patient partner’s feelings over time? After ten years of always having to be patient and stroking the bipolar partner’s ego, can’t the patient partner’s own emotional health be at risk, as well as the health of any children involved? What is the best advice on this matter?

  4. As a person who lived with a bipolar individual for 17 years I can say that in my case it was either leave the relationship or endure my own emotional and financial ruin. I chose to end the relationship for my own self preservation. Being diagnosed and living with your bipolar condition is quit different from being the individual living with the person who is diagnosed. There are totally different issues that need to be dealt with. I don’t think anyone is that special of a person to endure the amount of abuse.

    • I posted before reading any of the comments. Ivkept it very simple, and didn’t share my own personal experiences, but in truth, I AM where you apparently were. I have been dealing with an abusive and selfish bipolar currently, and have been here for ten years. He left our home yesterday afternoon for the 22nd time since we married. I had purchased a small rubber 2-man boat for him to use for flounder fishing, and it was decided before purchasing, that it would also be great for fun for my 15 year old son (whose father was killed when he was very young, and has looked to “him” as a father figure).
      Yesterday, school was out due to the Labor Day holiday and my son was anxiously trying to plan something fun for the day. I mentioned to him to have a friend over and they could blow this raft up and take it out in the Sound right by our house. Keep in mind that I never know what willv”set him off”, buy the events that followed were typical when he is in this mood, but I can’t possibly keep up with when that mood will surface. He became, once again, irrate becausethis was tge plan. He began his screaming, shouting, and slamming doors. He continued into his usual phase of insults and name calling, along with turning everything into problems with both myself AND my son…my very GOOD son! I responded with my usual attempts to calm him, and he only got worse. He kept screaming that I had ruined everything. I reminded him that I had purchased it for everyone…plus the boys were going to be doing the work of inflating it, which would be helpful! Nothing was going to satisfy him. That much was clear. I left the room and continued to help my son to get moving so that he wouldn’t have to witness any more of this behavior. It was obvious that he was angry that he wasn’t going to get to use the raft/boat first before my 15 year old son!
      He closed himself off, packed a backpack, and left…again. I haven’t heard from him since. He always leaves when ALL of the household bills are due, and he knows that I cannot handle them on my own. THAT is what has caused me to remain in this relationship. My health has DEFINITELY been affected adversely. I have MS and a heart rythm disorder which has gotten much worse, and caused other problems now.
      I would not want anyone to find themselves in my shoes. I have always been a person with an almost rediculous level of patience, but everyone has limits.
      I fear that my resentments will “eat me alive”, if I continue to try to help this bipolar man that I love…but… I also have to survive him, financially and otherwise. I cannot be left homeless with my son, and I am exhausted!
      I don’t want people like myself, looking for answers, to read this piece and feel that they should just keep remaining patient through this as well as many much worse outbursts of their bipolar partner.
      From your comment, I believe that you survived a very similar relationship. I would love hear what you would suggestvI do from here. Thanks so much!

  5. Thank you for this post…it made me hopeful ..I love a guy who is bipolar and I dont want to leave him at any cost and want to support him !!!

  6. HI !!! Every one here !!!!
    Talking about Overcoming Bipolar Disorder in this article……the writer keep saying……..finding the RIGHT PERSON can help the BIPOLAR person to be much better ……THAT IS BULLSHIT !!! so how does this BIPOLAR person knows if the partner he chose IS THE RIGHT PERSON for him or not ??
    Did he tell this partner WITH HONESTY that he had BIPOLAR ILLNESS BEFORE THE RELATIONSHIP CAN TAKE OFF IN AN HONEST WAY?? How many people out there knows he or she is a BIPOLAR ??? It is a mental illness and let us be very, very honest.here…people with mental illness WILL NEVER EVER TELL THEIR GIRLFRIENDS OR BOYFRIENDS THAT HE OR SHE HAS A MENTAL DISORDER !!!!! until the relationship had been established and became so intolerable and punishing for the other party who might be wondering what”s hit them !!!! only after seeking for medical help, then the answer STARES YOU RIGHT BACK AT YOUR FACE !!! Then the partner has to make a big decision, a choice…TO LEAVE HIM/ HER OR STAY TO WORK THINGS OUT !!!!!
    if THE PARTNER DECIDES TO STAY AND HELP HIM/HER…DOES THIS MEAN THE PARTNER IS THE RIGHT PARTNER FOR THIS PERSON WHO HAD A BIPOLAR?? not necessary…because this partner might choose to stay out of great compassion for him/her who is suffering from Bipolar !!! But years later……when the mental illness is still incurable with mood swings still intolerable….EVEN THE RIGHT PARTNER FOR HIM/HER WILL SOON BREAK AWAY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    LET US FACE REALITY…..to live with a BIPOLAR person is very difficult , challenging and DANGEROUS TOO because one see and be victimized with bashings and physically been abused almost everyday !!! There are people who are BIPOLAR do not possess such aggression…but ,,,there are at the same time there are BIPOLAR INDIVIDUALS who are INDEED VERY VIOLENT AND DANGEROUS TO LIVE WITH !!!!

