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
"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."