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Couples With Bipolar Disorder: 8 Tips to Prevent "Double Trouble"

It’s classic, Shakespearean even. (Romeo and Juliet). 

Boy Meets Girl in rehab, AA or group therapy and they fall ‘in love.’ 

Warnings fall on deaf ears. Their focus shifts from recovery to each other while  they float off on a pink cloud. 

Then the bubble bursts. 

If the relationship fails, it’s heartbreaking. Betrayal is triggering, to say the least. I’ve been there more than once. It can be tricky. 

On the other hand, a strong bond with someone who shares your challenges can be the most meaningful, supportive, enduring relationship ever.  

You become a tag team, helping each other out. 

There’s also the possibility you could both be in a downturn at once! 

Then you’re out to sea in a flimsy canoe rocking back and forth. 

Here are some tips to make your recovery raft more reliable. 

1. Develop and Maintain Separate Support Systems.

I know you’re heard this one before, but an impartial outsider to lean on can be a lifesaver. It’s money in the back.  

When my husband came home drunk; spoiling for an argument, I dodged the ticking time bomb by calmly leaving the house for my BFF’s; saying ‘I’ll be right back.’ While I was gone, his abandonment issues kicked in. He hasn’t had a drink since.

2. The ‘Savior’ Syndrome? Save It.

You shouldn’t work harder at someone else’s recovery than they do.   Not only does it hinder their growth but when trouble shows up you’ll be so ‘other’ focused you won’t anticipate it. 

3. Don’t Comply with Non-Compliance. 

One boyfriend with bipolar disorder struggled with substance abuse.  He refused treatment. I let it slide. Never again!   

He remained depressed and stole my money to buy drugs. He was smoking up a storm while I was at work. 

When I figured it out he refused to leave. I had to call the cops to remove him.  By then he was out on the balcony, threatening to jump from the 12th floor. Luckily, they talked him down; saving his life.

4. Meet The Family.

They have known your partner much longer than you have so they can provide a helpful historical perspective. Most families can and will support you if a situation gets too dicey; threatening your recovery. You can’t let that happen.

5. Make Use of the ‘Bi’s and the ‘Polarities.’

Yes, you’re the same but different, too. Build on the shared desire to stay well. Communicate your differences. Your varying interests can lead to activities you both will enjoy!

For example: My husband is fascinated by the Civil War. When we visited relatives in Kentucky, we visited local historical sites and had a ball!

In any event, you’ll both grow by moving towards the midline. 

6. Fight Fair.

Rehashing old baggage breaks every rule in the book. 

Give up the need to be ‘right.’ Take ‘time outs’ if things escalate.  Speak only for yourself, using ‘I’ terms, not ‘you’ ones.  

Never, ever attack each other’s religion or spirituality. During tough times, faith may be the only thing between your loved one and a disastrous decision. 

7. Set A ‘Zero Tolerance’ Policy.

Intoxicants can interfere with your medications. The combination is no good no matter which way you spin it. If you need drugs and alcohol to enjoy yourselves, you might not be that ‘right’ for each other.

8. Keep Your Ears and Eyes Open.

“Love is Blind” is a familiar saying for good reason. 

Watch for actions or stories that contradict or don’t make sense. 

One prospective partner lied about his sexuality. He’d been candid about his HIV status so I assumed he was otherwise truthful. 

Starry eyed in love, I missed the first of many deceptions; ending up in a higher risk lifestyle than I’d planned. 

Bottom Line:

Constant vigilance and guarded optimism are crucial when both people in a couple are striving for ongoing recovery.  If you’re not attentive when adversity strikes, you’ll go down with the ship.

The Flipside.

Even with bipolar disorder, life is so beautiful it’s well worth protecting. 

Keep in mind the ‘Power of Two.’

Allison Strong is a former Alternative Rock Disc Jockey from LA and Phoenix. She has written for “The Arizona Republic,” “Hits Magazine,” bphope.com and NewLifeOutlook Bipolar. She’s working on a book, (along with everyone else). Her personal blog is: bipolarbrainiac.wordpress.com. Twitter handle: @bipolarbrainic. For more of her IBPF posts, click here.

