Should People With Bipolar Be In Relationships?
I’ve been writing about bipolar disorder and mental illness for 11 years. Eleven years. It’s been a long road.
And during that time I have heard a lot of people say a lot of horrible things about people with bipolar disorder. In no particular order, people have accused people with bipolar disorder of being: violent, manipulative, self-centered, selfish, abusive and many other negative things.
Certainly, if I bumped into a person with those characteristics, I wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with him or her. However, are people with bipolar really like that? Should people with bipolar disorder be in relationships? (I'm Bipolar: Will Anyone Ever Love Me?)
What Are People With Bipolar Disorder not Like in Relationships?
I, in no way, buy the nonsense that people spout against people with bipolar disorder. I, personally, am not manipulative, self-centered, selfish or abusive, and I strongly suspect I’m not the only one. Nowhere in that list of accusations is an actual symptom of bipolar disorder. While, I admit, anger does seem to be more prevalent in people with bipolar disorder, outside of that, none of those insults have been shown to be true.
There may be many things about a person with bipolar disorder that are different from your average bear, but all that crap isn’t part of it.
What Are People With Bipolar Like in Relationships?
Well, we’re people with an illness. So we’re people, plus the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Primarily, this means that we’re people with bouts of depression and hypo/mania. Of course, we might also be euthymic (symptom-free) for long periods of time too.
So, I would say, people with bipolar disorder, are just people with mood issues. If I were to characterize myself, I would say I’m just a person, who often manifests depression (rarely hypomania).
However, what I think is really important to remember is that who we are, is not the disease. The disease lies atop of us like a blanket. If you’re in a relationship with one of us, you need to know and see that.
Relationships With People With Bipolar Disorder
Some people would argue people with bipolar disorder are so broken, they shouldn’t be in relationships. Some people would argue that we can’t have a positive impact on another person because of the disease. Some people would argue that the disease is such a defining factor that it, and it alone, should prevent someone in being in a relationship.
This, of course, is nonsense. I know people with bipolar disorder in relationships. I know people with bipolar disorder in long-term relationships. Are there challenges thanks to the disease? I have no doubt. I have no doubt that any disease would stand in the way of parts of a relationship. I also have no doubt that people can work through those roadblocks.
Did we forget? No one is perfect.
And excuse me, but all those people who say that we shouldn’t be in relationships – are they perfect? Do they bring no problems to a relationship? (It seems to me, that, if nothing else, their hateful close-mindedness would be somewhat of an issue.) Because they would be the first people ever.
So while I, personally, often feel very broken and worry about my influence on others in my personal life, that doesn’t mean that people with bipolar, en masse, should not be in relationships. We’re all different. Relationships are right for some of us and not right for others. Just like everyone else.
I think it’s easy to feel such disease-hatred that it morphs into self-hatred and makes us believe that we’re not relationship-worthy. But that is a logical fallacy. We’re worth everything that anyone else is worth. Are there issues with the illness? Yes, of course there are. Are they insurmountable? No, of course they’re not. We succeed and fail in relationships. Just like everyone else.
Tracy, N. (2014, February 11). Should People With Bipolar Be In Relationships?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, January 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2014/02/should-people-bipolar-relationships
Author: Natasha Tracy
Certainly, I wouldn't argue with you with regards to your experience. Perhaps this person is exactly as you say.
That said, that is only _one_ person. There are millions of people with bipolar disorder and we certainly aren't all the same. You mention that without treatment we are narcissistic and sociopathic. Well, if that were true, those types of traits would be diagnostically relevant and they're not. Those traits are relevant to narcissistic personality disorder and sociopathic personality disorder. Of course, a person can fall into more than one diagnosis, but bipolar itself, does not have those traits.
Yes, certainly untreated bipolar disorder can be destructive, but I think it's important to know what is part of bipolar disorder and what is not.
