During my last relationship, I wasted no time telling my new partner that I have bipolar disorder. I went into great detail during our first date about what my diagnosis meant. To some, disclosing that you have a mental illness on a first date is too soon. However, for me, the timing felt right.
That night, I exposed the depths of my soul and I’ve never regretted being honest.
Due to the complexity of the mental illness, dating when you have bipolar disorder can feel impossible but I assure you that you can have bipolar and be in a healthy relationship.
Dating is already challenging. Adding a mental health disorder into the mix can present even bigger challenges. Because of the extreme shifts in mood present in someone with bipolar, things may constantly feel like they’re going up and down. This makes it difficult to manage your dating life or be in a committed relationship.
That being said, there are steps you can take to make your love life less complicated.
6 Tips for Dating With Bipolar Disorder
If you haven’t already, decide when you’re going to disclose your diagnosis to the person you’re seeing. This should be before you make a long-term commitment to them. Make a plan for what information you’ll divulge. How much will you share? While it’s important to be open and honest, you don’t have to tell all of your business if you’re not ready to.
Communication is essential for healthy partnerships. If you’re struggling, ask them for help. If you notice symptoms of an episode, let them know so they can be aware.
Use this time to educate them on bipolar disorder. Tell them what it’s like when you’re experiencing an episode as well as what you do to manage them.
For more information on when to disclose your mental illness to the person you’re dating, check out this blog post.
2. Continue With Your Treatment Plan
Part of managing bipolar disorder is seeking treatment and sticking with it. Proper treatment will help manage your moods and reduce symptoms.
It’ll be difficult to have a healthy relationship if you’re not treating your disorder.
It’s also important that you know your triggers. For example, things like drugs, alcohol, stress, or changes in your treatment plan could trigger an episode.
3. Take Things Slow
I’ve always rushed into relationships which usually resulted in them failing before they even really began.
For those of us living with bipolar disorder, our feelings are usually heightened. Sometimes it can feel like we’re not in control of our emotions.
When our mood is high, we may feel overly excited about someone we’ve been seeing. This leads us to do things like imagining our life with them or claiming that they’re our soulmate. People with bipolar also tend to be impulsive. Because of this, it’s even more important that we take our time.
4. Make Yourself A Priority
Something I’ve always struggled with when it comes to dating and relationships is putting myself first. When you’re living with a mental illness, making yourself a priority might be difficult. If you’re like me, you may crave or desire to be loved which leads you to settle for less than you deserve.
Go into the dating world with the mindset that you come first. Of course, there will be instances where you’ll need to think about your partner’s wants and needs first but ultimately, you should be your main concern.
5. Practice Self-care
Aside from sticking with your treatment plan, a part of managing bipolar disorder is practicing self-care.
Self-care is about taking care of your overall well-being. You don’t have to wait until symptoms of an episode appear to care for yourself. You can carve out time daily to practice self-care or do something you enjoy.
You can also encourage your partner to do something nice for themselves as well.
6. Set Boundaries
Boundaries are crucial when you’re dating with bipolar disorder. Setting boundaries could look like telling your date that you don’t drink alcohol or letting them know you can’t stay up late multiple times a week because good sleep hygiene is important for managing episodes. Communicating your boundaries leaves room for you to be honest with your partner as well as make it clear what you can and can’t do.
Whether or not you have bipolar disorder, dating is hard work. The ups and downs experienced with bipolar disorder can make the relationship feel like an emotional rollercoaster. Allowing yourself to open up and be vulnerable builds trust and can make a relationship much stronger.
Having bipolar disorder doesn’t mean you’re unlovable or that you don’t deserve a thriving relationship.
If you’ve just started dating someone new, use discernment to help you decide when the best time is to tell them about your diagnosis. Each time you disclose, there’s a chance of being rejected because some people don’t truly understand what the disorder entails and there’s also so much stigma surrounding bipolar. If rejection happens, learn not to take it personally. It doesn’t mean you’re unworthy or say anything about who you are.
Navigating the world with bipolar disorder is a struggle especially when it’s not being properly managed. Learning how to take care of yourself is vital if you want to date.
Remember that this illness is a part of you but it’s not all of you.
If you’re interested in more tips for dating with bipolar disorder, check out this blog post.