*Throughout the article, reference is made to 'he' or 'she' when talking about a person who is bipolar. It can be either, and using one term or the other is merely for the sake of convenience. These suggestions are meant for anyone, male or female, who is suffering from bipolar and his (or her) family and friends.

If you are considering marrying someone who has bipolar disorder, first and most important, obviously, understands the disease itself. If you have only recently found out that your partner is bipolar, you need to educate yourself thoroughly. You should also probably hold off on marriage until you have been through at least one episode with him. (Throughout this article, I'm speaking as though a woman is considering marrying a man with bipolar disorder because I've had this conversation with a young woman considering marrying my bipolar brother. It could just as easily be a man considering marrying a woman, so 'he' or 'him' is interchangeable with 'she' or 'her.')

I say this not to discourage you, but in order to be honest. There is no way to understand bipolar mood swings until you've experienced being around them, and if you haven't yet done so, you don't really know him well enough yet, because it will be an essential ingredient of your relationship for many years to come.

If you have experienced episodes and are familiar with his medications, you are on the right track. If you aren't familiar with his medications, you need to learn about them. Ask questions, find out what he is taking and go with him to a doctor's appointment with a list of questions. Know who his therapist is and how to get in touch with him or her so that if the need arises you can reach the doctor in an emergency.

Here are some things you should know about your spouse if he is bipolar:

¢ What medications he takes and how often ¢ Where he keeps his medications ¢ How his medications react with alcohol. This is essential - in some cases, your spouse will not be able to drink alcohol because of the medications he is taking. ¢ How often his episodes usually cycle (Does he go months between episodes? Years? Weeks?) ¢ Who is his doctor and how can you contact him or her? ¢ Who is his therapist and how can you contact him or her? ¢ Has he been in a psychiatric in-treatment, and if he needs to in the future, does he want to use the same one?

Future treatment options should also be discussed. The best case scenario is always to be hoped for, and may happen, in which case current medications may work well into the future. But you should always hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

Discuss how both of you feel about clinical trials for new medications, experimental treatment options, and treatments that are considered controversial, such as electro-convulsive shock therapy. Research these together and determine where you stand. Perhaps you will never need to turn to them, but if you do, there will be no unpleasant disagreements just when you need to be united late in the game!

Understanding your spouse's medications is a must because they are an essential part of his daily routine in order for him to function normally on a day to day basis. Make sure you have a complete picture of how the interact, what they are and how they work so that you will be prepared in the event of an emergency so that you can help him if it becomes necessary, and you are aware of what is involved with his daily routine when he is doing well.