Establishing Boundaries

Every relationship has its problems, no matter how perfect it seems to be.

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A large part of relationships when one partner has bipolar disorder is distinguishing when a problem is a normal problem, or when it stems from something related to bipolar disorder.

You don’t have to sit down with a lawyer like you’re going through a prenuptial agreement, but you should set aside some time to make an agreement over things related to your bipolar disorder.

“Absolutely we are looking to come to an agreement and some ground rules,” Dr. Brodsky said. “Whether the contract is written or not is the least important issue.”

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Some of these guidelines include guidelines for when a partner needs to intervene on potentially destructive behavior, and what a partner can do to enforce the contract, Dr. Brodsky said.

If you’re well in tune with your disorder and can feel the shift from mania to depression or vice versa coming, tell your partner. That’s when it’s important to stick to your contract.

Say, for instance, you have an argument over whose turn it is to do the dishes. That’s a normal problem. Natasha Tracy, like many other people with bipolar disorder, learned to distinguish what is a normal relationship problem, what is a serious problem, and when she’s being blamed for something. She’s learned when people use her illness as an excuse, and then it’s off to the curb with them.

“People will blame your bipolar disorder for their bad behavior. While with other illnesses it is much less acceptable to leave someone for, say, cancer, but it’s perfectly okay in some people’s minds to leave someone because of a mental illness,” she said. “And, for some, it’s perfectly okay to treat someone badly because of a mental illness too. And it’s also okay to blame every behavior you don’t like on your partner’s mental illness. What I wish I knew is that even though I never use my illness as an excuse, other people will.”