Are bipolar relationships even possible?

Relationships with a bipolar partner: Possible, or not?

I see a lot of writings that relate to being in a bipolar relationship. I’ve done a fair amount of it myself. I get a fair amount of comments on many of my writings, but out of all the articles and posts I’ve written, overwhelmingly the comments are about how difficult it is, and most times how impossible. I haven’t done the math, but I’ll bet that its 98% of the replies are negative. Even people who aren’t in a relationship with someone who is bipolar the common theme is bipolar people are just not capable of successful relationships. (See: For an example)

I wonder why that is?

There’s no question that being involved with a bipolar person is difficult. Relationships in general are often challenging, and having one of the partners with severe mental illness just compounds the difficulties exponentially. But is it really 98% of the relationships that fail?

There’s no doubt that dealing with someone’s illness is hard. Being the bipolar one I don’t necessarily have the insight of the other side. I do have friends though that have their own struggles. One in particular is currently battling a severe clinical depression. She’s a good friend, and I so want to help her feel better. And with all the experience I have with my own, who better qualified? But she doesn’t accept that there is an out of control condition, and she refuses to get any help. So she continues to be miserable, and takes so many unnecessary risks and dangerous behaviors. . It’s frustrating to watch someone go through this when you know things that will make it better and heartbreaking that the just keep going down.

Serious, committed relationship must be incredibly hard for the non-bipolar partner.

Still, I have to wonder. Is it really that impossible to be successful? I do know a lot of marriages and partnerships that have failed because of the illness. But I know a lot that have persevered. In the support group I used to attend there were a fair number of people who brought their spouse with them to the group. Whether they survived long term I don’t know. But I do know that they seemed to be invested in each other and making a real effort to work through the issues.

So is that the key?

The point is, these people are in a support group; they have acknowledged their disease and actively trying to address it. Pretty much everyone in the group was in treatment. We started the meeting introducing ourselves and telling what medications they were taking. Okay, that may sound a little weird, but the reason is that if you know what someone else is taking, you know who to talk to if you have specific questions. Regardless, it was rare that there was someone attending the group that wasn’t on some kind of medication. And medication is a major factor in maintaining the symptoms. The people who chose to attend a support group were trying to learn about the illness and how to treat it, and getting and giving each other support.

Maybe that’s why there were so many spouses there. To some degree, the afflicted person was working hard to get better. And in so many cases, even if not completely controlled at least some of the symptoms were manageable.

Someone who refuses to acknowledge their illness, or refuses to remain in treatment are the ones who can be so damaging to a relationship. There’s no question that when someone goes into an episode they can be impossible. Just like me and my friend, it can be devastating to watch someone you love suffering so badly and there’s nothing you can do to help. Mania in particular can really kill a relationship. Financial irresponsibility and excesses can easily bankrupt a family. It’s not unusual for jobs to be lost, just adding to the financial strain. Grandiose thinking can be ridiculous, leaving the partner wondering what the hell are they doing? A manic person can be abusive, mentally demeaning their loved ones or even with physical abuse. And of course the tendency for sexual promiscuity that frequently goes along with a manic episode. How can a marriage survive that?

Failure is almost a foregone conclusion.

So that begs the question. Is the reason there are so many negative and hopeless comments because the vast majority of relationships cannot be tended? Or are the successful ones just not being heard from? When I was first diagnosed I scoured the internet, searching for any and all information to explain what I was going through and desperately looking for hope. As I’ve felt better I’ve spent significantly less time researching. I think the odds are those people who are maintaining, or at least working towards getting better spend less time reading writings like mine. They are not searching for answers, they are working towards solutions. The readers who comment on these blogs are either struggling to deal with their situation, or looking for support and justification for a decision to leave. How many times have you heard about someone who says ‘my husband / wife is in treatment and really making progress’ decide that they can’t deal with it, and quit trying. Oh, it happens. I really think that it happened to me. Not laying blame or judging, but I feel like just as soon as I accepted my illness and started working on getting better, my spouse had suffered through too much, and couldn’t commit to my effort to recover. So it does happen, but I believe that the chances of surviving a bipolar relationship is increased dramatically when they can both work on gaining control and controlling the symptoms.

