People suffering from bipolar disorder experience extreme mood swings. Sometimes known as manic depression, bipolar disorder causes those with the condition to feel great energy and impulsiveness, followed by great sadness and lack of energy. Dating someone with bipolar disorder can be a challenging and difficult endeavor, but there are a number of steps you and your partner can take to ensure a lasting and fulfilling relationship.
When dating someone with bipolar disorder, it is important that you understand the symptoms of his condition. You should educate yourself formally, by utilizing the information provided by mental health professionals, and informally, by paying attention to the information provided by your partner. While the symptoms of bipolar disorder are shared by all sufferers, people express those symptoms in ways that can sometimes differ. Tell your partner that you want to learn more about his condition to improve your relationship, and that you also need to know how he experiences bipolar disorder. Keep in mind that there is more to the person than his condition, but that understanding bipolar disorder will help you better cope with some of the challenges that can occur when dating someone with the condition.
Both you and the person you're dating should communicate honestly about your relationship and her condition. According to the article "Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder" by Julie A. Fast, one of the biggest problems facing couples in which one person is bipolar is difficulty communicating. Make your partner aware that you are comfortable discussing her illness. Be aware that because of the nature of bipolar disorder, there will be times when your partner will be ill and will be unable or unwilling to communicate. This is why it is important to have "big issue" conversations when your partner is feeling healthy. In the article "Partners for Life: Beating the Marriage Odds" Michelle Roberts cites a number of couples in which one has bipolar disorder and states that each couple made sure to discuss things like finances, hospitalization, transportation and other important issues during periods of healthiness. When dating someone with bipolar disorder, you probably won't need to discuss those issues unless you are living together and share finances, but you should take the time to discuss things like boundaries, space and communication. If your partner experiences an episode during your time together, discuss beforehand how you will handle it. If you need to contact a member of her family or a mental health provider, make sure you know that information beforehand.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when dating someone with bipolar disorder is that you both need to set up clear boundaries. Boundaries are the things you will and will not do, depending on the circumstances. Dating anyone with any kind of mental illness can be challenging, because their moods, behaviors, and personality may seem to change without warning. There will be times when your partner may say or do things that make you horribly upset and vice versa. Be sure to take care of your own mental health by taking time for yourself and getting the support you need from friends and loved ones.