- Natasha Tracy
In all seriousness, it feels like I'm holding the whole world up. My mind goes 100miles a minute and I lose track of stuff that I did to someone because it is too painful for me to remember so I block it out. I hate Bipolar for hurting my friends and family, it was only until I had messed up every meaningful relationship I ever had up that I finally got help. Medicated Bipolar is okay... I am now in the driver's seat to my emotions, you see a lot of people don't realize that when I hurt someone I hurt myself because I feel empathy so badly, so I'm hurting myself and there is LITERALLY NOTHING I can do about it. PFFT, being accountable and caring, I am accountable and I care too much, I wish you could feel any feeling so powerful that it takes over your body and makes you a puppet, slave to your own ID all the while you are watching and can do nothing about it.
I know that being unmedicated can destroy a life. Many people have been through that experience. You are not alone in that.
What you might want to do is seek out a bipolar support group. People there will understand what you have been through and you can build meaningful relationships there. Try searching for NAMI or the DBSA on Google. Also, there are many online support groups that might be a good place to start as well.
I think the most important thing is to be really honest with those you form new relationships with. If you're honest with yourself and them, things can get better.
You might also want to look into therapy. The most you know about yourself, the more successful you're likely to be in relationships.
While you have made mistakes, you should realize that we all have. Yes, a person who knows you as you are today could love you. Most of us strive to be better people (mental illness or no) and that's all you're doing -- striving.
- Natasha Tracy
After that horrible, horrible experience Im trying to slowly build up my life. Im taking medications for both depression and for stabilizing my mood.
As for the relationship part, I have a boyfriend who is amazing to me, even at my lowest. Im afraid although he says he is fine he is not. I have accused him before, for beeing a criminal, and 5 minutes after explained myself and cried Im sorry. I hate my illness sometimes, I don’t wish it on my worst enemy.
What you're saying is not accurate.
It's true that children are affected by their parents -- obviously. But cyclothymia is not a result of that. Cyclothymia is actually a type of bipolar disorder. Moreover, while bipolar is partially genetic, science cannot yet pinpoint the genes that cause it and thus have no way of knowing when the genes are or are not present.
Having a person with bipolar as a parent certainly could be traumatic, but it doesn't have to be.
You can read about cyclothymia here: https://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-types/what-is-cyclothymia-cyclothymic-disorder-definition-symptoms-treatment
You can read about the causes of bipolar here: https://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-information/causes-of-bipolar-disorder-what-causes-bipolar-disorder
First, allow me to say that I'm not categorically opposed to people with a BP diagnosis entering into relationships with informed partners who know what they’re getting into. Patience, understanding, therapy, medication and love can, in many cases, yield healthy, productive relationships regardless of underlying diagnoses in one or more individual. I speak from experience.
That said, the author has done a tremendous job of burying her head in the sand when it comes to the real effects bipolar disorder can have on those who love its sufferers. She hand-waves away the chaos, bewilderment, cruelty and frustration that can overtake a household with bipolar. It’s one thing to acknowledge that these are symptoms of a disease, and that the carrier is likely in great emotional pain to. But to those who have experienced great psychic (and sometimes physical) injury themselves at the hands of an unstable bipolar, to blithely dismiss the authors of that suffering as merely “people with mood issues” is insulting in its diminishment of their victims’ pain.
There is societal stigma against the mentally ill, and some of that is certainly unfair. However, it is equally unfair to demonize as “hateful” all those cautionary warning coming from honest people with tales to tell. As I wrote above, I don’t endorse the clearly embittered views of those who would write off all bipolar individuals as evil monsters incapable of love. But there has to be room to observe that loving and living with a bipolar person brings with it a unique set of difficulties, and that those contemplating entering such a relationship deserve some education as to its pitfalls. Natasha, it seems, takes the overcorrective view that any such trepidation must be the product of unwarranted prejudice. Does she realize how close she is treading on victim-blaming territory? I’m sure the last thing she meant to do was excuse or enable abuse, but one could easily come away from this reading with the dangerous perspective that BP is little more than a cosmetic condition and that to reject a relationship with someone because of the disease is morally equivalent to racism. Natasha, I know you’re not trying to gaslight anyone, but I’m afraid that might be precisely the result if we take your sugarcoated sentiments to their logical conclusion.
