How are you feeling? Loved and supported or abandoned and neglected? How is your mood? Have you checked in with yourself today? Here’s a simple question: did you brush your teeth this morning?
I am concerned about how we people with bipolar approach dating, romance, and love. Ah yes, amour. The best way I know for me to keep track of my feelings is to watch my daily insignificant behaviors. Am I concerned about my hygiene? Am I eating food that will give my body a healthy dose of the energy it needs? Am I reaching out to those around me with helping hands?
It’s my opinion that I’m on an even keel when I can answer those questions affirmatively, and love adds a layer of joy to the reaching out. I have many more questions to ask, but they’re not necessary to list here. I try to keep them simple, though. Complex questions confuse the issue.
I’m in an interesting dating relationship. My beau lives two hours away by car, so we don’t get to see each other regularly. He works a difficult job, too, and his hours are long. I live on disability, so my hours stuck in my head are long, too. Those hours spent rummaging through the entrails of my memories and musing about future possibilities are dangerous territory. I want to fill them up with him. Him!
Why can’t I just pick up the phone and call? Why can’t we spend hours together talking over coffee or even lying in each other’s arms? Why?
It’s a puzzlement, and I’ve had experience in the past with dating and love and revealing my illness. In my current relationship, I waited a month to tell him I was a recovered alcoholic and another month to break the news of my bipolar. I took it slowly due to past problems with those issues.
I have given out the information up front at times and had men walk out of my life immediately. That pain is fleeting. I once dated a man for eight or nine months, during which I was stable. At least, I think I was. I told him about my recovery from alcoholism and my diagnosis of bipolar, and he left, too.
Come to think of it, that last man wasn’t the best of those I dated steadily. He was inconsistent with his availability, often wouldn’t return my calls, and rarely initiated contact. The relationship was my responsibility, it seemed, and it made me nuts. It drove me batty.
I learned a very important lesson from him. I had three choices of how I could react to his behavior.
- I could want more of him and be miserable.
- I could accept what he was willing to give and when he was willing to give it and be happy.
- I could end the relationship.
I chose number two with that particular man only to have him walk out on me when I became open and vulnerable, but the lesson learned has stuck with me.
With my new job training and the life lessons it is teaching me, I know that I don’t have to run from the idea of opening myself to new loving relationships. My admirable qualities make me a great catch for some man. I’m recovering from mental illness. I’m not dying because of it. I have a lot to offer in the way of dating and loving.
I approach dating differently now. I used to throw myself into a relationship 100% from the beginning. When things soured, I backed off giving only 75%. Slowly, things would diminish, and I would be down to giving little more than 10%, and then the breakup would occur.
My current relationship is about ten months old. We started by trading personal information and stories via emails. We waited to meet for coffee, and then we had a lunch date. I told him my darkest secrets as I mentioned above, and he didn’t run from me. Over the intervening months, I have shared my emotions with him. He’s known when I’ve been down. He’s stuck around.
Maybe it’s because he knows we’re in this for a longer term. This relationship was started with the idea of becoming friends and working our way up to lovers.
Or maybe it’s because he likes me. That thought gives me a smile.
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. The distance will keep me away from the one I call “my man,” but I have someone to calmly think of fondly. My smile is instant at the idea.