A partner with bipolar disorder may experience intense emotions, periods of time with low energy, motivation, and depression, or moments with heightened energy, including very little need for sleep.
It can be hard to understand bipolar disorder if you haven't personally experienced it, so here are 10 tips to cope in a relationship with a partner with bipolar disorder.
» Looking for guided therapy sessions in the comfort of your own home? Check out our top 10 picks for the best online therapy sites and services.
1. Practice Active Listening
Active listening is essential in every relationship but can be especially important when your partner has bipolar disorder. Creating a space for you and your partner to be heard can reduce miscommunications that might lead to arguments and intense emotions.
If you are not sure how to practice active listening, a couples therapist can help.
2. Educate Yourself About Bipolar
If your partner has bipolar disorder, spending time learning about the disorder can provide you with a better sense of what to expect and how to best support your partner.
This can also help you learn to identify both manic and depressive episodes and have a realistic understanding of how to navigate these moments with your partner.
» Look out for these signs you need therapy.
3. Empathize With Your Partner
Empathy is a must when your partner has bipolar disorder. Remember that they have a mental health condition, and sometimes their reactions or emotions can feel entirely out of their control and aren't always intentional.
Try to take a deep breath and think about how frustrating it must feel not to have control over your emotions or mood.
4. Maintain Open Communication
It’s essential to be open with your partner about how you feel, especially if you struggle to be patient or empathetic. There may be times when you feel a bit burnt out or exhausted, and that’s okay.
Just be open with your partner about this and express your need for some alone time or self-care, which will especially help your partner feel less insecure about the state of your relationship.
» Want to improve your quality of life? Here are the best ways to keep mentally healthy.
5. Encourage Your Partner
It can be helpful to encourage your partner to stay consistent with maintaining their mental health. If your partner isn’t currently in therapy, try encouraging them by showing that you care about them, want them to feel better, and support them.
If you or your partner feel hesitant about starting or continuing treatment, try to learn more about how online therapy for bipolar disorder can help.
6. Be Patient
Patience isn’t just a virtue; it’s a valuable skill.
Think about the last time you felt overwhelmed by people when stressed. In that moment, would it have been more helpful for your support system to respond by being high-strung and pushy, or kind and patient?
You may find that expanding your ability to be patient can make your relationship feel a lot less tense. Your partner with bipolar disorder may experience a wide range of emotions and possibly even panic attacks. Use your empathy skills here and think about how you can practice patience in these moments.
» Do things feel overwhelming? Read about how to spot and accept situations you can't change.
7. Try to Establish and Enforce Healthy Boundaries
Your partner may experience moments where they engage in impulsive behaviors, don’t need much sleep, or lack motivation and energy to engage in simple tasks. Try to establish firm boundaries to help prevent or reduce the impact of these behaviors.
Can you put limits on credit cards, stick to your own sleep schedule even when your partner isn’t sleeping, or reach out for help with household chores if your partner is feeling depressed and unable to help? It’s also a good idea to establish boundaries for yourself to make sure you aren’t overextending yourself trying to support your partner.
8. Get Additional Support
Encouraging your partner to engage in routine therapy may be beneficial for your relationship, but it would also be beneficial for you to engage in your own therapy.
Aside from therapy, make sure you have additional social support and regularly spend time with friends and family. It’s important to maintain some independence in your relationship and not spend every waking moment with your partner.
» Considering therapy? Here are science-based tips for getting effective online therapy.
9. Find Ways to Manage Stress
Being in a relationship with a partner who has bipolar disorder can bring added challenges. Therefore, it’s important to explore different ways to manage stress and regularly engage in stress-relieving activities.
10. Go to Couples Therapy
If you feel like you are still not sure how to support your partner, feel like you are still struggling with understanding bipolar disorder, or having difficulty managing your own feelings, there is nothing wrong with seeking out help from the best online counseling for marriage and relationships.
If you're skeptical about whether this will work, it might help to weigh the pros and cons of virtual couples therapy.
Your Relationship Is Manageable With The Right Strategies
There are challenges in every relationship, and having a partner who suffers from a mental health condition can definitely cause added strain in your relationship. Following these steps can help provide a better sense of understanding, improve communication, and allow you to take better care of yourself and your partner.
Having a healthy and fulfilling relationship with a partner who has bipolar disorder is absolutely possible. Encourage your partner to remain consistent with their treatment plan, try to learn about their condition, and don’t forget that you deserve support as well.
» Check out our top picks for the best online therapy for depression.