Mental illness is not like other disease; my partner’s diabetes or asthma will never turn on me the way bipolar can. And while unwarranted generalizations are, well, unwarranted, it’s not uncalled for to share testimonials when they are in fact illustrative of the dark side of the condition. I can look back on past relationships and acknowledge them without attaching negative moral terms like “evil” or “selfish.” But I won’t shy away from applying honest, neutral, objective observations, not because I still feel the need to get back at anyone from the past, but because I believe truth must always triumph over magical thinking.
Our most important tool, however, is our contract where we have outlined our boundaries and consequences. It's a fluid contract as either one of us can call for a review to add or remove aspects. It also covers our agreement to monitor ourselves and each other to ensure continued treatment.
And a subtle, but no less important tool is space. When one of us needs/wants space, we give it no questions asked and with the understanding that, unless outright told, the request is not personal. This is where the "less effort" aspect comes into play. Any destructive or prolonged behaviors are of course addressed, but we don't try to fix each other's mood. If I'm in a manic, grumpy mood (and safe at home) he doesn't try to cheer me up. If he's anxious and irritable, but not in a full attack, I won't try to talk him through it. When his PTSD has him yelling mission directions and a slew of interesting insults at me, I box my emotions and stay with his roller coaster until it comes to a complete stop. When I'm accusing him of not helping around the house and calling him lazy while I'm on day 2 of maniacally cleaning the place, he knows I'm full of shit and he knows I know it too. When I get to the end he simply asks, "feel better?" We're a team, but we only got that way by making mental health treatment a priority.
If your partner refuses treatment and personal accountability, they are not your partner. Not truly. There's a line between collateral damage and outright abuse. You have every right and should set a limit on how much collateral you'll accept. Unfortunately, it will happen. We're still human and have only so much control even with medication and therapy. There should still be effort to at least minimize the radius and extent. If not, it should be a red flag.
And here's the important part: NEVER, NEVER, NEVER EVER put up with abuse. There is no excuse and if they use their bipolar as one, get out of that as quickly and safely as you can.
I'm married and miserably living on the roller coaster for last 12 years. I feel your pain and you are absolutely right in your comments. It's very hard if the spouse is not willing to seek medical help...
I thought I was the ONLY one that was going through a relationship with a BP person like that! I know exactly how you feel. I've been with her for the past 6 years, the first 3-4 years were great! Absolutely fell in love with her.. Year 5-6 got shaky with her "I hate everything and anything, life and everybody sucks", mood swinging the world owes me attitude. And that was a 'good day'.. Then early this past January there was a death in her family. I was unbelievably patient, understanding and supportive (Like I would be for anyone that I care for) and she tore me apart! She was going out-of-her-way to be mean to me.. And just me! The person that was there for her the most - She would be mean to the most. Every LITTLE thing I did or didn't do.. She would lose it on me. Until I finally said "WTF!?" and SHE told ME to leave.. Haven't seen her and have been trying to make sense of it all since. I love and care for her but I knew our relationship was going to make it.. I just wonder when she went from loving to hating the person that was the best to her. Anyway, I feel your pain and if you ('Hurt') ever read this? Know, you are not the only one. Just keep on keepin' on.. That's what I tell myself anyway..
It's sad to see shallow people pass judgements and stigmatizing people with an illness. If properly managed with medications, bipolar people are very functional and normal.
I do not judge anyone for having BP. However, I DO judge the individuals that have BP and don't take the necessary medical and personal steps to have some sense of stability in their lives and their relationships (partners, family members, co-workers, peers, etc.). I also judge BP individuals that refuse to acknowledge their harmful behavior, disrespect, emotional abuse and absence.
"Road blocks"? What "road blocks"? Do you mean sinkholes? I have been in a relationship with my BP boyfriend for over four years and from 2016 to present, our relationship has been pushed to the max. This year has turned my life upside down. All relationships are tough but BP relationships are tough when you aren't emotionally prepared or educated, for it.
I have spent countless sleepless and tearful nights trying to figure out the person I've been living with for years, with no success. I'll speak for myself, there is no pleasing my BP BF. He'll want me to communicate with him more, but when I do, it's too much for him. He wants to be trusted, but when he's amidst an episode, he will look you in the face and tell you the sky is neon green. He wants me to be "more caring" but when I do, he wants to figure it out himself. When he's manic, he can be selfish and self-centered. Basically, everything is OUR relationship is determined by HIS current episode.