Comments

Strong (pun intended) story on bipolar plus 2. I have enough trouble with me, don't need another bipolar to partner with. Happy Valentine's Day a little late.

They should mention this article in connection with that new film "Touched With Fire" as I believe the two main characters meet at the psych unit! These are great pointers - extremely relevant and useful.

We got married and have the foundation of wellness. He makes sure I never miss taking my pills and we have the promise to each other that we will stay medicated. We have never had a fight and get along well. luckily too when he is down I am ok and when I am down he is ok... we understand each other's plight. I know I am lucky and this is not the norm. I am grateful to have found him.

Met in a.a. Married 21/2 years later . I was diagnosed in 1991 He was diagnosed in 2007. He sleeps on couch because has sleep walking problems and would attack me until I awoken him.weird at first but works. He has mostly days with severe depression. Stays in the house but forces himself to go to aa meetings when possible. Can't seem to get right mixture of meds. Sweetheart mostly and tries to help me out with the house when possible. Has two friends he is able to keep a relationship going. I have periodic episodes. Mostly snap at him. Somehow we keep this strange relationship going. Married almost 17 years.
I think about leaving but then realize my thinking has to do with my mental illness. I often wonder how other couple maintain. Lucky for us I am higher functioning and am able to do a lot of necessary daily duties. We are best friends and stay away from conflict. We are able to feel comfortable in an older home we keep slowly fixing up with help of some friends and out of town kids. I make an effort to keep it pretty clean because I know it can get away from us and go down quickly. I would love to be able to have a support group for us like aa does. It would be helpful to know about other couple's bipolar relationship.

My boyfriend has bipolar disorder and Adhd and sometimes it's hard for us to find activities to do because of his Adhd and he can't stay in peace of it and then his bipolar disorder kicks inn and he feels depressed,what should I do to help him to not feel depressed, I mean I get it that I should not upset him, since I'm self like to stay in place, is there a guide book of things I should and shouldn't do?

Me and my ex boyfriend both have untreated bi polar disorder. I had my diagnosis 2 years ago and his 5 years ago, I miss him dearly but after my last episode I decided to end the relationship and get help and ask hin to do the same. I already had two failed marriages due to being untreated till years later. Now im not sure if my pride is getting in the way of apologizing and trying to get work things out. Im just tired of going back and forth arguing. Undecided and torn.

Married 17 years husband SchizoAffective hospitalized May and again last week. Refuses to take meds I don't mind so much about schizophrenic part. It's the Bipolar mania that gets to me the screaming yelling. I'm only one working. I've alway been GAD. Now my moods have been swinging often. I think I may be bipolar too. Going to see if I can get an appoint with psychiatrist. I'm probably leaning to the depressing side. Sometimes I get into screaming fits triggered by him. I seem to get angered easily and or crying easily. I'm also teaching. No better combination right?

I thought this article was about substance abuse like an AA lecture. Had to do a double take at the title. 2 bipolar people in love is so intense.be very careful, one caught in the flames, the other never to love again.

My partner and I have been together almost 12 years! I have to admit it's a miracle and I often marvel at how we've managed to make it this long. He is bipolar I and I am bipolar II and both currently un medicated. We've both switched back and forth, one of us on meds one not, but this has been a new challange! We cycle at the same time sometimes, and cycle seperately at other times. Honestly can't say for sure which is worse! I'ts hard, we've worked through a lot of issues over the years, lot's of growth, lot's of really bad times that I'm surprised we made it through in one piece. Our biggest problem is we both have avoidance copping issues and have gotten ourselves in a really tough situation financially. I don't know how we are going to make it through this one. I was hoping to find more "tips" or ideas on copping in a double bipolar relationship out there but so far this is all I've found. Feeling hopeless, frustrated, and lost. We both need to get back on our meds but lack of jobs/insurance are stopping us. Just don't know what to do anymore. :(

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