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3 Things No One Tells You About Loving Someone With Bipolar Disorder


I’m not going to sit here and tell you that loving someone who lives with bipolar disorder is an easy task. It will be very challenging, sometimes you will get hurt, sometimes you will feel angry, frustrated and might even feel borderline hate for the person. You may need to get used to a new way of living, their needs might more often than not come before yours. You may have to compromise on a lot of things, take on the burden of their chores when they can’t function and accept that you will have to time your life around their medication.

Following a bipolar diagnosis, the first and most dominant response from a spouse usually is sympathy, says David A. Karp, professor of sociology at Boston College and author of “The Burden of Sympathy: How Families Cope with Mental Illness.” He mentions, “But further down the road, a spouse may experience emotions they don’t think they should be having — anger, frustration, and even hate.”

There are lots of difficulties in relationships that are often not talked about. Google “bipolar marriage” and the first thing that appears is a damning statistic from November 2003’s article in Psychology Today — “Managing Bipolar Disorder” — that tells you 90 percent of all marriages where one partner is living with bipolar disorder ends in divorce. It’s almost like when you fell ill and google your symptoms and you suddenly convince yourself you’re about to die based on the results.

What nobody tells you is that loving someone who lives with bipolar and manages their condition well can be the most profound and fulfilling experience of your life. Here’s why:

1. You will get to know yourself better.

Loving a person who lives with bipolar can test you in ways you never imagined. Not only will you learn how strong you are and about your own limits, you will also learn to let go of the small stuff. Arguments and little things that may have hurt you in the past might no longer bother you, giving you more time to focus on what really matters. Your temper might improve but more importantly, your ability to work out what is important and what is not will develop. You may have to learn to compromise, give in and adapt to the changing situations. The power to adapt to new situations quickly and turn negatives into positives is something that you can definitely learn from your partner. If you have open communication with them, you can learn about how you react to things and why, as well as what goes through their head, and you will be better able to decipher what goes through your own.

Please don’t forget, you must learn to take care of yourself before you can take care of others and a bipolar partner can really hit that home.

2. They will motivate you.

While it is easy to get sucked into the lows of a partner’s depression, recovery and maintenance can be motivating for both of you. Exercise can sometimes be a great way to help depression and burn some energy off in mania so use this to your advantage. Go to the gym together, go for a run, swim or a bike ride. While they might not be able to motivate themselves in depression, if you can persuade them to go to the gym with you it can not only help you both keep fit but will vastly improve their mental health. And please take the opportunity to eat well. Bipolar might also be affected by what food a person consumes, so learning to cook something new and healthy or research what nutrients you and your partner need can lead to a more happy, healthy life.

3, They will change your outlook on life.

Loving someone who lives with bipolar is a constant reminder that you are lucky not to have to deal with the frightening highs and crashing lows they experience. Your values and ideas might naturally change over time with maturity and life experience, but loving a person who lives with bipolar can be a catalyst for this. They will teach you to live in the present, appreciate the good times and learn through the bad times because for them, the future can be uncertain in many ways. They will show you that sometimes the little things in life can be the best and how to face challenges instead of running away from them. When you only get a limited amount of “good days,” living by the phrase “carpe diem” is all that more important.

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Getty image via Grandfailure