People who assume a couple's lives change drastically just because they find out that one of them has bipolar disorder are not always necessarily right.  It might only take a few life changes to make their lives more adaptable to the disorder.

 

Speaking to supporters who are married (or have been in this relationship for a long time), you should already have a foundation to your marriage that was not built on any kind of physical and/or mental condition meant to derail that.

 

You should have skills already in your "marital toolbox" that have carried you through problems before (some more serious than this), and should be able to carry you through this as well.

 

Here are some suggestions for you that may carry through this change, whether you are married or not; especially if your loved one is newly diagnosed:

 

1.      Acknowledge your needs:

If you devote your time, attention, and affection solely to your loved one's needs to the exclusion of your own, you will find yourself burning out or, at worst, resenting your loved one.  You must not only acknowledge your own needs, but you must see that they are met.  Take care of yourself, so that you are able to take care of your loved one.

 

2.      Accept your loved one's bipolar disorder:

If your loved one is newly diagnosed, then you must accept this diagnosis before you can go any further.  They may be in denial that they have an illness, but you cannot be, if you are to help them manage their disorder – if you are going to be a good supporter, which is what you want to be.

 

3.      Adapt to this new change:

Your loved one is NOT their disorder.  They may seem different when they are in an episode, however.  So you need to adapt to their differing moods.  Most importantly, however, you need to learn to separate your loved one from their disorder.  There will be times when they will say or do things that are not "them."  This is their bipolar disorder talking, and not they themselves.  You need to adapt to this change.

 

4.      Respect your loved one:

Your loved one is struggling enough with their bipolar disorder to lose your respect right now.  Self-esteem may be an issue with them.  Your praise may be important to them.  Show your respect to them, without overdoing it, or they will see through that.  They may also be receiving stigma from other people for having a mental illness, so they may need your respect even more during this time.  Respect them for who they are, not who they were or what they had accomplished before they were diagnosed with bipolar disorder.


 

5.      Love them unconditionally:

No matter what, love them.  Not just when times are good, but when times are bad, too.  Love them unconditionally.  When all else is said and done, love is the best medicine of all.  Your loved one's struggle is a difficult one, filled with mood swings, medication, doctors, psychiatrists, therapists, support groups, and a world turned upside down with a disorder that they may or may not understand themselves.  They need your love now more than ever, and they need to know that they can count on you.