Mandy Kloppers

How to Be a Good Partner to Someone With Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder can be debilitating — it can be challenging for the person who has it and the people who care about them. If your spouse or partner has bipolar disorder and you’re struggling to figure out how to help them, know that there are ways to better understand this mental health issue and become more supportive. Here are six tips to help you do that.

1. Encourage Treatment

Treatment is vital for individuals with bipolar disorder, even when they’re in a manic state and don’t feel like they need it. Stopping medications without a trained professional’s opinion can be dangerous, even if the patient doesn’t feel like they need it anymore. Your body can adapt to a particular medicine, so it could feel withdrawal or even worse symptoms if the medication is suddenly stopped. It’s important to continue taking medicine until evaluated as otherwise by a doctor.

Furthermore, undergoing treatment can help your loved one learn to manage their symptoms and triggers. They may feel reluctant to seek treatment when they perceive themselves as doing better, but your gentle encouragement can help. Medication and therapy can help a person with bipolar disorder regulate and calm their symptoms.

2. Find Patience

Finding patience is key to dealing with any tumultuous situation, especially when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Facing problems helps you know how to handle them in the future. 

While it might be difficult to have patience in the moment, your loved one will appreciate your understanding and helping them through their symptoms. Remember to breathe, start a countdown if needed and move forward as an encouraging force. It’s OK to get upset, but remember to handle any conflict healthily by talking it out.

3. Watch and Note Triggers

After living with your partner for a while, you should be able to note the signs and symptoms of their manic and depressive episodes. Hasty decision-making and exaggerated moods and confidence can be key indicators of an intense period, as can certain scenarios like struggling at work or choosing to isolate themselves. Once you know what to look for and how bipolar disorder manifests in your partner, you can keep your eyes open for triggers.

Triggers can be anything from a hobby they participate in to something in the environment out of their control. If it’s something they can manage, urge them to take the reins. You can guide them through it or lend your support in other ways, too. For example, if one of your partner’s triggers is seeing something on social media, you can encourage them to take breaks from the platforms they’re active on by setting your phone down, too. Slowly, the two of you can work past these issues.

4. Communicate Openly

Communication is essential to every relationship, regardless of the presence of mental illness. You should always communicate your feelings openly and with care, even when you think your loved one may not like what you have to say because you must be honest with them. Make sure to examine your words from their perspective and plan your sentences carefully. Someone with bipolar disorder or some form of anxiety may assume the worst if you aren’t open and honest.

Establishing that you can communicate openly with one another allows you to build a stronger bond. Your partner may grow to trust you more and choose to tell you when they’re not feeling so well. They may also empathize with you when you aren’t up to being a caretaker. Communicating more frequently can strengthen your bond and know how to better help someone with bipolar disorder.

5. Remain Positive

Know that life won’t always be this difficult. Remind yourself of why you started dating your loved one in the first place. Keeping a positive outlook is key to motivating yourself to continue with this support. It could also reflect positively on your partner, who might seek treatment and try to be better on your behalf. 

Your love for each other should shine through the troubles. Just remember to always look on the bright side. It’s OK to feel your negative emotions — just don’t dwell on them and focus on improving things. Make a plan of action if you need to. You can work together toward a treatment program, whether medication, therapy or something else. Assure your partner that you’ll be there for them every step of the way.

6. Have an Excellent Support System

Caring for someone with a mental illness can take a toll on you. Even if they manage in their day-to-day life, their symptoms may become too much to handle at times. People who care for loved ones with disorders of this sort are more likely to become depressed and have their own symptoms. Keep your chin up — remember that you’re not the only one in this situation. Surrounding yourself with a great support system is crucial to your well-being.

Seek support groups for people who play the role of caretakers for their partners. Taking care of a loved one with any sort of illness can be draining, so surrounding yourself with others who have been there before or who love you can help you feel at ease. Your family and friends can be a great support system if no local group suits your needs. It’s OK to rely on others.

Being a Supportive Partner to Someone with Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder may be an inseparable part of your partner, but you shouldn’t let it govern your relationship. Understand that your loved one is a person outside of their illness and that you’re hoping for them to get better. Being a supportive partner can also encourage them to seek treatment and understand that their existence isn’t a burden. Value your love above all else in your relationship, and the two of you will make it through any rough patches.