Relationships in themselves are complex and difficult to navigate. However, when you add a complex mental health issue it can make having a relationship seem almost impossible. Although there is no magic solution to navigating these problems there may be a few ways to make it easier understand your partner who lives with bipolar disorder.

Educate Yourself

Understanding the disorder that your partner lives with can make their behaviour and emotions seem more relatable. It may help you understand how to deal with their mood swings and emotions and be able to separate them from their symptoms. For someone who lives with bipolar disorder, symptoms can seem unrelated to mental health issues and therefore it can be helpful to understand what may be a symptom and what might not be.


Communication in any relationship is key! However, it is absolutely vital when there is a mental illness thrown into the equation. Communicating with your partner about how they feel is very important to help you understand what they are experiencing, but it is equally important to communicate how you are feeling and how the disorder may be affecting you. Although someone may be living with a disorder, this doesn’t takeaway from the fact that you are equal partners in the relationship and your emotions are just as valuable and valid as theirs.

Get your own support

Just because you are not the one living with the disorder doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get help. Although it’s not your disorder, you will still be affected by the disorder and it is completely valid for you to get your own help in order to process and deal with these effects. Having complicated elements in a relationship can put a strain on anyone involved, and therefore getting help with understanding the way that this may make you feel can be extremely helpful. 

Don’t blame all problems on the disorder

Although bipolar disorder can cause strain on a relationship, it is not the only thing that can cause issues. By using bipolar disorder as a scapegoat it can prevent you from working through problems with your partner, which may mean that they linger or even become a bigger problem in the long run. Furthermore, it’s important not to infantilise your partner by presuming that their behaviour is completely out of control may feel frustrating for your partner and could even cause more issues.

Don’t infantilise your partner

Following on from the previous point it is important to remember that just because your partner is living with a difficult disorder such as bipolar disorder, this does not mean that they are weak or need to constantly be looked after. While it’s important to recognise that your partner may need more help than another person, it is likely that they are capable of looking after themselves and it may feel difficult for someone to feel like they are being patronised or viewed as weak.

Recognise early warning signs

As an objective person it is likely that you will spot a mood swing before your partner does- by communicating with your partner about their early warning signs it may be able to help your partner to manage their symptoms, especially if it is caught before its becomes a full on episode. Furthermore, this might help you to understand their emotions if they are approaching an episode.

Don’t believe stigma

It can be difficult not to believe information we see in the media. Unfortunately lots of the information in the media is twisted and can feed into stigma. By believing stigma you may not be able to see your partner for who they are or how their disorder affects them individually. It may feel overwhelming to expect a lot of negativity out of your relationship and could cause you to lose out on a good relationship due to misinformation.

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