The term "assertiveness" has often been thought of as being pushy, rude, or aggressive in order to get your own way.  However, the term really refers to being able to express yourself and get your needs met without being pushy, rude, or aggressive.  As a supporter to a loved one with bipolar disorder, you need to be assertive with your loved one.

 

Remembering that being assertive means without pushiness, rudeness, or aggression, you might want to consider how you talk to your loved one.  Are you polite and respectful, just as you would be with anyone else?

 

Do you say things to your loved one in a way that does not make them feel attacked or defensive?

 

Signs of this would be if you use a lot of "You" sentences, such as "You make me feel angry," rather than, "When you do [whatever], I feel angry" (or state the feeling first).

 

Another sign of aggression rather than assertion is if you generalize when you're talking to your loved one.  An easy way to recognize this is if you find yourself using the words "always" and "never." 

 

For example, if you start sentences with, "You always…" or "You never…" you can pretty much be assured that you have crossed the line beyond being just assertive.

 

Being assertive means respecting your loved one's needs while still getting your own needs met.  If you are seeing to your loved one's needs and ignoring your own, there can be consequences, such as stress, anxiety, insomnia, negative feelings, bad thoughts, and even supporter burnout.  You need to remember to take care of your needs.

 

For example, if you do not feel that you are receiving enough affection, you could tell your loved one about it.

 

The negative way would be to say something like, "You never give me enough affection." 

 

While the positive way would be to say something like, "I would love it if you would give me more affection," or "When you say I love you [or, put your arms around me], it makes me feel good."

 

The second way is better, because you are being assertive instead of aggressive.  You are asking for your own needs to be met, but you are not doing it in a threatening manner or making your loved one feel defensive or angry.

 

Good communication is very important in a bipolar relationship.  Being assertive instead of aggressive in your manner of speaking is a part of that.  Try to treat your loved one as you would anyone else.