Living with Bipolar Disorder can be challenging, but loving someone with it isn’t always easy either. If you’re in a relationship with someone with Bipolar Disorder, you already know it’s a tough ride. The mood swings can make your time together exhilarating or frustrating, depending on the day. But it is not impossible to have a healthy union with someone who has the disorder. You and your bipolar partner can beat the odds.
The trademark symptom of Bipolar Disorder is a major mood imbalance. The person may go from an upbeat, manic state into depression and back again, or shift into other moods that affect the ability to function. Insomnia is a common trait of the disorder, and it’s not unusual for an unmedicated bipolar person to be up for two or three days straight because the mind and body simply will not relax.
The situation becomes even more difficult when a spouse or partner is involved. As the live-in mate, you see the person pass between depression and mania first hand, and you see what a toll it takes on the one you love. One of the realities you must face is that you cannot expect your spouse to be consistent. You must accept that his or her behavior can change at any time. In addition, when your partner has insomnia, you may feel restless and be kept awake yourself. All of this can take a toll on your own health.
If you suspect that your partner has Bipolar Disorder but he or she has not been diagnosed, make an appointment with a Newport Beach psychiatrist right away. Diagnosis is the first step to learning how to make the relationship work. Once the reason for the mood swings has been discovered and therapy and medication have begun, you can start to cope with the struggles and rebuild your relationship.
Here are ten tips for surviving and thriving in your relationship:
- Look for triggers. When your partner is in a more stable mood, pay close attention to what environmental triggers helped with maintaining the stability. Often there are specific stressors and soothers, including relationship issues, that have an influence on mood swings. Use the soothers to help maintain the mood that both you and your partner desire.
- Despite the fact that there are relationship-centered mood triggers, do not accept blame for your spouse’s moods. Understanding that the disorder is a mental issue and not your fault can save you a lot of guilt and stress.
- When things get tough, breathe. Take a deep breath, step back, collect your thoughts, and repeat: “It’s the disease, not the person.”
- Get away. Occasional time away from your partner is healthy, even for couples without mental illnesses. But taking time for yourself is especially important when your spouse has bipolar disorder. Visit friends or family a few times per year if you can, and allow yourself occasional days and evenings away from home. If getting away simply isn’t possible, make the effort to avoid your partner when his or her moods are out of control.
- Laugh, if possible. If you can find a way to insert humor into the situation, it can help diffuse a bad mood. This will not work for every person or in every situation, however, so use your best judgment.
- Be strict about medications. Sometimes people with Bipolar Disorder want to stop taking their medication when they feel better or they don’t like the way their pills make them feel. But unless a doctor or psychiatrist gives the go-ahead, make taking medication a non-negotiable part of your relationship. Medication and therapy play large roles in keeping a bipolar person stable and healthy.
- Know and grow your philosophy of love and marriage. The person you fell in love with is still there beneath all the issues. If you’re going to make things work, you need to be committed, for better or worse. You didn’t fall in love with the disease, you fell in love with the person.
- On that note, remember your love. Think about the early days when things were new and exciting. Think about times when your partner was (and is!) genuinely kind to you. If you can, recreating one of your early dates now and then can keep things lighthearted and remind you both of why you’ve decided to make it work.
- Ask your partner what he or she needs when mood swings happen. This may require having a discussion beforehand when he or she is in a more stable mood. But asking what is needed from you can help minimize hurt feelings or arguments.
- Keep talking. Communication is essential, even when things aren’t easy. Do not shut your partner out, and do not accept being shut out.
Most importantly, build support for yourself. Caring for a person with a disease keeps you focused on his or her needs, but you need support, too. Go to couple’s therapy sessions if communication is breaking down. Join a support group for family members of bipolar patients. Explain the situation to your family and friends and ask for their understanding. Never isolate yourself. Having a strong community is the key to staying healthy and balanced.