Helping Your Loved One to be Independent
If you live with someone who has bipolar disorder, then you probably already know the difficulties and challenges of distinguishing between being a supporter and being a partner. Both positions are hard to be in, but even harder unless you have balance between the two.
You may have unconsciously caused your loved one to be overly-dependent upon you by enabling them instead of just supporting them. Enabling is when you do things for them that they can do for themselves.
Now, I am NOT saying that you did this on purpose, or meant any harm by it. It happens more often than you can imagine to supporters of loved ones with bipolar disorder.
However, now that you know what it is, you need to stop enabling your loved one so that they can become independent. If they don't, it will be that much more difficult for them to find stability.
Don't allow bipolar disorder to be the foundation of your relationship, either. You are still partners despite the disorder, and need to keep it from defining your relationship (and yourselves). If you can do this, you will create the grounds for a loving and stable future together.
You can't be all things to all people all the time, either. So make sure that, although you are a supporter to a loved one with bipolar disorder, you also take good care of yourself as well. Make sure you take "breaks" and that you are getting your own needs met.
Don't be a "rescuer." Don't try to fix everything – your situation, your relationship, your loved one, the bipolar disorder, etc. That isn't your role, and will not help your loved one to be more independent. You need to establish limits on what help you can give and what you can't give.
Be proactive. Be a "bipolar fortune teller," and look into the future and try to anticipate problems before they become so big that you can't handle them.
For example, if you are watching your loved one closely, you can see ahead of time when they show symptoms of a bipolar episode in the making. Then you can bring it to their attention early enough that they can take responsibility for getting help, instead of you doing it for them.
You need to be equal partners in your relationship. You want to be supportive, but your loved one has to do their share of the work as well. You have a relationship outside of the bipolar disorder, and you must tend to that as well – together.
If you are doing more than your share in this relationship and as things apply to your loved one's disorder, you may experience "supporter burnout," and not be able to be a supporter at all.
The idea is to get your loved one as independent as possible, so they can achieve stability that much quicker, while staying emotionally healthy yourself, as well as preserving your relationship.