Bipolar Dating and Love

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.

  1. I could want more of him and be miserable.
  2. I could accept what he was willing to give and when he was willing to give it and be happy.
  3. 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.

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A New World

I’m turning over a new leaf. I’m starting fresh. I’m dusting off my dancing shoes. I’m starting over.

“It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s a new life for me, and I’m feelin’ good.”

Wait. Those are cliches and the lyrics of a song.

And they are exactly how I feel. I did something life-altering today. I cleaned out a little corner of my Internet. I deleted all my accounts on dating sites. They were bringing me nothing but worry. I was using them as a way to reach out and getting nothing in return but confusion and heartache.

There is a man I started emailing more than 8 months ago. We then began talking on the phone. We met for coffee. We had a meal together at a restaurant. We’ve been taking things very slowly. We have not yet visited each others’ houses. I have no idea where this will lead.

I told him after we’d known each other for about 2 months that I was a recovered alcoholic. He took it in stride.

After another month, I let it be known that I was bipolar. He did not run screaming from the room.

Is he a good mate for me? Only time will tell the answer to that question.

I’ve been talking to my therapist about sex a lot lately. We’ve also talked about my dating habits and men I’ve been attracted to. In the past, I’ve felt lust strongly for men who were unavailable either by marriage or emotionally. I’ve also fallen heavily for men with some kind of defect, especially emotional ones.

This new man is healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally, which scares me to death. A friend and I laughed about that last bit. We are both in the throes of potentially healthy relationships, and we’re both scared by it. It’s exhilarating to know that I’m not alone.

It’s also good to know I have the assistance of friends to talk to. I can open my closets to them, and they can dust out the cobwebs and the skeletons. I’ve spoken to my caseworker about my budding relationship, and he’s asked pointed questions and is supportive. My best friend knows and is happy for me. My therapist steers me in healthy directions.

As far as having a relationship is concerned, I’m a youngster. I’m new at it. Yes, I was married, but I was drunk. Without the veil of alcohol, I’m growing up and experiencing things that most gay men do in their teens. In some ways, I feel like I haven’t had my first kiss yet. The anticipation is electric.

Healing the Unmentionables

I saw my psychotherapist today, and we had one topic to cover: sexual healing. I recently had a short affair with a man. It was short, because I ended it. Honestly, I should have never started it. The red flags jumped into plain sight right at the very beginning.

  • He disliked kissing. What? But how can a hunk dislike something so sensual?
  • He was often unavailable. We had to meet on his schedule, and I had to be ready at a moment’s notice to jump in the car and race to him or receive him at my place.
  • He was emotionally needy. Our interaction revolved around meeting his emotional needs.
  • He smoked a lot of weed, and he asked me to join. I declined.

In the end, it became apparent through discussing it with a very close friend that he was using me. He was self-medicating negative emotions with weed and sex. I was tolerating the former and providing the latter. He has some serious problems with self-loathing, and I was part of his stress release.

I broke up with him quickly, when he lied about me to another person, and because he needed help with emotional issues that I felt unable to give, and because he needed to make up his mind about his sexuality. He tried to get in touch with me a few times afterward and told me he’d come clean with the other person about the lie.

Today with my therapist, I jumped right to the heart of the matter: with this short relationship and with a longer one many years ago, I let myself be used. In fact, I allow myself to be used in most of my sexual relationships.

In A.A., it’s said that a person stops growing emotionally when they start drinking, and the growth restarts with sobriety. Using that analogy with my sexuality, I can say that I never grew as a sexual being at all, until I got sober. I grew up in a house devoid of sex and intimacy. I have mentioned elsewhere in this blog that to this day, I have only ever seen my parents hold hands once. They never showed affection for each other. Sex was an evil subject.

So, I’m thirteen years old. I’m just starting adolescence. Great. Oh boy. Crap.

My therapist had me do an exercise we’ve done in the past. I imagined my younger self, the thirteen-year-old adolescent, sitting next to me, and I got to talk to him. I don’t hold back in therapy sessions. I learned a long time ago that talk therapy works for me, so I dove in head first. I told my adolescent self, first, that everything was going to be okay. I was going to survive the homophobic bullying in junior high and high school. I told my younger self that my lust for boys was okay and healthy and good. I told this boy it was okay to fantasize about other boys.

I told my thirteen-year-old self many things today, all positive things. I showed my younger self caring. I explained some of the facts of my gay life. I gave love and understanding in a way that I did not receive at the time.

I grew a few years today in my one-hour therapy session. My psychologist encouraged me to keep talking to the young me. I’ve done a bit of that. It feels right.

I don’t have to open my heart and my body to every man who asks. I can be particular in sharing intimacy.

It’s okay to be me.