Maintaining Long-Term Romantic Relationships With Bipolar


In It for the Long Haul

Now we’ve made it through a decade of stability, instability, illness, new jobs, unemployment, children, transatlantic moves, buying our first home, losing loved ones, holidays, vacations, parties, and so much more.

Sure, we face different challenges than many healthy couples we know, but we face them together just the same. We haven’t said wedding vows, but we promised each other the same things so many years ago and we’ve stuck to those promises. We’re in it for life, and that’s a comforting thought.

You’re Not Alone

Having someone to share your days with can be a huge help when things get tough, but for someone with bipolar disorder it can also be incredibly stressful to have someone who’s always there. It can feel downright suffocating at times.

There are plenty of days when I feel that way. It can be so difficult not only to be around the same person every day, but also to trust them and show your vulnerability. If it’s going to last, though, you will have to let them in at some point.

Your partner needs to know what’s going on with you and your illness – not necessarily every minute detail, but at least an overview of how you’re feeling and what they can do to help. Shutting the other person out doesn’t get either one of you very far. You both have all kinds of needs, but your partner (probably) can’t read your mind and predict what yours will be without some kind of feedback from you.

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At the same time, no matter how challenging sharing a life with another person can be, the simple fact that I have someone in my life who wants me to stick around helps motivate me to stay as healthy as possible.

I take my meds, exercise, eat well, and go to therapy. When I’m not well enough to do that for my own sake, I think about the people who count on me, and that can be just the right amount of motivation. And when I still can’t manage to pull it together, my partner is there to help pick up the pieces, convince me to eat or coax me to try to sleep, to drive me to appointments and remind me to take my medication.

And since he’s been depressed the last few years, I’m there to do the same for him. I remind him to go to bed on time, gently nudge him to spend less time on his computer and more time with people, and drop subtle hints that he might want to go for a walk or get a little space to clear his head. It’s a delicate symbiosis where we support each other, we lean on each other, and we share the weight of illness as well.

Next page: to cheat, or not to cheat?

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