It’s common knowledge that fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. Psychology Today cites that statistic as high as ninety percent when at least one partner lives with bipolar disorder! I am grateful to be beating those odds and celebrating my 18-year anniversary this month with my partner.
We were together for three years before the initial onset of my symptoms and diagnosis. He has stood by my side through six hospitalizations, my noncompliance with the prescribed medications, my suicide attempt, and the news that I would never be able to have a biological child as we had planned. We now know that I can have children! It seems different psychiatrists hold different opinions on the matter.
What’s our secret?
“Cherish is the word I use to remind me of your love” – Madonna
We genuinely love and respect each other. We talk about everything. We both agree life is better together than it would be alone or with another mate. But, it wasn’t always easy. During my third hospitalization in a two year period the medical staff strongly counseled him to walk away. The three person psychiatric treatment team all told him it would be a long, difficult road and while I might be better at times, I would always be sick.
When I discussed those conversations with him to prepare this blog, my partner described anger with the healthcare community. He loved me. Yes, he was only 25-years old but he saw a future with me and he cherished our past.
He told me, “you wouldn’t walk away from someone with cancer.” And, “family matters, you don’t throw away family.”
Did he have more strength in this situation than I would have, had the roles been reversed?
A romantic relationship can survive the onset of bipolar. It wasn’t easy. After my six hospitalizations, terrible advice that I should go on disability and never work again, plus the threat of a three year commitment, we slowly pieced our relationship back together one shattered fragment at a time.
We worked on it together. We prioritized it together. We both made adjustments. We both fought like hell to make it work.
Our love has survived infidelity. Our relationship has survived a temporary separation. We have survived financial challenges and bankruptcy together. We have endured a very difficult time when my mom was bed ridden and unable to care for herself for almost two years, then her death at a very young age. Hardship has the potential to either bring a couple closer together or drive them apart.
We are grateful to be a success story. In 2021, we are happier than we have ever been. Navigating these difficulties together helped us forge a stronger team and developed better communication skills that contribute to our success as a couple. He can openly say to me, “Are you feeling manic today? You are talking a lot and really fast. Did you sleep enough?” I can honestly tell him, “I can’t go to dinner with your family today, I’m feeling anxious, sad, dark, and depressed. I don’t want to get dressed or leave the house.”
In the January 2020 Healthline article by Brian Krans, Romantic Relationships: When to Say Goodbye the unhealthy signs of a relationship, especially where bipolar is involved, are listed as:
- feeling that you’re a caretaker in the relationship
- experiencing burnout
- sacrificing your life goals, values, and needs to be with your partner
I would argue we all experience these signs at times in healthy relationships too. If your partner breaks both legs in a car accident, you’re certainly going to become the caretaker, experience burnout, and sacrifice some life goals at least temporarily.
The question becomes, how much are you willing to give? What price are you willing to pay for a happy, healthy relationship? We all have our breaking point.
Please note, as the bipolar patient in our relationship, I haven’t skipped a dose of my medication since 2008 when I first became medically compliant. You cannot expect another person to care for you, if you do not take basic care of yourself. Johns Hopkins also has a useful article on their website, Bipolar Relationships: What to Expect. Tips listed include going to couples counseling, getting involved with treatment, and practicing self care.
My partner and I never attended couples counseling. He has been to the psychiatrist with me only once in fifteen years. We always discuss my appointments and lab results. Each of us spends about six hours alone daily, because we have different schedules. That helps us always practice self care and pursue our passions.
Genuine care for each other. Deep love and respect for the relationship. A tremendous belief in one another. Transparent honesty and meaningful communication. Grace and forgiveness when life isn’t perfect. An understanding that tomorrow is never promised to any of us and accepting this is the hand you have been dealt. If your romantic relationship has these qualities, I believe it can survive a bipolar diagnosis and thrive, at least until the 18-year mark like ours did.
Dayna was 27 years old when she first experienced a two year spiral of mixed manic and depressive episodes, including six inpatient hospitalizations, a suicide attempt, and the threat of a three year commitment if she did not become medically compliant. Today, Dayna maintains a close relationship with her psychiatrist and is thriving in her career and home life with the help of prescribed medications. Dayna lives in the Washington, DC metro area with her partner of 18 years. Together they share their home with two cats, Latte and Donut, and Butters, their corgi. They love to travel the world and have spent time exploring three continents and over two dozen countries.
Dayna writes about her bipolar journey and story on her website,
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