    PLEASE DONT EVER UNDER-ESTIMATE MENTAL ILLNESS OF ANY KIND AS IF LIVING WITH SOMEONE WITH BIPOLAR IS A SUCH A PICNIC !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    SOCIETY FEEL SUCH MENTAL ILLNESS IS JUST AN ILLNESS and downplay the whole aspects of this terrible mental illness….with saying that it is ok to live with people who have the mental illnesses !!!!! THEY WILL COME ROUND SOON….IF THEY EVER DO COME ROUND OR ELSE YOU MIGHT BE THE FIRST VICTIM TO BE DEAD ANYWAY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Society must make it MANDATORY to educate the general public about this mental illness and to come out openly to discuss in FORUMS AND SEMINARS TO MAKE PEOPLE AWARE of such mental illnesses ……so everyone can make a choice……………………..

    I WAS THAT ABUSED VICTIM, PHYSICALLY BASHED UP, MENTALLY TORTURED,,,,EMOTIONALLY SCARED FOR LIFE….and for all that….am I the right partner for my ex husband who is indeed a BIPOLAR person?????

    I DONT THINK SO….IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU BEEN A RIGHT PERSON OR NOT FOR A BIPOLAR PERSON….IT IS ABOUT YOUR VERY OWN PERSONAL SAFETY WHICH IS THE MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU THAN THE RELATIONSHIP ITSELF……………..think about it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! the right way !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • I’m sorry you disagree with what was written here and I’m sorry you had a rough relationship with someone who has bipolar, but people with bipolar are NOT all violent or like your ex. I’ve always been upfront about my illness from the beginning with everyone and do not hide it. There are many others who do the same too. I know of many people with bipolar who are not violent at all. Some with bipolar are more emotional and anxiety-ridden than violent. We are all different. It sounds like your ex needed extra help and the best thing was to walk away from that situation. A person who is abusive is a different story altogether. If a person is abusive, they need professional help as soon as possible. What you wrote here is not correct about ALL bipolar people though and I don’t agree that it’s “bull” as I am writing from a different perspective. This particular article may not apply to you personally. It is evident that you are angry and upset and that is understandable.

      And yes, I do think that it does take the right kind of person to deal with a bipolar individual because it can be extremely difficult to live with someone who has constant ups and downs and who needs daily treatment and support. It can be stressful and frustrating. And for the record, I never said that finding the right person will make the bipolar person all better. I stated that when a person with bipolar finds the right person for him/her and who is supportive of their condition etc, the relationship will flourish and may be more successful. You probably did all you could do and that is not your fault at all, okay? Like I said before though, when there is abuse in a relationship, it is not a healthy relationship and walking away from the abusive environment is the best choice bipolar or not. It is a totally different story.. Good luck to you in the future and just try to be careful when you make statements or claims such as “all bipolar people are the same etc” because we are not all that way (it seems you already understand that some with bipolar are not violent which is good). I know it’s not easy to live with someone who is bipolar, but some are not that hard to live with. It all depends on the individual person. Bipolar symptoms and how they appear are different for everyone. We are not lumped into one big group. It does not apply to ALL.

      Also, there are people who are violent and abusive in relationships when they’re not even bipolar. It is always good to watch out for your safety in any relationship even when neither parties are mentally ill.

      Hope all is well soon. :)

  7. Much like Amelia, I’m mostly a functional person, professionally and socially, unless I’m in a severe episode. Over time I’ve learned to handle my mood better, making depressive phases less frequent and less extreme, and especially shorter. So most people in my life would never suspect that I struggled with BP unless I told them. But I still do get down, I will never be consistent.

    With time, I am finding it harder and harder to believe that I can find someone to share my life with. The only people that have stuck around in my life (besides my parents), are those who have never had to deal too closely with my depressive episodes because they’re simply not such close friends. I only let those closest to me, those I trust the most around me when I’m low…and these ultimately end up leaving me because of it.

    Knowing whom to trust and being able to chose the right person for me is a major factor of course, and I don’t seem to know how to do that. It’s quite exhausting.

  8. I am responding to the post from Helen wheels. I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder for 9 years and have been with my boyfriend for 4 years. No one would even know I was bipolar unless I told them. I am no different than anyone else. I don’t ruin holidays or birthdays. If I feel off I get quiet I don’t throw things and scream. My boyfriend a few years ago said I was different than anyone else he has ever dated. He meant in a good way. Like I am normal. He said he had other girlfriends who would call him and want to talk about crazy psycho relationship issues. My boyfriend told me if every bipolar person was like me he would only date bipolar people. Where do you get your info from? Because if the person you knew wasn’t on medicine you can’t compare him to people like me who have been taking medicine everyday for 9 years, exercise regularly so I can feel better, etc. I take offense to every thing you said. I have a lot of bad days but I don’t use that as an excuse to be abusive or hurtful to others. I know someone who is not mentally ill and goes off the handle and is sometimes unbearable to be around. It would be like me taking that one unstable non bipolar person and stating that everyone who is not bipolar is an asshole. That’s absurd. Everyone is different. No two bipolar people are alike just as two non mentally ill people are alike. I think you are taking that one bipolar person you know and are assuming well that’s how every bipolar person must be then. I know assholes, funny people, short tempered, and patient people, etc. It’s everyone’s personalities are different and I take offense that you would categorize me as being the same of the bipolar boyfriend you had. I work hard to keep my cool by journaling, exercising, praying, etc. I will not be classified as crazy because I am not my label and I am a great person. I have known people for years who have no clue I am bipolar because guess what I am normal. And everyone has bad days both bipolar and non bipolar people.

