"Happily Ever After" – 10 Essential Elements to a Loving Bipolar Relationship

In just a few weeks Valentine’s Day will be upon us. For the seemingly happy couples it will be a day of declaring their everlasting love by giving cards, gifts, sending flowers, enjoying a romantic dinner or just spending loving time at home alone.

For those of us living with/married to a loved one with bipolar disorder, it may represent another day we are missing that feeling of “happily ever after.” A world we believed would be ours when we first fell in love. The intense feelings of love, promise and excitement have become mixed with the equally intense feelings of anger, guilt, sadness, confusion, worry and loneliness.

Your partner has an illness, which you don’t have, and yet it affects your life every single day. The reality is you’re constantly struggling with all the complicated feelings towards the one you love, an unexpected twist to your relationship.

Today couples who don’t deal with the complications of a mood disorder still have to work at keeping a loving relationship. Worse, current statistics prove that the divorce rate for people with bipolar disorder is 3 ½ times more likely than people in the general population. So how do you cope?

10 Essential Elements to a Loving Bipolar Relationship

  1. Accept and acknowledge the illness: Bipolar disorder is challenging. Trying to pretend it’s not there won’t make it go away. As with all illnesses bipolar disorder needs to be treated.
  2. Establish dreams and goals: As a couple you began working towards common goals. Once the bipolar disorder has been discovered it’s time to look carefully towards your future. Always remember as the spouse / partner your dreams and desires are important. Compromise is good but don’t forget to keep a perspective on your personal dreams
  3. Maintain intimacy: Physical attention will keep the intimacy alive. If sex isn’t a current part of your relationship, a simple touch, hug or kiss are still important towards keeping a loving relationship.
  4. Communicate with your partner: Comforting words do go a long way.
  • I love you, no matter what.
  • You are not alone and I’m here for you.
  • You are important to me.
  • Set realistic expectations: Expecting too much of your partner sets them up for failure and expecting too little gives them no incentive toward recovery. Find a balance between encouraging independence and providing support.
  • Know your own limitations: Your health is important. Seek support and find outlets to help you maintain your physical & emotional well being.
  • Do not take the symptoms personally: Remember that the actions of your partner during a depressed or manic episode are symptoms of the Bipolar disorder. By not engaging in arguments or debates during an episode you control your personal state of mind.
  • Plan and prepare!: The more you know about bipolar disorder and especially your partners’ triggers, symptoms and behaviors the easier it will be for you to work together planning and preparing for possible future episodes.
  • Be understanding: Just as your partner can’t possibly understand what it’s like to be in your shoes, you can’t possibly understand what it’s like to be in theirs. Help by listening with compassion.
  • Be an active participant, As a spouse / partner your view of the bipolar illness is a powerful tool. You know more about your partner’s moods and actions than anyone else. Sharing the information you have could be the key to correct treatment and recovery.
  • Although your life with your partner is probably not at all what you thought it would be that doesn’t mean that a happy and meaningful relationship is out of reach. By adding these elements to your daily life, while continuing to follow your path to your personal goals and dreams, you are giving your relationship a chance to grow with new goals and visions. As with any relationship, it takes work and anything worth having is worth working for.

    Source by Kathleen Hennessey Buchanan

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