The shifts in mood associated with bipolar disorder can cause extreme changes in behavior. During manic episodes, a person with bipolar disorder can have an unusual amount of energy and may not be able to sleep. When experiencing depressive episodes, a person with bipolar disorder can seem tired and sad. They may not want to go out or do things.
These major shifts in mood can make communicating and socializing difficult. While the symptoms of bipolar disorder can be managed with medication and psychotherapy, they can still take a toll on relationships, perhaps especially romantic ones.
Read on to learn ways to manage a romantic relationship, whether you or your partner have bipolar disorder.
If you have bipolar disorder, you may already be familiar with the impact your condition can have on a romantic relationship. You may feel nervous about starting a new relationship and finding the “right” time to tell your partner you have bipolar disorder.
These concerns are understandable, but it’s important to keep in mind that you can have a healthy romantic relationship. For the best chance of success in a new relationship, be sure to communicate openly and follow your treatment plan.
What you can do
- Tell your partner about your disorder. Do this before you make a long-term commitment to that person. Describe what they can expect when you’re experiencing a mood shift. It’s also helpful to tell them what you usually do to manage your moods. This way, your partner won’t be surprised when you experience a mood episode. They may even be able to help you get through it.
- Stick with your treatment plan. Perhaps the best way to reduce relationship stress is to follow your treatment plan. This can help minimize your symptoms and reduce the severity of your shifts in mood. Discuss your treatment plan with your partner so they can help you keep on track.
- Keep an open line of communication. Tell your partner when you feel a mood shift occurring so they’re not alarmed by a sudden change in your demeanor. Also, be open to them when they tell you that they notice that your mood is “different.” Many times, others can see changes in our mood when we cannot.
- Be honest. If you’re having a severe episode and struggling with your symptoms, don’t hesitate to notify your partner and ask for help when you need it. For example, if you’re experiencing a depressive episode and don’t feel like leaving the house, explain this to your partner instead of making an excuse to stay home.
Dating someone with bipolar disorder can be challenging, because you can’t control when your partner experiences a mood shift. To help your relationship succeed, focus on communication, support your partner’s treatment plan, and don’t forget to take care of yourself.
What you can do
- Educate yourself. This is the first thing you should do when you start a relationship with someone who has bipolar disorder. Read about the condition so you understand what your partner is dealing with — and what you’ll be dealing with.
- Ask about their experience. Ask your partner how they act during shifts in mood and what they do to manage their moods. It’s also beneficial to ask them what you can do, if anything, to help them during these episodes.
- Try to be patient. It can be frustrating if your partner’s mood shifts interfere with your dating plans. When times get tough, take a deep breath and remember it’s the condition — not your partner — that’s causing your frustration. Take a break if you need one, whether that’s taking a walk around the block or spending a weekend away from your partner.
- Be open. It’s important to communicate openly with your partner. Tell them how you feel, but never blame them for their disorder.
- Support their care. Your partner’s best chance for managing their condition lies in following their treatment plan. You can show your support for them by helping them stick with the treatment plan created by their doctor.
- Get support when you need it. Sometimes, you may need some help coping with your partner’s condition and the effect it’s having on your relationship. Make sure you have your own support system of friends, loved ones, and counselors who can provide advice and encouragement when you need it.
While taking these steps can benefit your relationship, bipolar disorder may still occasionally cause strain in a relationship — even if both of you know what to expect. That’s not unusual. But keep in mind that whether you have bipolar disorder or are dating someone with the condition, it’s possible to establish and maintain a healthy and fulfilling relationship.
Keys to success include maintaining an open line of communication, making sure the person with bipolar disorder follows their treatment plan, and getting support when you need it.