    • I love to read other people’s experiences and relationship. I am a very high functioning person with bipolar just like Amelia. I am 30 years old and recently broke up with my boyfriend because he wanted me to stop taking my medication. He said I had no quality-of-life- was tired all the time. He refused to go to the doctor with me and basically did not believe that I even had bipolar – it was like he was a Scientologist and didn’t believe in modern medicine. My therapist believes he would’ve found something else wrong with me had not been the illness. I am just worried I will never find someone who will be able to handle it. But you all give me hope.

    • Amelia? What an awesome response!!

  9. Thanks for writing this post. So important. I agree that someone with Bipolar Disorder can love and marry if they want to. I have Bipolar 1 and Asperger’s and have been married for almost 24 years to someone with Asperger’s.

    • Has anyone heard of lithium ornate? I heard a Dr. talking about it on the radio. I presently take abilify and lithium.. Recently went through an episode of depreeion. Can someone help me about that medication. Lithium oranate?

  10. And, no I don’t think anyone should stay with a partner if it involves abuse, bipolar or not.

    • Which is why, cruel as it may be, sometimes entire FAMILIES estrange a person with bipolar illness.
      I often reflect that in antiquity, “eccentric” people were often left to their own devices, becoming hermits or monks and did not form relationships except with Dr. Frankenstein’s Creature.

      • My parents also live with bipolar. I DO understand more than one may think. My parents were/are very supportive even if they don’t always feel their best or are irritable. Mental illnesses take A LOT of understanding and patience. It’s not for everyone because some may not be able to handle what all goes on with this illness, but I love my family regardless. We understand each other and can relate. I think bipolar has brought us closer in many ways.. And once again I apologize that you have had unpleasant experiences regarding bipolar. I hope your stepson will become better in the future. Teen years were by far the worst for me too. Hormones + bipolar= out of control mess in my case.

  11. *unless they can find someone who will endlessly forgive being cheated on, lied to, yelled at, disregarded, and abused in myriad ways, multiple times throughout the life of the relationship. Leaving that isn’t blame or judgment, it’s self-preservation.

    • Thanks for your comment. I do appreciate your thoughts. I understand what you are saying, but the truth is that I can only say what I know of. Maybe others will have more severe or less severe forms of the disorder and the symptoms will not be the same. Not one person is alike. I say “may” a lot because not everyone with bipolar will react the same ways. I very rarely throw things or yell and shout actually. My bipolar is more anxiety and emotional. I am a woman, yes, but I can get equally manic as I am depressed.

      I don’t think it’s true nor fair to say that bipolar women shouldn’t have kids though because I know a few bipolar individuals whom have children and they are amazing parents and their kids are amazing too. Yes, it can be a struggle at times though, but it is possible.

      Recovery from relapse is possible. Their still may be relapses, but not as frequent with proper coping skills and treatment.

      Not having the bipolar spouse’s name on an account may be a smart idea for some depending on how severe the mania gets, but I feel it would handicap them in a way too. I think anyone who has bipolar would want to try to live as normally as possible. The name can still remain on the account, but ideally the spouse can monitor and support their bipolar partner. I think it’s also a personal choice too though.

      Being in a relationship with a person who has bipolar is ultimately tough, but not every bipolar person will cheat, is abusive, or will mess everything up. I wouldn’t say they shouldn’t be in a relationship period because it IS possible to have a successful relationship when bipolar. People make choices, but maybe it wasn’t the right choice for him/her at the time? Maybe h/she needs to focus on getting proper treatment before dating again. :/

      Like I said though, I think some have more severe forms of the disorder to where they need extra help, treatment, etc.

      • well said. If you think my reply above is a bit uncalled for, I will not be offended if you take it down. I just wanted to let them know that not all of us are such terrible people.

      • “I don’t think it’s true nor fair to say that bipolar women shouldn’t have kids though because I know a few bipolar individuals whom have children and they are amazing parents and their kids are amazing too. Yes, it can be a struggle at times though, but it is possible.”
        Again, sorry to parse language, but I never said that bipolar women shouldn’t have kids- I believe that many (*not all*) bipolar PEOPLE should not.
        Perhaps it’s not a stressful experience for the bp parent (but I doubt it); ask the grown child what they thought of their childhood with a bp parent. To the child of a BP parent, parental instability is the ‘normal’ way of life.

        I have witnessed that childhood with a BP parent often (but not always) means:
        * missed birthday parties, sports, recitals or other activities with peers because the parent isn’t ‘up to it.’
        * being corrected abusively because the parent is absorbed in their own feelings of anger and unable to calmly deliver consequences for misbehavior.
        * emotional needs for predictability or physical needs for things like new shoes or groceries overlooked
        * education suffers because of parents’ ‘teacher anxiety’ – parent doesn’t attend teacher conferences, doesn’t ask about homework or show an interest in school.
        * problematic behavior (including onset of illness symptoms) is overlooked at home, because it’s just like the bp parents’ own behavior. This can be quite the shock when the rest of the world doesn’t think it’s so normal or cute and it leads to serious trouble.
        * not participating in outside the home fun like public swimming pools, fairs, farmers’ markets, art festivals, etc., because the parent is ‘freaked out’ by people that day.

