I had a recent request for some tips on relationships where both partners have Bipolar Disorder. The following would be applicable in about any relationship, but I feel as though these points are the most important for a relationship involving mental health and stability.
1. Both partners need to have the same attitude regarding their wellness.
You can’t have one partner who is recovered and the other partner just doesn’t put in any effort into recovery. Why? Loving and living with an unstable mentally ill person is a hell of a lot of stress. Stress can easily serve as a depressive or escalation trigger that can cause unwellness in a person with a mood disorder. Minimizing stress is an important facet of mental health management for many.
2. Remember that wellness is an individual path.
I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard some variation of, “Well, my boyfriend tried this, so I’m going to try it, too.” or “Well, my wife had a bad reaction to that, so I’m not going to try it.” Your path is not the path of your partner. Their success with a given treatment or approach has zero affect on yours. You can walk the path together, but everyone experiences their mental illness in different ways. And we all have individual body and brain chemistry that means you can’t know how a medication is going to affect you until you’ve taken it as directed for as long as it takes to reach its functional range.
3. Work to not respond to your partner when emotions are running high.
Attempt to approach problems and challenges in the relationship from a position of neutrality. The couple can easily destabilize one another into unwellness by constantly fighting. Take some time to cool off and let your emotions settle before you toss more fuel on the flames. That small campfire can easily explode into a volcano of emotion. Work on improving communication in the relationship. There are tons of self-help books out there about it or you may want to consider a relationship counselor to work on communication skills.
4. Have and enforce boundaries to keep yourself well and healthy.
In my experience, a Bipolar partner who is doing better than their partner will often flex their own boundaries. They understand what it’s like to be misunderstood or for people to not have patience with what they are dealing with and want to be compassionate. That person may wind up destabilizing as they bend their limits. Boundaries are important because they help you stay balanced and healthy. I’m not saying to never flex boundaries, just be mindful when you make that choice and don’t flex them too far. I will note, this is just an observation from interacting with many mentally ill couples.
5. Work to turn your home into your sanctuary.
Ideally, a home should be a sanctuary, a place of peace and respite where a person can retreat after dealing with the bullshit of their day and life. Life is hard and stressful. Both partners committing to making the home a place of peace (as much as it can be) will create a lower stress environment. Of course, that is easier said than done…which is a stupid phrase because everything is easier said than done. Regardless, it is worth the effort so you don’t have the additional stress of dreading your home life on top of everything else.
If you would like for me to write about something specific, please feel free to let me know in the comments!
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