So what about us! Does anyone with BP know how much it hurts us to love you when you're on an emotional rollercoaster? Do you even care when you tear us down, leave us emotionally broken as we watch you make a new home on the couch depressed and lifeless or as you curse us and leave for hours or days at a time? Do you even care that you push the very people that care for you away and then get upset because you have lost many friends and careers along the way? What about your behavior? What if I did to you what you did to me? What if I spewed hate, did malicious things to make you walk on egg shells, make everything your fault and leave without a care in the world? Do you even realize the emotional murders you commit?
It's been over four years and I've been as supportive, in all ways, as I can be. But at some point, you can't sugar coat it and you have to acknowledge the severity of many of these relationships. It's emotionally and financially draining and it's up to the person to seek help and as the partner, don't trust their words, trust their actions. I love the man I fell in love with four years ago but at some point, he has to acknowledge the chaos he caused and work towards stability. I would love to continue the relationship, but at this point, I don't think that's possible anymore. If he were to work towards stability, I wouldn't even be writing this. I'd be lying right next to him feeling like the luckiest woman alive. Instead, I'm wondering where the heck he was last night, who he was with, what he was doing and if he's even alive...
Potential partners: If you aren't in too deep, leave... Or prepare to leave. If you continue to have a relationship with someone with BP do so only if they care about themselves (work with a physician, take medication and/or seek some type of counseling). Be prepared to become estranged with close friends and family members. Be prepared for the social embarrassment of being at rock bottom crying to loved one day and then feeling ashamed when your loved one see you happy with them another. Be prepared for disappointments and be prepared for the guilt they will make you feel and the guilt you will feel. Be prepared to lose your self esteem and find YOURSELF seeking counseling and/or antidepressants. Be prepared to lose yourself...
[moderated] You see it is likely that your bf was misdiagnosed as you described Donald Trump leading me to believe he cant have Bi polar. The number one most misdiagnosed illness is bi polar being diagnosed when it is borderline so spouting off at people that may be suicidal over their illness which is not always controllable with meds Lithium for instance is only effective in 33% of cases at controlling depression symptoms so the majority remain suicidal but more calm about it. It also causes renal necrosis and leads to cardiovascular damage and obesity. The drugs are crude tools that have a margin of efficacy and it is a terminal illness that has nothing to do with character or values. [moderated]
Let me start by saying that I don't think most of these comments reflect how everyone thinks about this, so if you have bi polar disorder or if you are with someone who has, then don't take all this to heart. It's mostly people venting their spleen because they have suffered in some way and all these comments about people with bi polar being 'selfish/self-centred/heartless' are being made by people who don't exactly sound like mother f***king theresa themselves. I have the disorder and I am fortunate, that having fought with it for many years I have one many significant battles, enough to be consistently praised for the good works and inspiration I bring to others. So all this talk of people with Bi polar being some sort of demonic entity is total bull***t.
Secondly, people with bi-polar dont 'destroy lives'. I have served with one of the toughest military units in the world, I can tell you that 'destroyed lives' is a massive overstatement. All very strong and colourful language from people who go to the supermarket and back at most, for most of their lives no doubt. There will be exceptions, I'm just saying.
Thirdly, character and mood disorder is not the same thing. So if you have been with someone who is actually a very nasty and deliberate a**hole who hasnt learned to show consideration or actually delights in your misery, then that is a character issue. It may even be an indicator of ASPD (sociopathy) or psychopathy or extreme narcissism. The one unifying factor in the majority of these disorders is damage and emotional trauma. SO adding to it with your ignorance is not helping is it! Some of you need to grow up. As for those who have lived with and supported those with the disorder, I take my hat off to you, I respect you for your loyalty and your love. The world needs more people like you, full stop (or 'period' as the americans would say). Dont let your experiences shut down your compassion or cause you to become cynical. You are worth more than that and so are the people you love. Anger and prejudice is for the fearful and the frustrated, tough people get to work and they love with strength of heart.