      • Actually, I invite you to look up the blogs of people who’ve had a parent with bipolar. Mom has bipolar Dad has bipolar

  12. I feel like your post is a little too idealistic and seems to gloss over the true risks of being with a partner with bipolar. To start with, relapse is not just possible, it is INEVITABLE.
    Also, bipolar disorder affects people differently. I feel like your blog is colored by the fact that you’re a woman. Women tend more toward depression, men more toward mania. People with depression may be difficult to deal with, but I don’t feel they are generally as destructive as people with mania.
    Mania + testosterone + upper body strength = sometimes verbally and physically dangerous tornado.
    You say that “a person with bipolar may (emphasis mine) lash out in anger such as throwing objects, hitting, crying/screaming, and saying/yelling hurtful things.” As relapse is an inevitability, so is this behavior. There is no “may”, only “will.” In other relationships, this is known as spousal abuse. In those relationships, the abused person is told they should leave, and that the abuser shouldn’t have a mate. Is that also true for a bipolar, or are you giving them a pass because the behavior is inconsistent?
    Speaking of consistency, this will be a problem with your bipolar partner. No matter if their child needs life-saving medicine at 6pm sharp every day, your spouse will not be able to do this every day. Period.They will be preoccupied at some point, probably many points. (I am terrified for my former step-son, a bipolar diabetic.) You will not be able to take breaks from that detail unless you get someone other than your bipolar partner to back you up. They simply can’t/won’t. The only things consistent were
    Ruined Holidays. Either they will be weirded or freaked out by being around so many people and leave, or be awkward and do/ say strange things which causes awkwardness and leave, or just forget. Forget having normal holidays, and if your birthday is the one holiday a year that’s as important as your bipolar partner’s, expect it to be ruined. Because of “pressure to perform.” What am I asking for, a magic trick where you pull a greeting card out of your back pocket?
    Communication can also be difficult with bipolar mania, plus men are different communicators than women. “Are you OK” suddenly means that I want to see if the poison I’ve slipped you is working yet. You may try to “listen to his feelings” but bipolar mania feels great! There’s nothing wrong and nothing to talk about! Lack of insight is a hallmark of this illness. You tell me to know what their triggers are and recognize the mood changes. That’s only useful to know when to stay out of the house.

    My solutions are this: Get medical Power of Attorney Your manic loved one will likely not allow you to participate in their care, once they are omniscient and superhuman. Don’t put them on your main account. Ever. Not even when they seem well. The slope into illness is slippery, and it can sneak up. It usually takes both account signers present to remove one of the signers, and the signer who doesn’t feel his manic spending is a problem, is not going to agree to be removed. Don’t have kids Raising children is not stress-free. Children of a bipolar parent have a 1 in 5 chance of also being bipolar. Bipolar children are even more stressful than regular children. Stress is a common trigger for illness. Children = illness episodes.
    If you are going to make it work, you must have a deep- actually, neverending- well of forgiveness. Forgiveness for yourself, for falling in love with such a difficult and demanding partner. Forgiveness for your partner, for not always being able to fulfill the basic roles of partner – dependable, patient, kind, giving, lover. Forgiveness for the universe afflicting your loved one.
    I know none of us are perfect, and we lapse in our roles as partner as well. We lose patience, we are selfish, we take offense. However, we often realize it, and we care about your feelings and try to make those mistakes less. However, a person with more severe bipolar will not be able to be a dependable, patient, kind, and giving lover with much regularity. And so, I believe that many if not most people with bipolar should not be part of a romantic relationship.

    • I just wanted to chime in here and say that I think you are completely and horribly wrong. I (a man) have been in a wonderful relationship with my wife for over 12 years now. We have two amazing children. Not only do I think someone with bipolar can be in a relationship, I think it is vital that they are.

      I am a guy, but I am depressed more often than manic. I can get angry, yell and scream and overreact, but I don’t get violent. I do break things sometimes, and often have to stop myself from breaking anything important or expensive. It doesn’t always work, but I try.

      As Kait mentioned below, not all people or episodes are the same. Frankly, in my experience, having people I love and who love me help me keep a bit grounded. They know that I can get a bit off, and they have learned to deal with it. If I’m in an angry mood, they stay out of my way, they know it will pass. If I’m depressed, they try their best to cheer me up or at least keep me busy so I don’t hang myself in the garage. Just like any illness, there is some things you learn to deal with, but you continue on.

      It sounds to me that you have either a)been hurt badly by someone with the illness or b) are simply cold and heartless and think of no one but yourself. From what it sounds like, it is simply too much trouble for you to have to deal with someone with an illness that requires a bit of attention. You really do come across as cold and uncaring, and that makes me sad.

      I am happily married, good father, have never ruined a holiday (if i’m having a bad day, I sit it out), nor have I been violent, nor have I spent us into bankruptcy (i have spent more than I should have), nor have I forgotten a child. I am a prime example of why you are wrong. All the things you described above frankly sounds more like an alcoholic than a bipolar, or just an asshole. Whoever hurt you, I’m sorry that it happened. Whatever made you to be so unfeeling, I’m sorry for that too, but not all of us are so bad.

