The Bipolar Relationship Dilemma: Why We Run

Three thoughts about bipolar relationships.
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I didn’t like her to start. She was my friend’s cousin, and although she was pretty, she wasn’t a temptation. She was too short, too quiet.

As the weeks passed, she made sure I knew she was interested by finding reasons to touch me, laughing at every stupid thing I said, and tossing her long, blonde hair just right. She also had an amazing scent that was a mixture of a spring rain and lavender that didn’t seem to fade no matter how long we hiked.

I never trusted my heart. Diagnosed with bipolar at 23, I already knew the trend. A girl would like me, I’d ask her out, we’d date for a while, and I’d run for the mountains. No matter how much I cared for her, I always ran.

The same pattern held true with my friend’s cousin, although it was even more destructive. We would date, talk of marriage, break up, and reunite a month or two later to repeat the process. The unhealthy trend lasted for years until she met a man who is a much better match for her. (Side note: We’re still friends to this day, over 20 years later.)

Why does bipolar make us run from relationships? I don’t have all the answers, but here are a few thoughts.

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How does bipolar affect relationships?

When you have bipolar disorder, your moods can swing from one extreme to another. Today’s life of the party may be a brooding monster tomorrow.

This makes it difficult to trust our own judgement in relationships. You may feel like you’re on an emotional roller coaster, never knowing what mood you will be in from one day to the next. The unpredictability makes it hard to form a lasting, healthy relationship.

In addition, bipolar disorder can often cause exhaustion. Those of us with bipolar disorder, especially in manic phases, tend to have a lot of energy and are constantly on the go. This can be taxing for both the person with bipolar and their partner.

The flip side is bipolar depression, which may confine us to bed for days. In those worst days, we may not speak a word to anyone. If you don’t have bipolar, it’s hard to understand the sudden silence.

Finally, people with bipolar disorder may be more likely to mistrust others. It may be because someone has hurt us in the past or just our minds telling us lies. We put up walls to protect ourselves from further harm. It’s hard to get close to a person with a wall around their heart.

Why do people with bipolar run from relationships?

People with bipolar disorder may run from relationships for several reasons. One reason is that the constant cycling of emotions makes understanding our feelings challenging, to say the least.

For me, my heart was unreliable. I would swing from intense feelings of love and a desire to be with her 24/7 to thinking I felt nothing toward her at all. In the darkest days, I even believed I hated her, even though there was no basis for those feelings. Those days, her touch or smile sickened me.

Another reason we run is because bipolar makes us feel like we are unworthy of love. We believe the worst things about ourselves, and when another person tries to love us, we either feel they are faking it out of pity or trying to get something from us.

Bipolar will mess with you, so it’s good to take time before making any relationship decisions. That goes equally for starting and ending relationships.

Let’s discuss a few more things that can help improve your odds of a successful relationship.

What can help people with bipolar stay in relationships?

There are things that can help people with bipolar disorder stay in relationships. One thing is to take things slow. This will help you avoid making swift decisions that you may regret later.

I made a rule that I had to date someone for a full 12 months before we discussed marriage. In those months, we both could see all the parts of the other person. Bipolar can change radically from one season to the next, so I felt it important for my partner to see me in all seasons before considering a lifelong commitment.

Another thing is to be honest with your partner about your condition. This will help them understand what you are going through and how they can help you. Prepare them for the hard days and apologize freely if you cause them pain on one of your worst days.

Finally, it is important to have a strong support system. This can be your partner, family, and friends, or a combination of all of these. Having support will help you get through the tough times and reason through your chaotic emotions.

Keep fighting

Bipolar makes us run from relationships for many reasons. These reasons can include the emotional roller coaster we ride, the exhaustion we experience, and the mistrust we may face. We can also become stuck by the walls we build to protect ourselves.

However, there are things that can help us stay in relationships, including taking things slow, being honest with our partner, and having a support system. With effort, you can stay in a relationship long term.

I eventually fell in love with the perfect woman for me. While our story didn’t have a happy ending, she helped me see I could both love and be loved by someone unconditionally. She is a light I will carry in my heart always. You can find the same.

Until next time, keep fighting.

If you or a love one are coping with intense feelings of self-harm or hatred, reach out for support to 988 or a similar service.

A look at how bipolar affects relationships and what you can do to improve your chances of being successful. | #speakingbipolar #bipolar #bipolarclub #bipolarstrong
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  1. It’s interesting, I’m a little bit different than you describe. I suppose I can characterize myself as a person who doesn’t love easily, but when I do, I’m incredibly committed and loyal. By the time I was 26, I had dated lots of guys with some seeming mad in love with me, but only truly loved two. The first one (none having bipolar disorder) dumped me out of the blue, and I was crushed. I met him at 20 and moved with him from New Jersey to California. I’ll admit that I immediately ran away to Asia (age 23), though it wasn’t that odd considering that I had a degree in East Asian studies. The second real love I met at 24 years old, I’ve been with him for more than 25 years, and going strong. Though during a couple manias I did plan to flee, but never permanently. I just wanted to “regroup”, “find myself again”, and “come back better than before”…and then return to him. In the end, I never went, though once I had purchased a plane ticket and done planning.

    I hope you don’t mind, but I will share one of my old posts that was on a slightly similar topic. It does show how I could be emotionally absent from interested guys. I remember always thinking I would truly know when the right man came along. It did seem to happen with those two guys I mention above. The first love I now know what not quite “it”, but I had to be dumped to fully see it. My second (my darling Hubby), is “it”. It’s an unconditional love.

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