Bipolar Romantic Relationships: Dating and Marriage
Whether you or your loved one has bipolar disorder, you can learn to make the relationship work.
Dating With Bipolar Disorder continued...
"I don't think it's necessary to introduce your psychiatric problems on the
first date," Haltzman says. "But once you sense that there's a mutual
attraction and you decide to become more serious with this person, when you
decide that you want to date this person exclusively, I think at that point
each partner needs to come clear with what the package includes."
Knowing what triggers your cycles of hypomania, mania, and depression and
watching out for warning signs that you're entering one or the other phase of
the cycle can help you avoid uncomfortable situations in your new relationship.
"I think the more the person knows what their cycles are, the better they might
be able to be in charge of them," says Myrna Weissman, PhD. Weissman is
professor of epidemiology and psychiatry at the Columbia University College of
Physicians and Surgeons. She is also chief of the department in
clinical-genetic epidemiology at New York State Psychiatric Institute. Warning
signs, she says, can include disturbed sleep
and changes in activity level.
Bipolar Disorder and Marriage
Any number of things, from work stress to money issues, can lead to
arguments and put strain on a marriage. But when one partner has bipolar
disorder, simple stressors can reach epic proportions. That may be why as many
as 90% of marriages involving someone with bipolar disorder reportedly
McNulty watched not only his own marriage fall apart, but the marriages of
others with bipolar disorder as well. "I've been running a support group for
almost 19 years," he says. "I've seen dozens of couples come through the door
with their marriage in tatters." Bipolar disorder "puts a huge additional
strain on a relationship, particularly when you don't have a diagnosis."
Healing a Troubled Relationship
Having a relationship when you live with bipolar disorder is difficult. But
it's not impossible. It takes work on the part of both partners to make sure
the marriage survives.
The first step is to get diagnosed and treated for your condition. Your
doctor can prescribe mood stabilizing medications, such as Lithium,
with antidepressants to help control your symptoms. Therapy
with a trained psychologist or social worker is also important. With therapy
you can learn to control the behaviors that are putting stress on your
relationship. Having your spouse go through therapy with you can help him or
her understand why you act the way you do and learn better ways to react.
"I think the more a partner can learn about these things, the better role he
or she can play," Haltzman says. "Being involved in treatment can really help
make the treatment for bipolar disorder a collaborative effort. And it will
actually increase the sense of bonding."