      • Thanks. I needed an example. Well said :)

      • Mike, I’m sorry that you think I am cold and unfeeling; I disagree with that assessment, but I will admit that being with someone who was so ill for so long certainly did make me jaded. Kait’s original post wasn’t very well rounded in my opinion, far too rosy to be realistic, and so I was countering that with very real examples from my own relationship as well as working with many family members of (other) people who have bipolar. I have heard their stories- there were a lot of negative stories, and I’m sure the bad days may not have outnumbered the good ones, but trauma is more impactful on our lives.

        You are unique people, Mike & Kait, and I believe that your anecdotes are those of singular individuals with the internal perspective of living with the disorder. You do not mention if your partner is bipolar, and if not, you cannot have the perspective of a person loving a partner with an illness that can be so outwardly cruel to you. You yourself state that you tend toward depression although sometimes you experience mania. Do you know the experience of being someone/ loving someone with severe mania, even your children? I think you don’t, otherwise you may have said something to that effect. Are either of your children bipolar or have special needs? If not, then you don’t know how dealing with them would trigger your illness. Your individual experiences do not, in my mind, stand against all the people I have met & their stories, let alone my own story and opinion.

        • It is true, none of my loved ones are bipolar or have any mental illness for that matter. But I AM. This means that I seek out others with the illness, talk to specialists, talk to loved ones of those suffering, so yes, I am aware of how our illness affects others. Oddly enough, I actually talk to my wife about it and how it affects her and the family.

          Again, the illness affects everyone differently, and you may have just been unlucky in that regard. When I read your accounts of dealing with the illness in your loved ones, I keep thinking that bipolar is not the only issue. Even “normal” people can be violent, abusive, flighty, ect. Combine bipolar with a bad person, you would indeed get a worse version, especially if drug or alcohol abuse is entered into the mix.

          Love and support can be such a big help to anyone dealing with emotional issues. When my first wife left me (shortly after being diagnosed) I almost killed myself because my entire world disappeared, my wife and children were gone. She didn’t try to help, didn’t try to be there for me in this difficult time, she just left. She was scared because of the unknown and the stigma that comes with mental illness. She didn’t even try. Since being with my current wife, I’ve progressed well and have become a better person just because she supports me and gives me a reason to be a better person. Is it easy, no, but she reminds me of reality and helps me get through the darkest times.

          Can a bipolar be in a good relationship, absolutely, I’m proof of that. I’m also proof that it is good to have the loving supportive family for someone dealing with a major illness. I may not be the rule, but I don’t think I’m the exception either. Most of those I have met have been in wonderful relationships, supportive relationships. Maybe it’s just the luck of the draw that I’ve seen the good a relationship can do for us, and you’ve seen the damage bipolar can do to a relationship.

          For a person dealing with unstable emotions, a stable home can make all the difference. Bad people are bad people, crazy or not.

      • Kait, I appreciate your attempts not to generalize. You will note that I too said that “many if not most people with bipolar…” Mike is not most people. You are not most people. Your bipolar is “more anxiety and emotional.” Well, so is my (now 13 y.o.) step-son’s, and his symptoms are things like biting and hitting or or being generally destructive like tearing things off walls or breaking things. I removed all the knives from the kitchen during one particularly bad stretch. When he was about 10, his behavior was so violent and unpredictable that his younger brother wanted a security camera for their bedroom, so that we could see what he was doing.
        Mike feels that I am “completely and horribly wrong.” I don’t agree. I speak from a very wide perspective actually, knowing MANY people who suffer from their bipolar loved one’s behaviors, including several parents who are now parenting their grandchildren because their bipolar children can’t or don’t. I know wives who’ve lost homes to their bipolar husbands’ spending sprees, wives who’ve contracted STDs from their serially cheating husbands, parents who’ve drained retirement accounts for their children as the child cannot hold a job. I know adult siblings, one of which is so terribly scarred from the violence their bipolar loved one inflicted when they were kids, that they now get panic attacks at the mere mention of a reunion.
        “Whatever made you to be so unfeeling, I’m sorry for that too, but not all of us are so bad.” Again, your perspective. I’m far from unfeeling. If I didn’t care so much, I would have bailed long before I did. But I married my bp (not with a marriage license, tho, I was warned by another partner of a bp.) I love the quirky, intelligent, creative, original people my loved ones are. I miss them intensely. But, for my own self-preservation, and to move onto forgiving them, I had to remove myself from the daily onslaught. No, not all of you “are so bad.” But, my point is that while the symptoms of bipolar vary in intensity and duration (and usually get more intense and frequent as one ages, BTW) the symptoms are generally not congruent with a person being a consistently good parent, partner, or friend.

  13. Great post! Being a partner to someone with bipolar, I can identify with the advice

  14. Oh, P.S.: I’ve gotten to understand bipolar pretty well…I also had another bipolar boyfriend for one year.

  15. I love my 55 year old bipolar man and he says he loves me and wants a future with me. However, he also says I trigger his manic episodes (what a temper!) and that this is all my fault.

