11 Ways Bipolar Disorder Can Affect Relationships

Solutions for Strengthening Your Relationship
Illustration of a happy couple holding each other close
You can have a great relationship with bipolar. | Image made with Canva AI.

Relationships. Love them or hate them, they are an inevitable part of life.

Relationships are hard enough, but bipolar disorder adds additional challenges to the mix. 

On the one hand, bipolar can bring out some amazing qualities in a person: creativity, passion, and intensity. On the other hand, bipolar disorder can also cause some serious problems.

In this post, we will discuss 11 ways bipolar disorder can affect relationships. For each problem, we will offer a solution to help strengthen your relationships. 

1. Bipolar disorder can make it hard to trust others

Challenge: Bipolar disorder can make trusting other people a challenge. Your bipolar brain loves to tell lies, and that includes harmful stories about the people you love. Mental illness can also cause you to act impulsively and do things you later regret.

I get it. Several of my past relationships crashed and burned because my bipolar brain told me to run. Sometimes it was the right choice, but a few times, I should have stuck around.

Solution: Try to be understanding when your partner has trust issues. Remember that they love you but may not understand everything in your head and heart. Give them room to feel their feelings and acknowledge the times you hurt them.

If you struggle to trust others with bipolar disorder and relationships, think about how they treated you in the past. When people show you how much they care, keep those memories close to you. Hold tight to their love on the toughest days.

2. Bipolar disorder can lead to mood swings

Challenge: Bipolar disorder can cause you to experience extreme mood swings. Mania can make you act wild and create chaos. Depression can keep you confined to bed for days or weeks. 

These ups and downs can be very tough on relationships. A partner without bipolar may struggle to adjust to constantly changing emotions.

Solution: The best way to deal with mood swings is to talk with your partner. Explain how you are feeling and try to understand their emotions. Show them that your relationship is important to you by the way you live your life. Stick to your treatment routines, and take care of yourself. The better you treat your mental illness, the better things will go in your relationship.

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3. Bipolar disorder can cause problems with communication

Challenge: Bipolar disorder can make communication a minefield. You may misunderstand what your partner says, or bipolar may translate it into a completely different message.

Part of the problem is bipolar can make you act impulsively or say things you don’t really mean. Days of depression can keep you from talking at all, leaving your partner wondering what’s going on in your head.

Solution: An excellent way to deal with communication problems is to take time to express your thoughts and emotions more clearly. Apologize when you need to and be forgiving in return. 

Your angry outbursts will probably cause your spouse to reply the same way. Both of you need to forgive the other and move on. 

Also, try to be understanding with your bipolar disorder and relationships. Unless your partner has bipolar, they will never fully understand the noise in your head.

They’ll never grasp the reasons why you shut down or isolate yourself. On your better days, tell them what bipolar feels like on the inside, so they are in a better place to understand.

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4. Bipolar disorder can cause fatigue

Challenge: Bipolar disorder can cause you to feel exhausted. Sometimes the tiredness comes out of nowhere and with no trigger. Your fatigue and the limitations it brings can be tough on your relationships. Your partner may feel irritated when you’re always tired or never want to go out.

Fatigue is tough. I have both bipolar disorder and Familial Mediterranean Fever. When one is not kicking my butt, the other is. There are weeks when I crash every night right after dinner or may even have to miss work.

Solution: Be open about how you feel. Explain how bipolar makes you feel and why you need to rest. Then, on your good days, do what you can. 

Remind your partner that bipolar is an illness, and show them you’re doing your best. If you’re following your treatment plan, it should decrease the number of days with extreme fatigue.

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5. Bipolar disorder can cause irritability

Challenge: Bipolar disorder will often make you feel irritable. Angry outbursts might be scary for your partner or make them feel like they need to walk on eggshells around you.

Solution: Bipolar irritability is a tough battle but not unbeatable. Take steps to work through your anger and make sure you have safe outlets for the feelings. I find walking in nature and getting regular exercise helps me keep the irritability under control.

If the irritability feels like it never ends, talk to your doctor. Also, be sure to apologize if you say something hurtful and do your best to keep improving.

6. Bipolar disorder can cause mania

Challenge: One of the telltale signs of bipolar disorder is mania. Manic episodes can be high-energy and unpredictable. I like to call it Superman Syndrome with a bit of the Tasmanian Devil packed in. Mania can make you unreasonable and unwilling to communicate, making bipolar disorder and relationships even harder.

Solution: Again, the best thing to do is stick to your treatment plan. If you strive for stability, the manic monster will make fewer appearances. Open up to your partner about how mania feels and tell them what to expect. Then, make a plan together for how they should handle your manic episodes.

My family has a list of warning signs. When they see signs of mania developing, they let me know. We also have an agreement that I’ll listen to their suggestions no matter how awesome I feel. It’s tough sometimes, but their outside input helps me stay stable.

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Battling bipolar disorder is tough, especially when it affects your relationships.

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7. Bipolar disorder can increase stress levels

Challenge: Bipolar disorder loves stress and anxiety. If you don’t have some already, it will create it in your mind. High stress levels are tough on relationships. Your partner may feel overwhelmed trying to cope with someone who is always stressed or anxious.

Solution: There are many ways to decrease your stress levels. Medication, therapy, and mindfulness are a few. Take steps to keep your stress under control and it will improve your relationship. 

Work with your partner to identify your triggers and the places and people that increase your anxiety. Together, you can make a plan for how to avoid them. 

Walking, swimming, yoga, and other restful exercises can decrease stress levels. Try to share in these activities with your partner so both of you have less anxiety. The added benefit of a shared experience is it draws you closer.

8. Bipolar disorder can lead to isolation

Challenge: Bipolar disorder may make you want to isolate yourself. Mania can make you feel like you don’t need anyone else, and depression can leave you craving solitude and darkness.

