*Throughout the article, reference is made to "he" or "she" when talking about a person who has 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.

Ask anyone who is married to someone who suffers from bipolar disorder, and you will be told that it can be long, difficult journey. Some will tell you that it will be the most arduous task you will ever undertake, others will tell you that it is well worth the extra complications if you truly love your partner. It all comes down to a sense of commitment - are you ready to commit to the inevitable bad times as well as the good times?

In the United States most marriage vows, particularly those associated with many religious groups, state that you are to stay with someone "for better or worse, in sickness and in health." If you keep in mind that bipolar disorder is an illness, it should make it somewhat easier to understand what is expected of you.

However, bipolar isn't sickness in the traditional sense of the word. You will not nurse this person back to health and watch them suffer without damage to your own mental health. Any time you are taking care of someone who is sick you suffer as well - fatigue, sorrow because you hate to see them sick or in pain, stress, etc.

But bipolar causes a very different form of suffering for a spouse. There is the addition stress of worrying that their partner could injure themselves or someone else when depressed, of not knowing when an episode (whether manic or depressive) may hit, of having to balance trust with the need to monitor some activities for safety of family finances and health.

Those suffering from bipolar disorder can also say and do very hurtful things that will seem like a personal attack - something you don't experience with a traditional illness. This may be the most difficult aspect to handle, and you must come to understand and be able to separate the behavior of the disease from the person you love.

If you believe you are up to all of this, please remember the most important thing of all - the person you love is still there, still loving you, and will always regret the painful things he or she says and does during an episode. Fortunately, with proper medication and counseling, episodes can be few and far between.

In fact, if you know your spouse has bipolar you have already won half the battle. Many people are married to someone for years without knowing that their "for better or for worse" half is suffering bipolar disorder and so they don't understand what is causing the incredible mood swings. They try for years to fix a problem they can't possibly correct without medical intervention. If you know already that bipolar is part of the equation, you are way ahead of the game!

The chances of a successful marriage if your partner has bipolar is directly related to how prepared you both are for the eventualities and how much you've discussed the realities of all possible situations before you walk down the aisle.

Other factors that will increase the chances of your marriage's success include the support of family and friends, a good doctor and therapist, and (if you are religious) a supportive minister or rabbi.

Remember, above all, to keep perspective. The person you love is there, even when he or she is suffering from mania or depression. Remember the things about your husband or wife that you love and realize that with the proper plans of action in place the two of you can overcome the worst obstacles.