    He feels that the woman for him would not have a personality that does this, and he claims that I’m the only woman who’s ever had this effect on him. At the same time, he’s admitted that I’m also the only woman who has been there for him when he’s in need and has no one else, as well as that I’m the only woman who actually stuck around (he’s done things that other women would, and have, walked away from him for). In fact I believe that is one of the reasons that he has never experienced this type of relationship conflict with another woman: I’m the type who stays and fights to make things work, while the other women were so disgusted by his behavior that they quietly walked away without fighting for the relationship. Thus his memory is simply that he loved them and they never caused him problems aside from leaving! I also think that when they caught him doing something wrong they did not stick around for the 2nd time, 3rd, 4th, 5th and so on. They left at the start, and without a fight, having seen the writing on the wall.

    So I’m the bad guy …because I stick around and am there for him through thick and thin, and therefore I’ve seen how ugly it gets and I confront him with his bad behavior and try to make him work with me to ‘fix’ the problems that result.

    That’s no fun for him, he’d rather, I guess, look back on his warped memory of women who were great and who ‘it didn’t work out’ with. He’s in denial.

    He thinks that the right woman for him will not trigger him and will not challenge him so much on his very unusual ideas of how to conduct an exclusive relationship. And yet, he’s 55 now and never married, with several serious relationships behind him, and a SLEW of ‘partners’ whether they were a one night stand, a weekend, a week, a month, or a few months. So where is this Wonder Woman?

    No one stuck around but me. I fight for us when everyone around me tells me to walk away for good.

    I’ve seen just about every manifestation of his illness by now (we met in 12/08 and have been on-again, off-again for 4 years) and I’ve had a lot of patience and I’ve made a lot of compromises (we lived together off and on for 2 years). And of everything that is difficult about him, there is only ONE thing (a sort of ‘package deal’) that has consistently caused me heartbreak and him to go into manic episodes, and that is when I have either caught him cheating and confronted him, or when I try to discuss the lack of mainstream relationship boundaries that he verbalizes and exercises which lead to the cheating.

    He wants to sweep things those issues under the rug, while I want to talk & make decisions together to prevent the same old problems from continuously happening again.

    Our relationship is currently long distance (he is 2 hours away.) He occasionally jabs me for having ‘ruined’ his relationship with a new single female ‘friend’ close to his age (and who he would not introduce me to & who was clearly waiting for her moment to pounce), and for having ‘emasculated’ him with her. How did I do these 2 things? By insisting that while coffee out together occasionally to catch up is fine with me, it was NOT all right with me for him to continue to see her– especially not to continue to do the things togehter that he and I would do if I were in town. Nor was it okay with me for him to continue to cry on her shoulder about me and about our relationship. (A habit he had with a woman who he cheated on me with when we were living together. And he cheated a LOT.)

    His ‘fix’ for the current problem was to simply stop seeing the woman. I feel this is not a fix, since he clearly resents me for it. His occasionally comments ‘she’d be my friend right now if you hadn’t ruined things’. So over the recent weekend, I tried to discuss this with him and he shut his phone off, saying let’s talk in a couple of days. I phoned two days later to try to make a deal with him that if he could introduce me to any female friend he might be interested in pal-ing around with, that this would give me more confidence in him–I can see it’s no one that is a threat to the relationship. See, in the past there were women he would not introduce me to, and those turned out to be the ones he cheated with, while the 2 he WAS willing to introduce me to turned out to be tried & true friends who I thought were great and I ‘blessed’ his spending time with. This is what I wanted to discuss our trying again with the friend he was lamenting–introduce me and let’s see if it feels right.

    Instead he chose again to sweep the issue under the rug, while whining about not ever having a female friend again as long as he’s with me, and that this will have to be good enough for me. He promptly shut his phone off, saying let’s talk in a couple of days.

    Again.

    So my lifelong bachelor, bipolar guy is so set in his way of thinking now, about relationships, that he has seriously ruined his chance at 55 of ever being a decent mate to anyone & of ever finding someone who’ll hang in there with him. If I don’t have the patience for his attitude, no one will. But he disagrees.

    I’m ready to walk.

    Sorry I used so much space. I’m literally home from work today, for the 2nd day in a row, when I can’t afford the time off, trying keep myself together and to figure out whether to say goodbye to him for good. It won’t hurt my feelings any if you read this and delete it. I sometimes have a compulsion to write, but I don’t have any need for what I write to stay where it’s written once the thoughts are out and maybe someone could relate to it for a moment :)

    Thanks for your great post!

    • Rosey, I know it’s not my blog, but I’d be interested to have you follow up, and let us know how you’re doing today.

      • Thank you for requesting follow up Finally, after more than four years of an on-again, off-again relationship with the man I love, I had to break it off with him.

        I gave him plenty of ‘outs’, as I call them. Periodically when we were having a relaxing conversation, I would ask him whether what we had was working out okay for him. I asked him to please discuss it with me if he was feeling a need again to see other women and for us not to be exclusive. I told him that this was very important to me, that he not keep me in the dark this time, that he be open and honest with me if he felt he had to see other women. I told him, yet again, that it is very painful to be cheated on, deeply painful, and that if he wants our relationship to be good, he has to keep me informed about how he feels. I told him I understand if, living a couple of hours from me, it’s just not going to work out, and that we could make the relationship something different. He always assured me that he was not interested in seeing other women. I told him to please not let me find out the ways I had before, always a shocking surprise that broke my heart. He assured me that would never happen again and that he loved me.

