Bipolar can seem like a dirty word in the best of circumstances. For those who haven’t lived with the disorder their entire lives, learning a potential partner has bipolar can be enough to make them head for the hills.
Instead of hiding from the dating world, I am here to help you understand precisely how bipolar can affect intimate relationships. Once you have a better idea of what to expect, you can make some changes and ensure the both of you start on the right foot.
Bipolar Can be Emotionally Destabilizing for Both Sides of the Relationship
Unregulated mood swings are a sign that people with bipolar haven’t learned how to manage their symptoms.
Extreme mood swings are destabilizing for both people in a relationship. Not knowing how your significant other will react can create uncertainty for some aspects of dating, such as having tough conversations or discussing big moves.
Not knowing how a partner will act at any given time can lead to one side of the relationship withdrawing and becoming distant.
The Disorder Can Lead to Irritability During Manic Episodes
Without treatment, those with bipolar may not even recognize they’re acting inappropriately. Irritability and extreme anger can happen during manic episodes, resulting in lashing out at anyone nearby.
Irritability often manifests in being easily upset, lashing out, and having a lower stress tolerance.
Sometimes this takes the form of things upsetting you that used to be just fine or shouting at someone without understanding why. Things that seem innocent can set off a cascade of anger and cause a huge fight. And this is one of the worst things that can happen for your relationship.
How to Manage Bipolar While Dating
Having bipolar while dating can make you feel like an outcast. People can react unkindly when you admit that you are subject to extreme mood changes. This is much less likely to happen on a disabled dating site than on a mainstream site like OK Cupid or Match.
It can make you feel like you must hide what you’re going through. However, there are things you can do to minimize relationship strain. I believe that it is vital to be clear in your own mind how you experience bipolar, even discuss this with a family member or close friend who has watched your bipolar periods. What are your manic episodes like? How do they affect your ability to interact? What are depressive episodes like? Will you be in any danger?
Being clear about exactly how the disorder impacts your life can show your partner that you’ve gone out of your way to think about possible repercussions.
You’ll want to take that a step farther and come up with ways to work around manic and depressive episodes that are fair to the both of you. Will you need space during mania? Do you need extra support during depressive episodes? Make sure you aren’t asking too much of your partner and that they feel their needs are respected as well.
What to do if You’re Dating Someone with Bipolar
If you’re dating someone with bipolar, you might feel like your own needs take a backseat. That isn’t fair to you, and it shouldn’t be that way.
The most important thing you can do is set clear and firm boundaries. Make sure you let your partner know that you’ll be there to support them as you can, but that your needs also matter, and you must make sure those needs are met. Come up with clear consequences if those boundaries aren’t respected and follow through with them no matter what.
You’ll also need ways to emotionally recharge that don’t involve your partner. It can be hard to feel like your life must revolve around your partner. If you have ways to boost yourself that are separate from them, you can take a break without completely breaking it off. Identifying good ways to self-care will help keep your mental resources replenished.
Bipolar doesn’t have to be a death sentence to your relationship. Knowing how it affects personal connections will arm you with the understanding you need to work on healthy relationships and make your life better.
David can be contacted on Twitter @disabilitymatch, and at facebook.com/disabilitymatch and Instagram @disabilitymatch.