*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.
I will never say that it's easy to date someone who suffers from bipolar disorder, of course. After all, dating is an emotional rollercoaster to begin with. Throw bipolar disorder into the mix and you've made the highs higher and the lows lower. It's not impossible, and it can be incredibly loving and rewarding, but it can also be a real challenge.
Since being bipolar means more emotional highs and lows, the potential for melt-downs and explosions is greater when dating than in a 'normal' situation. Bipolar is a disease of being emotionally 'off balance' much of the time, and many times in a romance people feel the same way, especially during the early stages.
Dating someone who has bipolar can be exhausting in the first few months of intense attachment because it will sometimes trigger an episode when the person swings abruptly from idealizing their partner to becoming very possessive and jealous. While at first this may seem charming and rather romantic, it can quickly wear on the nerves.
Signs that your partner may be going through one of these early episodes of possessive mania include:
- Showering you with expensive gifts for no reason
- Demanding a great deal of your time
- Wanting to know where you are and who you were with
- Showing jealousy of your friends, especially of the opposite sex
- Calling frequently to check on you
- Imagining that everyone else is wrong and that you are perfect
- Wanting to marry you or move in together right away
- Denigrating your friends as 'not good enough for you'
The first time this happens you may feel the urge to walk away, but weathering this storm is the often the hardest step, because it is a sign of one of the things a person with bipolar needs most - reassurance. If you are able to reassure them that your feelings for them are deep enough to last throughout what is a temporary episode, you will both be stronger for it.
Because a new relationship is emotionally charged and bipolar is an emotional illness, the two in combination usually send bipolar sufferers into a tailspin, but once they get some reassurance and counseling, they are able to settle into a new relationship that can be rewarding, loving and strong if they are with the right individual who is strong and supportive.
When you are dating someone who is suffering from bipolar and they enter a depressive episode, there is little you can do beyond reassuring them of your concern and reminding them that you care. Some things that can help include:
- Tell them you are there if they would like to talk, then wait for their cue.
- Make sure they are in contact with their therapist.
- Make sure they are taking their medication
- Remember that this will pass, and is not your fault. Depression is chemical and biological.
Mania can be a bit harder to recognize the first time you experience it in a partner and, admittedly, is a whole lot more fun before it spirals out of control. They are charming and you get flowers and romantic gestures. This is the phase where they become more talkative, more exuberant and outgoing and are genuinely the life of the partyâ€¦until they go beyond the normal and become something grotesque.
They become hyper-wired, running on little or no sleep, bouncing from one activity to the next. They talk too much, too fast. They are in overdrive at hyper-warp speed and you can't keep up - and they don't care! Your partner may take off without notice for a few days and call you from Las Vegas, an inventor's convention, or some stranger's apartment.
What do you do?
- Remain calm. This is your mantra until the storm passes. Remain calm. Remain calm. Remain calm.
- Ask if they have called their doctor; if they haven't, call the doctor yourself and report the situation.
- Find out where they are and go get them, taking their medication to them.
- Put off all discussions until the mania has passed.
- Reassure them that you care.
Guess what? For most bipolar sufferers undergoing treatment, 90% of their lives they are perfectly normal - that's right! For every day of either depression of mania, you will have nine wonderful, loving days with your partner that will be like any other romance. You will experience laughter, hugs, the occasional tear, and every other ingredient that comes with dating someone who has many facets to their personality and is full of life and intelligence.
So if you are considering dating someone who suffers from bipolar disorder, there are many things to consider. Base your decision on whether they are a good person or not. Base your decision on whether they are interesting or not. Base your decision on whether you have anything in common or not. Base your decision on whether they have a sense of humor or not. Base your decision on your own strength and courage. But don't base your decision on whether they have bipolar or not.
Date the person, not the disease.
David Oliver is the nation's leading experts on helping and supporting a loved one with bipolar disorder. You can get learn about many of David's little known, yet effective strategies to cope and deal with your loved one's bipolar by clicking here right now. View all articles by David Oliver