        He wanted it to work with me, was willing to play by my relationship value system, and would not be seeing other women behind my back this time around. Unfortunately, I found that–while he wasn’t yet paying for it–he’d reopened his Match dot com profile under a new name and was actively reading womens’ profiles and saving to ‘Favorites’ the ones that caught his eye and lived within about 50 miles of him. That always used to be step one of his working toward dating via Match, behind my back, and I couldn’t let us go there yet again.

        Worse, I saw emails that he’d been writing to other women. My heart sunk, I felt nauseous, and my hands were shaking, as I found out that he was answering ads on Craigslist, where women would note that they needed a date for a certain club they wanted to go to, or one needed help with a computer and described herself as voluptuous and very attractive, and so on. In his response to the various ads (he’d written about six women so far), he was flirtatious and asking them to reply with a picture, etc. To one he commented that he liked her ad and would like an intellectually curious woman to enjoy things in his local area with. To another he commented how he was involved in local business events and such, and wanted a lady to attend events with him in his area. Other times he just complimented a woman and told her he may be able to meet her (in a town about 75 miles away, at a club. And so on.)

        I tried to talk with him about them via phone. He went into a verbally abusive rage, telling me that he was looking only for female friends (I’d been hearing that for years) and that he was done with me because he could not be in a relationship with a “spy”. He again accused me of different, saying that other women don’t feel as I do on this subject, and that I need counseling because I have some undiagnosed mental illness. Complete verbal rage. And then he hung up and phoned my sister and started telling her that I need counseling for mental illness, and so on. Way out of line, and not the first time that he’d done that during an argument.

        He is the man I love, who I wanted to have a few last adventures with, and make the best of life with, and then grow old together with. Unfortunately, he is not looking for that one special woman, as he claims in his singles ads, but is looking for a woman who will quietly let him date and travel with all the women he wants. That’s not me. I have been forced to write him off and accept that he will never change.

        However, after a short cooling off period for my broken heart, I’ve been able to be a supportive friend in many ways, and like no one else in his family, including his sisters. He recently told me that he loves me deeply and knows that I probably love him more than any woman ever has, or will. I told him he’s right on that.

        I also asked him, as I had during the years before, why he never could respect me enough to take the ‘out’ that I always gave him–to end the romantic relationship before he broke my heart via cheating and had us end on a deeply painful note that I would not be able to return from. He never had an answer for this.

        In my opinion he is looking for a woman who doesn’t exist. One who will love him ‘unconditionally’, as he puts it. And while he won’t admit this, also one who will put out there to the world that they are in an exclusive relationship, while letting him date other women or travel together with other women (something he also pulled on me). Rotsa ruck wit’ dat, fella.

        Once another woman comes into his life for more than dating, he’ll have to find a supportive friend within her, as I will say ‘goodbye’ for good, as I am not willing to let my heart get beat up in that way, despite his protestations that if he ends up with someone, he and I could still be supportive friends. It doesn’t work that way, too brutal for me. I’m not a sadist.

        To everyone I wish the best.

  16. Another good blog. I’m a very lucky one here. I was married when I was diagnosed, she left me a year later. Ten years ago I met my new wife. I was upfront and honest with her about my illness, and she gave me a chance anyway! We are still together, although I know it must be hard on her sometimes, she does what she can to help and forgives some of my, less desirable moods.

  17. I was married for almost a decade before my diagnosis and my wife knew there was something odd about me for most of that time. She accepted it though. That’s the important part, being happy to take the rough with the smooth.

    I think, all too often, mental illness is a scapegoat as much as a cause of break-ups. People use it to justify behaviour that they would have had to find other reasons for, so maybe it is easier to break up with a mentally-ill person because you can blame their illness rather than admitting that you’re a shallow person with no respect.

    • Thanks for your comment. I can agree with you about how easy it can be to blame an individual with a mental illness in a relationship. I have found that those people who choose to blame the person with a diagnosis are often disrespectful and uneducated. There are plenty of good people in this world that understand everyone will make mistakes and that no one is perfect with mental illness or not.

  18. I vote yes as well. I spent many years lonely and alone, thinking that no one could ever love me because of my Bipolar disorder and in fact I was trashed by more than one person because of it. But when I was 57 I met a man who is now my life partner and we’ve been together for almost 5 years now. He knew about who I was and about my illness from the get go and never has judged me for it. He’s the most patient, kind and understanding man I’ve ever known, tho he doesn’t always get it to be fair. But he tries hard and he listens and he jokes me out of my moods so well I can only think I am truly blessed. And it happened to me when I was an older gay man too, and the gay world is Not kind to its elders. So I say don’t ever give up on love. It’s always possible. Men or women it doesn’t matter who you love. It may be hard, but keep trying and stay open to possibilities and try not to judge yourself too harshly. If you keep the faith in your own worth and a good attitude then things can and will change.

    Thanks so much for this post Kait, and for following my blog. All the best to you. I like the title of your blog too…;)
    Steve

    • Thank you and you’re welcome. I truly believe that there is a special person out there for everyone, but it does take time. I am so happy to hear that you’ve met your match. Best of luck to you and thank you for reading.