So which is it? Are the people who have a positive or at least improving partnership just not reading or commenting? Are frustrated and wounded partners more likely to speak out; venting and releasing s much pent up emotions?

Honestly? I haven’t a clue.

But I do have hope. Yes, even if there are more successful relationships then it appears from my responses the odds of failure overall are definitely higher when one of the partners is bipolar. But let’s be fair. Here in America there is only a 50% ~ 50% chance of a successful, long term marriage. So the probability of having a happy and totally rewarding life together is already risky. I think it’s reasonable to expect that a high percentage of bipolar relationships are going to fail.

Statistics and probabilities are not absolute however.

Just because there are so many who can’t survive a union with someone who is bipolar, it doesn’t mean there’s no hope. And I think that the statistics are a bit skewed because you just don’t hear as much about the ones that make it.

But still; I wonder. Am I doomed to failure? Are we all? Am I just not hearing from the ones who have made it?

I can only hope. I will always hope. .

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11 Responses to Are bipolar relationships even possible?

  1. OK so I have Bipolar I (not II as my orig Dx) as well as other Dxs. Hubs 2.0 has at the very least clinical depression though it could be worse.
    Then we have his, mine & ours re: the kids…
    His 14-year-old dau has ADD.
    My almost 12-year-old son has autism.
    Our 4-year-old has a pragmatic language delay.

    Is it easy? Hell no! Is it worth it? Yes, doi we get therapy? Yes!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. mrs. mvs says:

    I think bipolar relationships are possible. I’m BP II and my husband is what the world considers “normal.” He took his vows very seriously. BP may not show itself like diabetes or cancer, but it’s just as serious. People don’t understand that. Once you find the person who does, I think it’s meant to be.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sarah says:

    I understood my partners BP and loved him none the less for it. Sadly his family ( children from his previous marriage )were less understanding and felt that I was the cause of the problem, they felt this way simply because I was the one who persuaded him to seek help and this was when he was diagnosed. Basically they shot the messenger.
    For them Dad had always been a little highly strung to use there description but never BP and as they had known him way longer than me then this must somehow be my fault.
    Despite all the years that I’d stood by him and supported him he couldn’t find it in himself to support me in the face of his children’s onslaught against me. In fairness his meds weren’t as finely tuned then as they are now so he was susceptible to the barrage of advice being dished out. They all swooped in to ‘look after Dad’ and there was no place left for me!

    No people don’t understand. We need better support for the families of BP and better education on the subject.


    • risingthirteen says:

      my situation was similar . . . my ex was susceptible to outside influences (his mother and his best friend – yet he is a 45 year old man). this was difficult for me . . . as i am an independent thinker and these outside influences were utterly surprising to me. plus he was in self-denial of his condition. nor was i privy to his diagnosis. so the behaviors were extreme and produced much anxiety in our relationship. he brought it to an end . . no place for me either.

      thank you for your share . . . helps me to understand all that had passed in this relationship.


  4. I’ve been with my boyfriend over 3 years, living together for 2, want to get married eventually and live happily ever after etc. 😛 He has generalized and social anxiety so he understands that bit of it well and tries his best to understand everything else. He’s told me before that he’s recognized my triggers and will “brace” himself when he sees something and do his best to help. My medicated, bipolar II mania usually manifests itself as severe irritability all directed towards him. Other times, it’s the typical talking too fast and getting frustrated that he’s being too slow. I’d say 98% of the time when that happens I’ll take space in my bedroom away from him while he’s in the rest of the apartment. He’ll check on me and we’ll talk after. And yes, MY bedroom. We sleep together every night, but technically we have separate bedrooms so mine can be that safe place for me to go to. That said, we’re currently apartment hunting and may move to a two bedroom, but it’s still important to us that the unit is laid out in a way that we can separate like that when we need to. People find the two bedroom thing strange, but it works for us. And as far as promiscuity – we met at a party and I thought he was going to be a one night stand. Funny enough, I now have zero desire to be with anyone else (never thought that would happen!) and due to both our issues/medications we get that one of us is not always “in the mood” when the other is so we haven’t had any issues with that.

