My most popular posts are ones relating to dating and bipolar disorder. I’m glad there are so many people interested in this topic. I’m also a bit puzzled by it.
Are there rules for dating a person with bipolar disorder? Yes, and they are the same ones for dating a person without any diagnosis of mental illness.
Here’s my list of rules for dating a person with bipolar disorder:
- Be genuine.
- Think of the needs of the person you’re dating before your own in so much as you can without harming yourself.
- Laugh when the other person is happy, and comfort them when they are sad.
- Communicate clearly your needs and listen carefully to what the other person needs, too.
- Get to know a little about bipolar disorder by researching it on the Internet, through books, or by asking healthcare professionals.
Again, I don’t think this list is exclusive to dating a person who has bipolar disorder. In my opinion, it pertains to any relationship. A person with bipolar disorder wants what any other person does from a romantic relationship. We want intimacy, understanding, and ultimately, love.
Having stated what I consider obvious, I’ll give some thought to what many see as the difficulties of dating a person with bipolar disorder.
I have read several online forums in which some people complain that the person they are dating who has bipolar disorder is moody. I read recently one description of a bipolar person running hot and cold. In other words, the person with the disorder seemed quite close and caring and affectionate one day. The next, they were distant and curt and even mean. My thoughts on this situation are few. Please, don’t ever ask the person with bipolar disorder whether or not they are taking their medicine as prescribed nor if their symptoms are flaring up. What you might try doing instead is explaining to the bipolar sufferer how you feel when they behave this way. Talk about your feelings and not about their disease. Try to keep any discussion centered on your feelings about observed behavior.
In fact, I would suggest that you not talk about their disease at all, unless they want to. I have bipolar disorder, but it doesn’t define me. I am many things, and having bipolar is only one piece. When you are together with the person you are dating, find other things to talk about, like art or music or movies or really anything other than the disease. Don’t talk about their medication regimen or other aspects of their treatment, unless they want to.
Plan activities they like, too. Ordinary things can become extraordinary. Baking cookies together can be quite flirtatious. Romance in the kitchen is a lot of fun really. A person with bipolar disorder needs to eat and so do you. Cook a meal together.
If you want to be extravagant, cook the meal for your date. Don’t let them assist you. Make him feel like a king or her like a queen. Tell him/her to sit and relax. I really enjoy having friends over and cooking something with love to give them.
If you talk by phone often or send text messages regularly and that suddenly stops, don’t assume the worst. Your date may simply be having a low period. Your date may not be good at expressing what is happening, and they may not desire to. Don’t take it personally. As with other things I’ve written here, ask what you can do to help them feel better. Offer hugs, asking nothing in return. Don’t assume it’s the disease. There are myriad reasons for a person with bipolar disorder to feel low. We are just as prone to sadness as anyone in the general population. A low point does not automatically lead to serious depression, which calls for a doctor’s intervention.
I can’t help but reiterate a person with bipolar disorder that is under treatment wants what every person does. We aren’t different.
What does one do when the disease really appears to be altering your date’s behavior? There may be times in which you find them behaving unreasonably or even in a bizarre fashion. All I can do is relate my experience and personal knowledge. I am not a doctor. However, I am a Certified Peer Specialist in mental health, and I have been trained in how to relate to other people with mental illness.
Here are my suggestions for dealing with a person who is acting out of the ordinary:
- Be genuine.
- Make sure you and your date are safe.
- Communicate using “I” statements. Don’t pummel your date with “you” statements and accusations.
- Speak about concrete examples of behavior that you are observing.
- Be respectful of your date and yourself.
I think it’s important to point out, however sad it may be, that the disease can affect a person negatively, and your feelings may get hurt. Only you can decide whether to continue dating an individual with the disorder. Only you can tell if that person is actively seeking help or not. Each situation is unique, and every person is special.
Mental illness carries a tremendous stigma. It is not fully understood by doctors and is less so by the general population. Having one does not mean that a person is not worth the effort required in forming a romantic relationship. All relationships need work.
If you are dating a person who tells you they have bipolar disorder, you should feel honored they shared that information. Thank the person for opening up. I dated a man for eight or nine months and told him my diagnosis only to have him abandon me, leaving my life without a trace even though I was completely stable during our time together. It scarred me.
Dating is all about enjoying yourself. Ask your date if they are enjoying their time with you. Talk often; listen more. Explore your own feelings and your date’s. Don’t assume any particular behavior is a symptom.
Finally, be genuine.