I never knew there was so much stigma and prejudice associated with the condition I have. It's very upsetting, just as a human being, that right when you think maybe people know more about it (so your chances of having loving relationships and winning against the illness are a lot higher) the rest of the world is busy turning their back on you and generally being totally un-compassionate. For modern civilised society this is supremely defeatist and out of order.
I have fought with this for most of my life and I continue to win the battle every day. Some of you dont know the meaning of struggle, you just dont like to be uncomfortable.
For example: As a man, I have been with plenty of women who are at the mercy of their hormones or havent learned to cope with them properly. Having bi polar can be a lot like that. So if youre a woman, maybe you just need to look in the mirror and suck up your own medicine. Hypocrites. ( not ALL women..before you go getting all your knickers in a twist, its just an example, a way of looking at the illness, clearly they are not one and the same totally)
I think some of these comments are disgraceful.. the "I/we have no sympathy" comment is not made by a happy healthy person and should be viewed as such. In fact I bet a lot of the people who commented here only commented at a time of particular difficulty and maybe many of them went on to feel very differently.
Being a human being isnt easy. For anyone. But hatred and ignorance are not the answer.
Some of the greatest human beings to have contributed to the species have been bi polar, many of the greatest psychiatrist and psychologists, who heal people, save lives and promote understanding in the world socially are bi polar. Dont let any of the awful people in this comments section fool you. They aren't right, they aren't 'everyone', they are just bitter and loud.
Finally let me say this, I believe that its all about finding ways through, it's about finding a way to have your super powers (as my autistic friend puts it) work for you and with you, instead of against you. Its about focusing on what works and just mitigating for what doesn't. Yes you've spent many years locked in your own head, isolating yourself and trying to 'fix' yourself or 'going to war' with it ( as I used to say), but the ACTUAL reality is that you CAN and WILL have loving relationships, including ones which last, as you continue to grow and understand yourself, like anyone can hope to expect from a life worth living.
Stay in the ring, fight to win.
Love many, trust few, always paddle your own canoe.
Love conquers all.
I never saw the manic side of his illness, he took medication to control his moods which he said suppressed his emotions. Throughout our relationship he never told me he loved me and when I brought it up, he said he was incapable. He was very much a closed book where his illness was concerned, he didn't really talk about it or how it affected his previous relationships, so I don't know if it was just me he was incapable of loving.
We always got on really well, rarely argued and were content in each others company. Although I never felt a real passion from him, sometimes I felt really alone in his company and as if sex was a matter of routine, despite him telling me he was a passionate person at the beginning of our relationship.
Anyway our troubles began when we were away from each other on separate holidays for 3 weeks. For part of the time he went to stay with his mum and only came back to pick me up from the airport. Things were fine at first then I got a text out of the blue saying he was looking for love but it just wasn't there. I was so shocked and wanted to talk to him in person. When we met he apologized said he didn't mean it and had sent such messages to family members before unintentionally. He admitted that he had stopped taking his meds and had been so happy to be back with his family that he wanted to stay there as he hates his job and flat. He asked me to give him another chance and of course I said I would.
The next few weeks were difficult, he had a depressive episode, he didn't want me to see him in a state but I insisted on seeing him. I didn't know what to do so I made him eat and take his medication and tried to be supportive. After that he went back on his meds and was given another type of medication too. He was very distant with me after this, he made me feel as though he didn't want to see me and that dates were a chore. He stopped seeing me at weekends, I thought he was finding it difficult to cope with being with people because he was depressed but he later told me it was because he was considering our relationship.
After celebrating his birthday, an occasion that was actually good and gave me hope, I received a message telling me he was going back to his mum's, leaving his job and flat and as a result ending our relationship. He put it very nicely but couldn't face me and had no real justification for leaving me. I replied but that is the last I heard from him.
I have very little experience of bipolar but tried to be understanding and feel as though I've had the love and patience I gave him thrown back in my face. I don't know whether to blame his illness or him for what has happened. It is comforting to know that I'm not the only person to have suffered by being with someone who is bipolar but it would be interesting to know if some of the things I have shared sound familiar to others? He never sought any counseling as far as I'm aware for his condition and appeared to have moved around a lot and had a few problems with drugs in the past. I don't know if he has actually has left his job and flat, I'm beginning to wonder whether he used his illness as an excuse although I saw depression for myself so I know it was real.
