All romantic relationships present challenges, but when bipolar enters the scene, it can shake the foundation. Yet, by working together, you and your mate can protect the health of the partnership—for the long term.
Extreme mood fluctuations and symptoms associated with bipolar may pose unique challenges to manage in relationships, says Maria Bastida, nurse practitioner, University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry.
Certainly, it’s a team effort, and it comes down to being present for each other, healthy boundaries, and keeping your connection strong.
Adds Bastida: “Relationships can thrive and flourish with appropriate treatment and education about how to ride the waves of the illness, while also working towards acceptance, understanding, and self-care.”
The more you can work together to communicate effectively, the better.
Participating in talk therapy provides an opportunity for couples to decide together how exactly the person with bipolar would like their supporting partner to respond to symptomatic behavior, says psychiatrist Shane McInerney, MD.
Couples might consider a regular practice of checking in with each other to talk about how each person feels generally—making sure the support partner’s wellness is also considered.
“Regular use of a mood tracker builds up a rich amount of information about the patterns of a person’s bipolar illness. Then the couple can discuss potential triggers … before an episode happens,” adds McInerney.
Finally, instead of always highlighting the challenges and difficulties associated with living with the diagnosis, staying focused on the positive attributes of the other person will only help strengthen the relationship and foster better mental health for both.
Chris K. pays attention to what he loves about his wife—her infectious joy and energy when she is happy, her wit, and her creative talent.
“Never keep score,” he advises. “You need to understand that you will be in a place where you will be giving more than you will be receiving potentially for your entire marriage. It is better to face that early and develop a system to weather the storms. Traditional 50/50 mentality towards a relationship will guarantee failure.”