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When Do I Tell My Boyfriend/Girlfriend I Have Bipolar Disorder?

Recently a commenter asked how to tell her boyfriend about her bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, this commenter had negative past experiences in dealing with her bipolar disorder in relationships. In fact, people had broken up with her because of her disorder. A scene that is far too common in mental illness.

So, when is the right time to tell the person you’re dating you have bipolar disorder?

Disclosing Bipolar Disorder

Unfortunately, many of us have had similar negative experiences. People find out about the bipolar disorder, or an aspect of the disorder, and just flat out leave. This has the nasty consequence of making us feel very bad about ourselves and it makes it really difficult to tell others in the future for fear of abandonment.

But that doesn’t make the need for disclosure, or the bipolar, go away.

42-15495679When to Tell the Person You’re Dating about Bipolar Disorder

You have three choices: now, later and never.

  • Now – this is, well, now, and most of us don’t like now and would like to avoid choosing now as often as possible.  Now runs the risk of the person leaving you before they even get to know you.
  • Later – this sounds good, at least at first blush. At least it isn’t now. But unfortunately later quickly turns into later still and can even move into never territory. And the later it gets the more attached you are to the person you’re dating and the worse it will feel if they choose to leave you after you disclose.
  • Never – this was actually suggested to the commenter. I think never is ridiculous. To suggest the person you’re dating won’t notice you have pill bottles in your bathroom, doctor’s appointments and bipolar websites bookmarked is fairly ridiculous; not to mention the fact that building a relationship on deceit isn’t beneficial for you or the person you’re dating. As bad as it feels to be abandoned because of an illness, it would also feel bad for your partner to have been lied to repeatedly.

When I Tell Someone I Have Bipolar Disorder

I tell them pretty much as soon as it naturally flows into the conversation. This might be the second date or the third, but it’s put up front because honestly, I can’t afford to have people I’m attached to leave – it just hurts too much. If a person is so weak they would leave a person over an illness, well, that’s something I’d like to know up front because they obviously aren’t the person for me.

I think there are two keys:

  1. Don’t make it seem like the end of the world otherwise they certainly will
  2. Be prepared for ignorance and step up to educate

mp9003877521As I said, I mention my bipolar conversationally. It’s not a deep, dark secret. It’s not a dead body buried in the back yard. It’s just a thing about me. It’s just like the fact that I have no depth perception – it’s not the end of the known universe. It’s a hurdle, but then, without depth perception so is parking, and I seem to manage that just fine.

People won’t know about bipolar disorder. That’s OK. That’s to be expected. Remember, when you were first diagnosed you were scared and ignorant too. It takes time to get over that. And you, as the person who understands, need to step up and help the other person learn. This takes time. Bipolar isn’t a small thing. You didn’t understand it overnight and neither will they.

It Doesn’t Always Work

But no matter what you do or how you do it, some people are never going to react well to learning you have bipolar disorder. But understand, this is about them and not about you. Some people would run from a person with epilepsy too. That’s not the epileptic’s fault, it’s the runner’s.

So be prepared for rejection. Tell the person early so the rejection won’t hurt as much. And remember, there are better people out there for you than those who would run from a person with an illness. They aren’t good enough for you anyway.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar Burble, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

24 thoughts on “When Do I Tell My Boyfriend/Girlfriend I Have Bipolar Disorder?”

  1. I just met this beautiful girl on a dating site because where I live it’s a very small town and all of the girls that I want are taken. Not only that, but I am disabled because I have Bipolar II Disorder. Now physical everyone who ever met me or knows me, more so female says I look like a model and I exercise 6 days a week for 2 hours each day. But that’s not the problem. My disability is internal as my psychologist put it, not external.
    We started chatting online with each other for two days now and within the next week I am going to ask her if she wants to start talking over the phone. Not to long after that I am going to ask her to see if she wants to meet in person for like a coffee or something.
    I became stable and am on medication and functioning quite well, much better than what I was. Otherwise I wouldn’t even considered putting myself out there looking for my future soul mate.

    Here’s the problem, when should I tell her that I have Bipolar II Disorder and am on disability (CA. disabled)? As I was saying, we’ve only been talking for about 3 days now. On one hand I figure I should now because I don’t want to waster her time. But on the other hand, I figure until our first date in person which could be 2 weeks from now?


  2. I never used to have a problem just blabbing it out to everyone. But in the past few years, men have had an issue with it before they get to know me. I think it’s because the internet has spread the stigma.

  3. I told my ex soon and he romanticized it I should of took that as a clue. He didn’t try and understand and when I said let’s make a plan for my moods he agreed but we never did it was 3 months barely
    I can’t do a relationship till I’m stable and ok AND till I find someone who is grown understanding and willing to work with and support me and understand me I’m only 19 so I have time
    I really need to fix my abandonment issues first though
    I’ve held onto my ex for a few months after and we finally stopped talking today and I feel like my world is ending but I’m ok and need to get better before I let anyone new seriously into my life

  4. For me its been hard finding someone who would understand. I ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and i suffer from anxiety. Having hard time to connect with people i am always in an awkward mode. Its hard for me to function, and i dont know what would reaction be u=if i said i am bipolar.

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