Goodbye

When you first meet someone, you put your best foot forward so your prospective love interest sees your good points before your faults come out.

Once things become comfortable, your partner discloses his or her bipolar disorder. Even if you don’t realize it at the time, this was a huge step in trust. Over time, you will learn the nuances of the disorder. You will see, from close up, the effects of mania and depression.

Considering to leave the person because the disorder has become too much is common. Ending any relationship is difficult, and deciding to end a relationship because of a person’s mental condition only complicates things further.

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As much as you’d like to be there for the person, there comes a point where you must weigh your options and decide if it’s time to walk away and end the relationship.

Here are some important questions you should ask yourself before making your decision:

  • Is the person making an effort to improve their condition?
  • Is his or her condition improving?
  • How patient can you be?
  • Does the person’s behavior put your health at risk?
  • Can you accept the person the way he or she is or do you want the person to change?
  • Do you prefer stability or are you looking for excitement?

If you want a person to change, you must first realize how hard it is to change yourself. While treatments for bipolar disorder can help control the condition, it will be a constant battle throughout his or her life.

Dr. Michael Brodsky, medical director of Bridges to Recovery—a crisis stabilization center with several locations in California—said while people with bipolar disorder are known to be creative, charismatic, energetic, and inspirational, they can also be unpredictable, promiscuous, inattentive, and self-focused. Some of these qualities make it hard on a relationship, so a person must weigh whether he or she wants stability over excitement, he said.

Dr. Brodsky said there’s no perfect time to end a relationship with someone who is bipolar. 

If you decide to end a relationship because of a person’s bipolar disorder, try not to blame the person or their condition. It is no one’s fault that the person has the condition.

Their condition is serious, and it’s difficult to be with someone who doesn’t want to get better. If the person refuses to get help, you may choose to end a relationship.

Here are some reasons you may need to end the relationship:

  • Your partner is dangerous.
  • He or she becomes careless or reckless during mania.
  • Your partner blames you for his or her problems.
  • Your partner neglects treatments on purpose.

Dr. David Reiss, interim medical director of the Providence Behavioral Health Hospital, said the first rule thing to consider if it’s time to end a relationship is your own safety, especially if a person is unstable.

“Of course leaving without warning or discussion will be destabilizing for the other person, but if it is an issue of safety, you must protect yourself,” Dr. Reiss said. “Even if there is no risk of danger or violence, keep in mind that you cannot predict or take responsibility for the other person’s behaviors. They may respond with more intense anxiety, depression or anger than you expect or they might have been closer to wanting to break it off themselves than you realized, and may react with relief —or denial.”

Dr. Reiss said the nature of the commitment. Married couples take a vow to remain together “for better or worse, in sickness or in health…” where leaving the person “can be seen as abandonment and sabotage – and there is a reality to that perception.” 

“There are still times it is reasonable to leave, but do not deny responsibility for having broken your promise,” Dr. Reiss said. “You can try to explain it, your reasons may be valid, but take responsibility and validate the other person’s feelings.” 

If you’re not married, it is NOT abandonment or sabotage, no matter how the other person perceives it.

“But if you start feeling guilty when the reality is that you had not made the commitment the other person implicitly expected, your guilt will trigger anger, depression, etc. in both yourself and in the other person and make it worse,” Dr. Reiss said. “Work through your own guilt as much as possible before, during and after the break-up.”

You can attempt to be as supportive as possible during the break up, but some people do not want help and support because they feel rejected.

“They may not be capable of ‘working through’ a relationship ending in an effective way, and mature ‘closure’ may be impossible. Be kind, but not overbearing, and realize that once you are ending the relationship, your kindness may not be welcome anymore, and that’s ok,” he said. “Don’t take it as a personal attack. If you come across as hurt or angry because your attempts to ‘let them down easily’ aren’t working, that only makes the situation worse.  Acknowledge that how the other person reacts, and their ability to maintain even a superficial or polite relationship after a perceived rejection, may be inherently limited and beyond your control. Do try to be compassionate, but be ready to have that compassion rejected without taking it personally.”