Many people suffer from Bipolar. I say SUFFER because that is exactly what people with serious mental disorders do – they suffer. Before they are diagnosed they are not sure why they are thinking and feeling the way they do. After they are diagnosed they have to grapple with the feeling of “not being normal” and suffer as they find the right balance of meds and therapy. Then for the rest of their lives they have to try to keep on top of it all.
People who love someone with Bipolar also suffer. Before they are diagnosed we are not sure why they are acting the way they do. Are we in an abusive relationship? Is it my fault? After they are diagnosed we have to grapple with the reality that there is no cure and the person we love will be afflicted with this disease for the rest of the relationship. How strong am I? Can I handle this? Is he/she “worth” it? Are my vows that important? Then for the rest of their lives they have to try to deal with it all.
One of the hardest things about having a relationship with a Bipolar sufferer may be the repetition. Not only do you have to keep on your toes to look out for signs of changing cycles, you may then have to listen as incidents are told and retold as if it is happening for the first time. For whatever reason, some Biplolar brains will wipe out conversations and previous thoughts and the sufferer may experience many familiar things as if it is the first time. To make it a little bit more confusing, the brain does not reset EVERYTHING at once. If you add “normal every day” stress to the mix, it can be very harrowing.
Imagine if you will, that you are married to a bipolar. You have a disagreement about something like all married couples will. You talk through it, you compromise and agree to do a better job next time. That is all well and good in a “normal relationship”. You may or may not choose to follow through. Unfortunately the bipolar partner’s brain may wipe the entire conversation from the memory and the same situation will be repeated over and over. This can become maddening. It is hard for the bipolar if he/she happens to recall this. It is particularly hard for the partner who knows for sure that this is the fifth or fiftieth time this scenario has been repeated. If you are married to a Bipolar individual keep in mind that you and your marriage will take on a bipolar life of its own.
Loving a bipolar person is difficult. It is not something everyone continues to do. In the US the number of divorces overall in 2020 was 746,971 (45 reporting States and D.C.) So the divorce rate was 2.7 per 1,000 population (45 reporting States and D.C.)But the statistics for marriages involving a person who has bipolar disorder are especially sobering—an estimated 90 percent of these end in divorce, according to a November 2003 article, “Managing Bipolar Disorder,” in Psychology Today. NINETY percent! That is just for married people. Bipolar relationships that were not registered marriages probably suffered similar or worse fates. https://www.bphope.com/caregivers/partners-for-life/
With every milestone and big life change ie job changes, house buying, birth of babies, responsibility for children, etc. the bipolar person has new challenges and may go through more severe cycles as his/her brain tries to function during these highly stressful times. The person who loves a bipolar has to juggle his/her own feelings and emotions as well as make room for the partner. When children are involved there is a constant push and pull as you manuever through the ups and downs of parenting. IF the non bipolar partner is “perfectly normal” it is hard enough but if she/he goes through some traumatic life changes then it’s a whole new ball game.
Does it sound like I’m telling you to run not walk away if you find out the person you love has bipolar? No. What I am saying is that it is EXTREMELY difficult to find balance within yourself when you love someone with bipolar. I have read about couples who choose not to have children and to live off the grid to make things a tad easier for their relationship. There is a lot of yoga and quiet activities. Some couples choose to take separate vacations and even sleep in separate bedrooms – they still share intimacy but try to have cocoons where each feels free to just BE so they can be stronger when they are together. Unfortunately I read mostly about couples that have to end their relationship because one, the other or both are miserable.
Loving anyone with bipolar is hard whether it is a friend, a sibling, a parent or a child. Being married to a bipolar is especially difficult. Having children with a bipolar partner adds so many more layers to an already difficult relationship. Regardless, you can find moments of happiness, there is always love and if you are lucky there are lots of laughter sprinkled throughout. You have to ask yourself often if this is the life you can handle. You have to be strong and resilient. You will not be thanked and appreciated for your efforts not because the bipolar is an asshole but because he/she may not be able to see what you are doing and appreciate your sacrifices. There will be no trophy or recognition at the end of your life because you chose to stay with a bipolar sufferer.
Love who you want to love but if you are in a relationship with a bipolar know that you MUST love yourself the most. If you don’t have emotional strength your relationship is doomed to fail. Remember that you are not going to have a relationship that is on any Hallmark card, Disney movie or part of a perfect love song. Do not do it alone. Have a therapist to talk to on a weekly or monthly rotation. Walk, do yoga, meditate and find time to do things for yourself. Choose your friends wisely and know that very few will stay with your on your entire journey. Many will see your attempts as futile or downright stupid and peel away as they can’t watch you live your chaotic life. Do not ever forget that it is not your responsibility to FIX anyone with bipolar and it is always a choice to stay and love your bipolar person. Know that you are not alone and that whatever you do is good enough!