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
Bipolar disorder can become an issue from the very start of a relationship. When you first meet someone you like, it's natural to want to make a good impression. Introducing the fact that you have bipolar disorder may not make for the most auspicious beginning. There is always the fear that you might scare the person off and lose the opportunity to get to know one another. At some point, though, you will need to let your partner know that you are bipolar.
"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 fail.
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."