Can This Relationship be Saved? My Partner has Manic-Depressive (Bipolar) Disorder
The love of your life is adventurous, exciting and so driven! These qualities are a perfect match for your more passive, laid back personality. You now become confused and discouraged when after an argument, he/she has withdrawn, won’t speak to you or anyone and was finally diagnosed as being ‘manic-depressive’ or suffering from Bipolar Disorder. It is now time to find out what this means for both of you.
- Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Disorder, also known as manic depressive illness, is a serious medical illness that causes shifts in mood, energy, and ability to function.
What are the symptoms?
Persons who are diagnosed with this disorder will have displayed recurring difficulty in relating to their friends, family and acquaintances. Some of the symptoms are:
- Dramatic mood swings ranging from major depression to extreme elation. These mood swings can range from mild to extreme, quite suddenly or over an extended period of time.
- Persistent ambivalence regarding feelings or attitudes towards others. This ambivalence may also affect how individuals feel about their life goals, career, lifestyle and even sexual orientation.
- Persons with Bipolar Disorder will often abuse alcohol and other drugs, spend excessively and participate in other risky behaviors such as gambling, stealing, driving recklessly, or practicing unprotected sex.
- Persons with Bipolar Disorder are usually extremely insecure. They may fear being abandoned and demand continual reassurance. They may become enraged towards others who they blame for how they feel.
- Self-harm is also commonly seen with this disorder. This may take the form of cutting or burning. Drug overdose, eating disorders, alcohol/drug abuse and suicide attempts are also common.
Bipolar Screening Quiz
- Bipolar Screening Quiz | Psych Central
Discover and track your bipolar disorder (manic and depressive feelings) today and over time.
What causes Bipolar Disorder?
As many as 10-14% of the general population are known to have this disorder. It may be dormant for years and suddenly triggered by a period of severe stress. Women are in fact two to three times likely to be diagnosed than men. Genetics or hormonal influences are thought to be major contributors. Premenstrual syndrome has been proposed as a key factor in women. About 50% of persons with Bipolar Disorder have a close relative with a diagnosed mood disorder such as Depression.
Can a relationship survive this diagnosis?
Being in a romantic relationship with someone whose moods change sporadically can be a very confusing experience. It is important for you to understand the reason for these changes, keeping such instability in perspective and not over-react to every situation.
Persons who live with this disorder report feeling overwhelmed and out of control. The relationship can eventually feel like an emotional roller-coaster, creating fear and anxiety for both of you. In an effort to regain control, you may start to play the role of parent, ensuring that you partner takes his/her medication on time in an effort to prevent any more ‘drama’. Taking on this role of parent can undermine the emotional health and viability of the relationship.
Bipolar Disorder & Romantic Relationships
So what can you do?
- You will be a better partner in the relationship if you are educated about this disorder, seeking out others who are in relationships with manic-depressive partners.
- Find a therapist and discuss how this situation is affecting you. Address the frustration and anxiety that can be a natural consequence of this type of relationship dynamic.
- Prepare for passion, unpredictability, dramatic confrontations and other emotionally ‘charged’ encounters.
- Commit to remain calm during these emotional episodes, being determined not to add to the already volatile atmosphere.
- Stay rational while enjoying the high points of the relationship that can be full of excitement and adventure. Do not allow yourself to be drawn into risky behavior to please your partner.
- Do not allow yourself to be dragged down in the low phases of the relationship. Keep a healthy emotional, if not physical distance, doing things for yourself that will keep you positive and hopeful, until this phase passes.
The way forward
You will have realized by now that being in a romantic relationship with someone suffering from Bipolar Disorder is a challenging undertaking. The love you feel for your partner will not prevent you from feeling overwhelmed at times. Couple’s therapy is highly recommended for such a relationship, allowing a third impartial party to explain and manage any difficulties that you go through together.
Is there hope for you? Yes. Many couples with a Bipolar Disordered partner live happy and fulfilled lives together. A firm commitment to staying the course and working as hard as necessary to make things work is what will be required. Being alert and aware of your own moods and feelings as well as your partner’s is a skill that, if acquired, will improve the likelihood of this relationship’s success.
Manic-Depressive (Bipolar) Disorder is a condition that can be successfully managed with medication and therapy. When you love someone with this disorder, you will ensure that they get the help they need to be well, so that you both can enjoy your life together. You will also love yourself enough to safeguard that you do not succumb to the inevitable emotional strain that may arise, but you will also seek out the help you need to be an emotionally healthy, happy partner.
Do you know someone with Bipolar Disorder?
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