Skills for the One with Bipolar
- Monitor – Insight, self-awareness and self-monitoring all mean essentially the same thing: knowing yourself, your symptoms and your triggers. Without the ability to accurately monitor your symptoms, you cannot react to changes in symptoms. Use tracking sheets, journals and charts to identify and understand the trends and patterns. Also, investigate your emotional and behavioral reactions to these trends. Does feeling better make you want to stop your treatment? Does feeling depressed make you want to end your relationship? Asking these questions increases your awareness.
- Communicate – In any good relationship, your partner is your teammate. They fill your gaps and you fill in theirs. Honest, open, assertive communication helps ensure that she stays your teammate and not your opponent. Even the greatest treatment and self-monitoring is useless if you do not have someone at home to reinforce what you have learned. Check in with your partner throughout the day, not only when situations become poor. Let her know what you are doing to improve your symptoms and the relationship and what she can do to assist.
- Well-rounded – Being in a relationship means that your life continues to exist outside of the relationship. Putting too much time, energy and emphasis in the relationship puts all of your eggs in one basket. If your relationship is doing poorly, you are doing poorly. If your relationship is doing well, you are doing well. This puts too much pressure and responsibility on the relationship to dictate your state. Instead, seek out a range of outside supports, groups, friends, family, teams and organizations. If you can effectively diversify yourself, you become more resilient and flexible when stressors increase.
Skills for the Spouse
Being in a relationship takes love, kindness and sacrifice. Being in a relationship with someone with bipolar takes these and much more. Some estimates put the divorce rate at about 90% if one or both people in the relationship have bipolar. That statistic is grim, but with practice, patience and persistence, you can be in the 10% that find success. Here’s how:
- Treatment – Being married to someone with bipolar impacts you. It influences you in many, immeasurable ways. Some will be positive while many will be negative. Considering treatment will provide you with resources, solutions and interventions to improve the relationship. People married to someone with a chronic health issue are more prone to feelings of depression and anxiety. Online and in-person supports group are available for people married to someone that has mental illness. Individual therapy can allow an outlet to discuss your frustrations, hopes and fears. This opportunity can recharge your batteries and make you better able to manage your feelings at home. Without release, feelings tend to come out in unforeseen ways.
- Monitor – You have twice the monitoring to do. As important as it is for your spouse to monitor their feelings and symptoms, it is equally important for you to monitor his symptoms as well as your own. His insight will change with his symptoms. Typically, when moods become elevated and mania presents, insight decreases. Tracking the symptoms and triggers from your point of view will offer another perspective that can be used with behavioral interventions or that can be used by the psychiatrist to make a medication change.