“I typically recommend that individuals with bipolar disorder tell their partner about their illness before they decide to make long-term commitments to each other [such as] deciding to live together, get married or have children,” Sylvia says.
Chris prefers to discuss his 2001 bipolar diagnosis right away, before he’s head over heels about a new girlfriend.
“Providing specific information will help dissolve some of the fear,” Little says.
Hope says that learning how committed she is to managing her illness through medication, regular counseling and healthy habits went a long way to alleviating any worries her boyfriend had about dating someone with bipolar.
One girlfriend tried to be compassionate, she recalls, but attributed all of their arguments to the disorder, making Victoria feel discounted as a person.
When Victoria met an artist who also has bipolar disorder, she thought it would be the perfect match.
Despite their shared bond—or rather, because of it—things didn’t work out.
“I thought that having the mutual experience of bipolar made us kindred spirits,” explains Victoria.Hope dated several men after she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder II in 2004, but none of the relationships lasted long enough to make her mental health an issue.When Hope, 45, developed feelings for a local restaurateur in 2009, she knew she would have to talk to him about her diagnosis before things got serious.A breach of trust like that can be devastating to a relationship.” Talking to his girlfriends about the realities of living with bipolar disorder—including his need to maintain a regular sleep schedule, avoid alcohol, keep up with his meds and attend regular counseling appointments—also makes it easier for Chris to stick with his management plan.Similarly, sharing details about his illness provides a context for his shifting moods and opens the door to conversations about how that might play out in the relationship.The conversation could happen on the first date to get the issue settled one way or the other, or later in the relationship when there is greater commitment and trust.