So you've been going out for a while, when your boyfriend finally tells you that he has bipolar disorder. Is all lost? Is there any way to make dating a bipolar guy easier and more successful?
Identify the Challenges
Dating a bipolar guy is not for the faint at heart. People who have bipolar disorder are more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs, take excessive risks that can lead to accidents, or be unable to hold down a job. Perhaps more obviously, you may feel like you don't know that guy you're dating when he is in his "manic" stage, and you may feel miserable to know that you cannot help him when he falls into depression.
So what can you do to make the dating process easier and more successful? Keep in mind that you'll have to put in plenty of effort to make this work. The following techniques should help.
Find His Triggers
When you find out that a guy you're dating has bipolar disorder, you'll want to learn as much as you can about it. Watch him to see whether certain actions trigger his mood swings. For example, does he often become manic after a disagreement? Does he get easily jealous and then fall into a depression? Does inadequate sleep lead to crazy mood swings? Once you have identified these triggers, you can try your best to avoid them, or to be prepared for the bipolar symptoms that you know may follow.
Encourage Healthful Habits
Similarly, realize that certain actions have a high likelihood of making bipolar symptoms worse. These include irregular sleep patterns, unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, and consumption of alcohol and caffeine. Therefore, make sure not to guilt your date into staying up too late or eating a full box of chocolate with you. You may even want to suggest that the two of you take a walk or play a sport together in order to keep his symptoms of bipolar disorder at bay.
Similarly, realize that people with bipolar disorder often need some personal space, and it is not a reflection on their relationship with other people (including you). Give him time and space to listen to music on his own, write in a journal, or manage stress in whatever way seems most comfortable for him.
Confirm the Extent of the Disorder
Make sure to figure out how much bipolar disorder affects your date's life. Is he on medication? Does he take it regularly, or does he complain about how hard it is to remember to take it? Is he in therapy, or does he deny that he has a problem? How often does he experience manic or depressive symptoms? The answers to these questions can give you a better feel for whether you can feel more secure while dating him.
Change Your Perspective
In order to successfully date someone with bipolar disorder, you will need to make sure to control your attitude towards the relationship. Unlike in a "typical" relationship, where each side shoulders an equal amount of the responsibility, you will need to be prepared to expend more patience and understanding. Realize that people with bipolar disorder cannot control their bipolar symptoms (except, to some degree, by preventing them ahead of time), and they cannot "snap out" of their manic or depressive states by sheer willpower. You can offer support by being a listening ear and remaining nonjudgemental, no matter how crazy your date's thoughts may seem to you.
Bipolar Advice Guide. “Bipolar Disorder and Dating Relationships." http://www.bipolaradviceguide.com/bipolar-disorder-dating-relationships
WebMD. “Bipolar Romantic Relationships: Dating and Marriage." http://www.webmd.com/bipolar-disorder/guide/bipolar-romantic-relationships-dating-and-marriage
Bipolar Disorder and Relationships
Are you dating a guy with bipolar disorder? Did you just find out that your spouse has bipolar? This series of articles will give you tips about how to save your relationship.
- Advice for Dating a Bipolar Guy: Top Five Things to Keep in Mind
- How Can I Support my Bipolar Boyfriend?
- How Can I Support my Bipolar Spouse?