Maintaining or rebuilding your relationship

Bipolar disorder can challenge relationships and family life and sometimes it takes a bit of time, patience and effort to maintain or rebuild them. Once the person is not so ill, you may be able to:

  • Share enjoyable experiences that have nothing to do with bipolar disorder.
  • Encourage giving and taking in your relationship. For example, providing the person is not severely ill ask them to help out at times and accept their support when it is offered. Relationships that involve even a little giving as well as taking can be less stressful and more rewarding for both people.
  • Use good communication skills to help sort out difficulties in your bipolar relationship or in the family.
  • When trying to sort out difficult problems in bipolar relationships or in the family it can be useful to consult a health professional who knows a lot about bipolar disorder and counseling for relationships.
  • If you have a bipolar spouse or partner and they have lost interest in sex due to bipolar depression, offer companionship and slowly start to rebuild an intimate relationship once the depression has subsided.

Family members sometimes respond very differently to learning that there is bipolar in the family. Some people take more time to accept that their loved one has bipolar and may deny the illness or become angry. When possible it may help to focus less on the illness and more on everyday family life and enjoying activities together.

When possible, encourage family members to relate to the person with bipolar in ways that emphasize what they have in common (e.g. interests or hobbies) and their respective roles ( e.g. parent and child, sister and brother). However, try not to make bipolar disorder a taboo topic in the family. Informing family members about the illness, what different mood states look like, ways to deal with them and help out may be useful. For more see: working out who to tell and what to say.