Takes a lot to build the tactness
Of dealing with each minute of the day
The strain to finish what i did say
Id do,to another it wouldnt be much
To me,it was a big undertaking
Does anyone realise,how much im near breaking?
The strengh,the resilience,the torture and pain,
To keep control to try stay sane.
I'm writing as a friend to a bp man. First, I've read all the posts here and thank you all for your insights. Graeme, your posts hit home with me the most as the loved one of a person with bp. I consider myself an intelligent man who believes with knowledge comes understanding and forgiveness, but that's the intellectual response. The emotional response, however, is a different story. When my friend, who is remarkably intelligent and creative, is at the pole that allows him to share, the treasures he imparts are phenomenal and enrich my life beyond measure... and also cements my love for him unconditionally.
When he suddenly and most times without warning, swings to the other pole, it's like his body has been taken over by a dark force who whisks him away. He goes silent and won't respond to calls, texts or emails. Of course, in the early stages of our friendship I took this very personally and beat myself up wondering what I had done to cause him to totally reject me.
Fast forward 4 years later and many back and forth swings of his pendulum, I now realize this is what makes him the remarkable person he is. I no longer take this swing to the dark side personally and, instead, let him know that if he realizes that his ability to travel the full spectrum of consciousness from pole to pole is a unique gift, then he will be able to find the treasures of enlightenment that are at each pole BUT ONLY IF he doesn't travel there thinking he is mentally ill. If he goes to the poles in shame then the treasures of creativity or profound introspection cannot be seen or harvested and instead will cause grief for him and those who love him. I have since shared with him the writings of Tom Wooten whose series called 'The Bi-polar Advantage' supports this premise that bp is indeed a gift when when those who have this gift become 'Bi-polar INorder'.
Currently my friend has been a few months gathering treasures at the introspective pole. He has the assurances from me that our friendship is and always will be in tact and to view me as a lighthouse keeper who will show him the way back to shore to share his bounty of treasures he has acquired while 'at sea' in joyful exploration. I don't try to contact him when he is beyond the horizon and continue living a joyful and engaged life with other friends in the meantime.
It's important for me that he knows I support him being who he is and he always expresses deep appreciation to me for knowing he has a friend who 'gets it' and celebrates his gift.
He also accepts that in a romantic relationship constancy is a pre-requisite and his gift doesn't possess that option. So for those of you attempting a standard relationship with a bp person, my thoughts are with you as constancy of involvement and even affection will be hard to achieve even with medication that attempts to keep their natural ability to swing from pole to pole in the unnatural center.
I'm pretty stable other than I can't wait for communication from my partner- I get really stressed out of all proportions- to the stage where I'd be immediately better off out of the relationship. It's an awful tragedy because we have such a good relationship otherwise. I'm very patient and generally easy to get along with. I have dealt quite well with my anger issues, which gives me some hope I can beat this too.
Getting text messages/ phone calls from her is like a drug that I can't do without- Constant reassurance that things are going well- and that isn't even enough. I wish there was some strategy to allay my fear. It destroys my independence and makes me feel very weak and unmanly.
If I could beat this stress I think I could have a proper relationship. Any advice?
Now I'm engaged to a man that tries to understand my bipolar episodes. I have had episodes and he was good. Until the last one.... he says we're distant and I'm unapproachable. He said I can't live like this. He did tell me he wasn't leaving me, followed by I thought about it....... but I'm not. Now for someone who in our entire relationship that has always said he could never leave, said I'm it, put a damn ring on it, told me repeatedly that he's never ever going anywhere, never leaving me!, soulmate kinda love.... he said he thought about leaving me. Leaving me. Evidently I was a unforgivable episode. The worst he had seen in me. I know we can have altered reality but damn I wasn't that bad or that extreme. Is he done? Will the next time I relapse be it? It isn't always possible to prevent a relapse. I will always be bipolar. A life as someone who is bipolar is a life that is (at least in part) dictated by being bipolar. I'm me can't change it. I just hope he realizes it and learns to live this life with me. I hope this isn't the beginning of the end. Any thoughts?