  19. Reblogged this on The Rhythm of the House and commented:
    For those who are weathering the storm.

  20. Fantastic post, Kait. Love how you break things down.

    And Lj, I’m so sorry.

  21. It’s too late for spousal support, eight years too late. My wife did find a NAMI group who helped her, leave.
    I have been reading profiles on dating sites and terms like no drama, sane, healthy keep coming up in the woman’s description of the man they are seeking. At 58 I am up against the bitter taste every man they knew had left in their mouth. I don’t blame them if I had weathered what many of them had, I would want to spend the last act of my life in something pleasant and work free.
    Maybe it’s the sting of another freshly failed attempt, but right now hope is the foulest of four letter words. I know the pattern. Rejected, bitter, cynical, fly solo awhile, begin to hope, start making an effort, find someone, elation, mood swings, hurt, arguments, disillusionment, hard words, closing door… repeat. Eight years six times.
    Funny the very thing I am seeking, love, as with any other strong emotion can be a trigger. The very thing I need triggers it’s own destruction
    My brain hates me.

  22. When I was first diagnosed, released from the hospital I found a support group. My wife started a search of her own for a support group for spouses of people with Bipolar Disorder. After a long and fruitless search she was told that there are no support groups for spouses. The reason? There are no spouses of people with Bipolar Disorder. Three years later she proved that comment correct. I have been struggling the last eight years to find myself in a loving committed relationship, to no avail. It gets in the way. I am an older adult and all the women I have encountered have had some sour taste in their mouth from their past and when I start acting up there is no tolerance, no understanding, no compassion, I have maintained for years about the non afflicted, if they don’t got it they don’t get it. I try to remain stable, I apologize, I try to atone but every time it ends up that they leave.
    I agree with your strategies for partners, but after a woman has been through a bad marriage and has finally got herself together the last thing she want is to jump back into the fire. No, they have their kids and grandchildren and that can be all they need if the alternative is men like me.

    • I’m sorry to hear about your relationship troubles.. There actually are support groups available for spouses and caregivers like The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), for example http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=home. As well as couples counseling too. I know that it can be stressful to be in a relationship with someone who struggles with a mental illness, but (and I say this respectfully) maybe they weren’t the right type of women to be with in the first place. There are a lot of cruel and close-minded people in this world, but there are also a lot of good hearted and understanding people out there too. It’s just a matter of finding the right type of person that can be good to you and is open-minded to helping you. I wish you the best of luck finding your mrs. right. She is out there. Thank you for commenting! :)

      • A few months ago I met a terrific man who is bipolar 1. This information and all about his withdrawal from the world was made known to me on the first meeting. In these months I have only seen him in person a few times. I do not bother him or try to force him into any kind of commitment in that he has a hard time following through. This I have accepted and my life oes on. I date and still meet people but this man is o special o me. He has my heart and it makes it hard for me to move on, to give someone a chance. I want him in my life and I want him to know I will ALWAYS be here for him. We are both honest, he in his belief that he cannot have a stable and normal relationship, and he knows I have seen other people. He wants me to be happy. Sometimes I feel I could live with the bad times and savor the good times when they come, but to what Avila. What kind of emotional toll would this put on you as time goes by?

  23. Wow what a great post.. I wish I had known my illness and read this post 20 yrs ago.. lol I had a husband that gave me no support but verbally beat me down emotionally and blamed everything on my illness once it was diagnosed. Refused to support me through my healing and honestly I was a mess, thought i was a terrible person.. but after we split up I found the truth.. and a very nice man who accepts me for who I am.. Having the right person is Key to ANY relationship.. But you have to think you deserve that person before you will find them.. thank you for this article.. im following you now

    • I can totally understand. I’m sorry that you too went through a similar situation. I had a boyfriend at one time that wasn’t understanding at all and blamed me in the end. He was also abusive and very controlling.

      I’m glad you were able to find the truth as well! Isn’t love amazing when it’s real and beautiful? I’m very happy to hear that you found a great person.

      Thanks for commenting and following me. Very much appreciated. It’s nice to meet you! :)

      • Unfortunately, most of the time some of what happens during an episode is blocked out of a bipolar person’s memory like a blackout, or their memories are distorted by the delusions reality is/was filtered through. Or they’re just unable to see things from a point of view outside their own for that period.
        My bipolar ex thinks he’s the victim in his relationship with me, his previous ex-, his parents, the schools, the church… too, but doesn’t remember starting fist fights and trying to stab someone, hitting/ kicking his kids, kicking me, being financially reckless and driving a family to the brink of homelessness… How should one respond to that? With affection and immediate forgiveness? How about when it happens over and over and over?
        I grant you that this is an extreme example, but bipolar spouses have also been known to do all these things. And relapse happens. Meaning these awful things will happen again. And the NT spouse is along for the ride. Again. What person doesn’t become controlling, when they feel the person attached to them is dragging both of them down with their out of control behavior? What person doesn’t become bitter and disenchanted – partnership is about mutual support. When one partner takes far more than they give, something’s got to give.

        • I am so sorry you had experienced this. It does sound like an extreme case, most definitely. When manic or depressed, I, personally don;t black out as I remember it all. I am wondering if he should seek treatment such as hospitalization or an alternative. These types of behaviors need to be addressed by a professional if he is open to getting treatment.. I am so sorry to hear what you went through..

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