    We understand each other and work well together. I thought [serious] bipolar relationships were impossible until I accidentally fell into this one. I know we’ll have different issues to work through as we get older (e.g., kids), but I’m more than optimistic that we’ll figure it out.


  5. risingthirteen says:

    your self awareness is a tremendous step toward a healthy relationship.

    my ex never admitted to me, nor to himself that he is bipolar. sad . . . as when I found his behaviors “off” – I thought he was purposely choosing to “hurt” or “disregard” me. i believe if i had been aware of his condition, it would have helped me to be better equipped in my response, rather than reacting with hurt.

    it was not until his DUI arrest – that his psychiatrist submitted a diagnosis letter to the judge for his court hearing – which he shared with me – that his bipolar disorder was mentioned. he was clearly in denial . . . finding that label “odd” – he always referred to it as a mood disorder – “why would his dr. refer to it as such”? he said.

    until he owns his truth – he will clearly not improve. though he takes his meds – he also self medicates in addition – certainly not ideal. and during his manic phase – oh boy, please don’t “rain on his parade” – after all this is when he is on cloud nine.

    sad for the lost relationship – that may have been. I have learned much through this experience and try to heal from the scars.

    your blog has helped me to recover and not blame myself . . . when we know better – we do better . . . and i did not know it was mental illness . . . thought he was an uncontrollable “bad boy” that had no respect for me, nor for my devotion. i loved him. yet, it scared the hell out of me.
    (he is in his forties, i am eight years older . . . and recovering from the anxiety ridden experience).

    i pray for both his joy and health.


  6. Anon says:

    I’m hoping and praying they can work. My boyfriend of 3.5 years is bipolar and we have had tremendous ups and downs, he has only recently been diagnosed as bipolar I. I have supported him both through his depressed times and the mania (the times in which he would be abusive, cheat, drink, and hate me more than anything imaginable). I love him regardless of his illness, though am only recently understanding how to cope with the mania myself. He is going through an episode at the moment and I haven’t heard from him in a week. The last contact I had from him was very negative. Though it may seem crazy to anyone outside of the relationship that I am still wanting this to work, the person he is while he goes off the rails is just an aspect of him that I have to deal with and support to be with the incredible person he is when he is stable. I am petrified this time that he will not come back. I am at a loss of what to do. I feel like giving him space is the best option. Up until recently, I would try to “advise” him throughout his manic periods, suggest drinking wasn’t the best option, suggest he stays in, inform him he’s making things worse. God, I wish I hadn’t, I feel as though I’ve pushed him away so severely. I wish I could tell him right now that I love him, every part of him, ever “flaw”, regardless. Ultimately, what I go through is barely a fraction of what he feels when he is in this state. There is noone more deserving and in need of unconditional love than him.


    • Helen says:

      I agree !!! People just dont get it….We love our partners for who they really are and domt judge who they become when the drpression or the mania kicks in. Not all people with Bipolar are abussive and totally out of control. I have been with my husband for 10 years and i am greatful for the wonderful years we have shared. I love him and know that deep down in his heart he loves me. He is currently trying to get himself better after his major relapse which shock the hell out of me. Never knew that he had this condition. Now i have become the enemy. He moved out and with his parents and all i can do os wait and give him the time he needs to heal. My friends think im mad, after all the turmoil he has put in our lives. They just dont umderstand that this is not the man in married. This is the illness not him. I finally get it and im not going to let negative people influence my decision to hang on. I know who my husband is and i refuse to let the stigma of Bipolar define who he is. That … real love…..for better or worse till death do us part.


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