Skills for the Spouse
- Communicate – Your communication task is far more difficult that someone in a typical relationship as well. Chances are high that the way that you communicate with your partner is met with different reactions based on their moods. When he is depressed, you may need to be more subtle and gentle. When manic, you may need to be highly assertive and possibly bordering on aggressive with communication. Recognize and accept his mood before you attempt to communicate to produce the best results.
- Well-rounded – Your relationship is likely more stressful than most others. When stress is high, supports need to be even higher to counteract. Schedule plans to leave the home, meet with friends, exercise, attend church or support groups. Too much worry or involvement in the relationship leads to less sense of self. Without a strong sense of who you are outside of the relationship, you cannot maintain the objectivity needed to truly help your partner. Your happiness is surely swayed by your partner, but you cannot allow his symptoms to be your symptoms. Separation is needed.
When to Walk
What are your limits? What are you willing to tolerate? Why are you staying? What makes you afraid to leave? As mentioned, most relationships where at least one person has bipolar end in divorce. This does not mean that you are giving up or that you do not care about the other person. It only means that you are able to recognize that this relationship is not beneficial and should not continue.
Often, but certainly not all of the time, the changing symptoms associated with bipolar disorder trigger verbal or physical abuse to occur. No one should be subjected to this type of treatment or stay in a relationship if this transpires. Usually, these behaviors only increase over time rather than diminish.
There is great benefit in making a list of “deal breakers.” These are behaviors or statements that, if the other person completed, would signify the end of the relationship. For example, physical abuse would surely be a deal breaker. These apply to the person with bipolar as well as the partner. Too often, the partner is able to manipulate, scapegoat or emotionally harm the person with bipolar during their vulnerable times. Each person in the relationship must maintain a sense of value for themselves and the other.
When bipolar is a part of your relationship, acknowledge the role that it plays. Understand the challenge that you face. If you choose to move forward, find ways to make treatment, self-monitoring and communication the core of the relationship. Outside of the relationship, spread yourself into other areas and explore avenues towards diversification. While doing this, set your expectations to a realistic level. Problems will arise in any relationship. As long as you know what is unacceptable and what is not, success can be achieved.