Solution: Try to include your partner in as much of your life as possible. Make an effort to stay in the same room. Try to have at least one genuine conversation every day. The better you work on connecting on the good days, the easier it will be on the worse days. 

Also, open up about why you sometimes need to be alone. Tell your family that spending time by yourself doesn’t mean you love them any less. Open communication is essential for bipolar disorder and relationships.

9. Bipolar disorder can cause financial problems

Challenge: Bipolar disorder loves causing financial problems. Mania can inspire excessive spending and impulse shopping, especially in the middle of the night. I can’t tell you how many surprise packages show up at my door. When I look at my order history, it was always around 2:00 a.m.

Depression can make you feel lifeless, making it feel impossible to go to work. Sometimes mental illness will throw your whole life into chaos and cause you to need inpatient care. Going to work or meeting your financial needs may be beyond your grasp.

Solution: Start by creating a budget with your partner. Make a commitment to consult each other before making purchases or eating out. 

If you know there are times when you can’t control your spending, have your spouse take control of the credit cards and bank accounts. It may feel punishing to have restrictions but it can save your family from living on the street.

10. Bipolar disorder can make it tough to deal with conflict

Challenge: As it fights between mania and depression, the bipolar mind may stay in a state of conflict. It’s only natural for some of your internal turmoil to spill out into your relationships. Arguments and debates over every little thing can damage your relationship.

Solution: Communication is essential to having a good relationship. Reducing conflict often comes down to learning better ways to communicate. 

Good communication takes practice, but if both partners are willing to do the work together, things will improve. You may want to take your spouse with you to a few therapy appointments or get some tips from a professional on ways to improve.

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11. Bipolar disorder can make showing affection tough

Challenge: Bipolar disorder can make it difficult to express your love. You may appear cold or unfeeling, and this can strain relationships. Your partner may feel like you’re distant or stopped loving them.

Solution: Express your affection as often as you can. Tell your partner how much you care and hug them or hold their hand. 

Displays of affection shouldn’t be restricted to just the start of a new relationship. You can also do little things to express your feelings, such as sending a text during the day or buying a small, inexpensive gift.

Bipolar disorder and relationships have their own hurdles, but there are ways to make it work. The biggest keys are to be open and have good communication. 

Both you and your partner must be forgiving and accept that you have an illness. You have the added task of taking care of yourself and following your treatment plan.

Finally, you need to express your love–both in words and actions. Your partner only knows what’s happening in your head if you tell them.

Is it harder to have a relationship with bipolar? Probably. I’ve never been in a relationship where I didn’t have bipolar, so I can’t say for sure. 

What I do know is relationships require hard work to succeed. It’s not about each partner giving 50% but rather about both people giving 110%. Give your all to your relationship and it will succeed.

Until next time, keep fighting.

Pinterest Pin:
Battling bipolar disorder is tough, especially when it affects your relationships.

Discover 11 practical strategies that can help you and your partner navigate this rollercoaster together. 

Find out how to turn challenges into opportunities for growth and love.

Read Now.

#SpeakingBipolar #mentalhealth #mentalillness #bipolardisorder #mentalillnessawareness
Please share on Pinterest. | Graphic created with Canva AI.

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7 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for this article. So much of this makes sense and I really want my loved one (who’s struggling with accepting an impending bipolar diagnosis) to read this, but not sure it’s the right time since they’re in a manic phase right now and it kind of seems like rational conversations / suggestions are impossible. Will definitely keep an eye out for your posts in the future. Thanks again for your insights into this world that is incredibly confusing, frustrating and exhausting to so many.

    1. Hi Andrea,

      Thanks for taking a moment to comment.

      Yeah, during a manic episode is rarely a good time to have a conversation. Our minds are spinning so fast, it’s too hard to grasp anything new.

      My newest content appears first in my Sunday Newsletter, but I repost most things here on the blog within a few weeks.

      I wish you all the best. Hopefully the manic cycle will end and you’ll both find the help you need.

      Until next time, keep fighting.

      Scott

      1. Thank you! Will subscribe to your newsletter. I actually already subscribed to your blog I think, noticed your newest article out about journaling. Thanks for everything you’re doing to help people understand bipolar better!

          1. I have so many questions. One of the biggest ones is acceptance. I understand why someone – especially in a manic phase for the first time – would be in denial about their diagnosis. But he won’t take his meds and is driving his family up the wall in the meantime. Some articles I’ve read have said some people can take up to a decade or more – and meanwhile, so many relationships are in peril, jobs are on the line and they’re very life could be in danger. Trying to find all the answers possible about how to speed up acceptance – if that’s even feasible – and how to give his family coping mechanisms / tools, etc. There’s a lot. But those are the biggest questions so far.

          2. Acceptance is a tough one. Some people will fight it more than others, especially men. We don’t want to admit that there’s anything wrong with us or that we need help with anything.

            There were two main things that helped me except my bipolar diagnosis. One, my friends and family presented a sort of intervention. They told me how I was acting, and how my actions were affecting their lives. They clearly pointed out how I was acting and the unhealthy things I was doing. Two, I spent some time in in-patient care. Being in the hospital helped me see others like me, and when I could see similar actions in others and how they needed help, it made me a little more aware of what was going on in my own head.

            In the end, it’s up to each person with bipolar to take responsibility for their own health care. Some people may refuse to do that, but with the right encouragement, most of the ones I know have chosen to step up and do what needed to be done. I hope this helps.

          3. Exceptionally helpful. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your insights with me! He’s spent time in in-patient care, too, and is currently at the end of 6 weeks of intensive therapy. Will try to focus on what may work to encourage him. So far, we’ve been at a loss as to what could work. Will keep trying! 🙏🏽

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