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Topic: Supporting Partner with form of Bipolar?

5 posts, 0 answered
  1. useruser2020
    useruser2020 avatar
    2 posts
    2 December 2019

    Hey, I'm looking for some advice and support on how to support my boyfriend of a year who has a version of Bipolar thats like... a real regular up/down cycle.

    See, the struggle is not when he's going through normal/mania - that we are fine with. In fact, during these times he's so loving and affectionate and kind.

    But when he has the down periods... I really struggle. I don't know how to support him. When I ask him what he wants, he gives me mixed messages. Sometimes he wants me to reassure him, sometimes he wants space, sometimes he says he wants me there then tells me to go away when I do go. He gets really snappy and honestly... mean. In his down periods, he makes me feel like my love and affection is an annoyance and inconvenience to him. So then I back off because he's snapping at me, getting angry with me (which really hurts me), and then he gets more upset because I'm upset and giving him space he's clearly asking for. I don't know how to love and support him because if I'm there reassuring him, talking to him I'm wrong and get my head bitten off, but if I leave him alone and give him space I'm making it worse by neglecting him.

    And this all makes me feel like shit because I'm a very affectionate person - I like to message cute things, emojis, talk, cuddle. So when he goes from being as affectionate as I am to suddenly not it really messes with my own mental health and sense of worth because someone I love who loves me is hurting me.

    And when I try to talk to him about this, it always ends up being spun into something I am either:
    1. Not doing right
    2. Being too sensitive about
    3. Blaming him for past relationship trauma

    I hate feeling so unsure and useless. I never know what to expect and I really struggle because all I want to do is love him and be with him but for 1-2 weeks every month it's like he hates me for wanting to love him.

    I just don't know - I feel like this post has been very conflicted and garbled in actual message. Does anyone have any tips or ways I can protect myself in his down periods, but also support him when he doesn't know what support he wants/needs?

  2. Aaronsis
    Community Champion
    • Outstanding members who have volunteered their time to support others here on the forums
    Aaronsis avatar
    1976 posts
    2 December 2019 in reply to useruser2020

    Hi useruser2020

    Welcome to the forum and for reaching out at this really frustrating time for both you are your partner, firstly how very lucky he is have you, you are so devoted to him and so very aware of his emotional and mental state, you are so very strong to be managing this, and it really does sound like you are doing a really great job.

    Firstly I am no professional here, just a person who cares. I am wondering a few things, firstly can you talk to you partner when he is happy and loving and talk about a way in which he can let you know what he needs in his down times. It might be a colour system of cards..red means leave me alone , blue means sit with me..etc....he can let you know what he needs without you feeling like you are pestering him and bugging him, also by him letting you know that gives you the power to respond in a way that is wanted and alleviates the panic and frustration and the arguments when he is not feeling so good. He may also not even know what he wants and this might be an orange card, but he can let you know when he does figure that out and if it changes, sometimes it is totally fine not to know also, but you also have to remember that this is not an attack on you. He is not doing this to hurt you or to make you angry, he is suffering a mental health condition and as frustrating as it can be for loved ones and friends and people in his life, his too is frustrated. So any little thing to take away some of the stress is a great idea. I think also having a conversation about what he needs when he is down in not a good idea to do when he is down and you will feel attacked or hurt, when this is so not his intention.

    I think perhaps you could also put some things in place when he is feeling like this and he doesn't want to be with anyone, like taking a walk or listening to some music or doing some things that you like doing to help make you feel ok with the process, not like you are "waiting around for him to feel better", then you can calmly say " I am just going for a walk and I will be back soon, you can let me know if you want a chat or coffee when I get back, love you"...this lets him know too that he is not impacting and being a negative force in your life.

    I am not sure if I have helped at all but I also think there are probably some great support groups around too, that might be helpful.

    Huge hugs to you useruser2020 and hope to chat some more.


  3. useruser2020
    useruser2020 avatar
    2 posts
    3 December 2019 in reply to Aaronsis

    Hey Aaronsis,

    Thanks for responding.. It was really affirming to have someone say I'm doing a good job - I constantly feel like I'm not.

    I try to talk to him when he's happy and loving, but he doesn't really know what do say because in his down periods he's so.. changeable? Like sometimes he wants me to talk him through his paranoia, or leave him alone, or something in between. When he's happy he doesn't know what he needs.

    I never approach these big conversations when he's down - last time I tried when I was upset about 8 months back he blew up at me so I learned to just play it by ear. I try not to let his down periods impact me, or not noticeably but its really hard because I miss him. He goes from being basically attached to me to not wanting to speak at all and its that suddenness that gets me every time. I've been trying to invest a lot into my own hobbies and practices when he's down, but then when he's happy they fall by the wayside because he wants to be in constant contact again.

    Thanks for reaching out Aaronsis. I really appreciate it. Its finally nice to have a space to talk about this stuff because none of my friends really get it. I mean, they have experience with their own mental health issues, but never anything that is like this. When I try to tell them what its like they just say I should break up with him but they can't understand that this isn't what he's like all the time, and he can't control it. And more to that, I don't want to break up with him. So I just stopped trying to talk to them for a while because they were then telling him he needs to do better by me and it was causing more problems than it solves.

    Thanks again for replying.

  4. Aaronsis
    Community Champion
    • Outstanding members who have volunteered their time to support others here on the forums
    Aaronsis avatar
    1976 posts
    3 December 2019 in reply to useruser2020

    Hey useruser2020

    Great to hear back from you and I am sorry to hear that your friends are not supportive, even if they don't understand or have not experienced this themselves it is upsetting when they just cant be there for you, for a hug or a coffee.

    The only person who gets to decide the future of your relationship is you and your boyfriend, I most certainly do not feel that just as he is having some hard times at the moment, that is he is Bipolar or a little unpredictable that is no grounds to break up with him. You sound like mostly you are doing really well together and the good times are good, but it is just getting through the not so good times and making you feel ok with that and just trying to really know that he is not mad at you and that this is really not about anything you have said or done.

    I really have no idea how heavy it is for you to figure out what he needs and even more so when he doesn't know himself, if he did, the card thing might work but if he is still trying to understand this too I think it is just going to be patience and love and you getting some support for you, to know you are ok and he is ok and together you are ok...just at this moment he is going through a moment, that it will end.

    He is so very lucky to have found such a supportive partner and I give you the biggest hug for sticking by him and not letting mental illness turn you away from him.

    We are here any old time you want to vent or if you are just feeling really lousy, also if you are having a huge win too, I would love to hear if something suddenly changes or if you find a strategy for you both.

    Every best wish for some clarity for you both and a beautiful future ahead.



  5. quirkywords
    Community Champion
    • Outstanding members who have volunteered their time to support others here on the forums
    • A member of beyondblue's blueVoices community
    quirkywords avatar
    7731 posts
    3 December 2019 in reply to useruser2020

    User user,

    thanks so much for sharing your story .

    Many people reading this will be able to relate to you.

    So you are not alone.

    Aaronsis had written a very supportive and helpful reply..

    I have been living with a diagnosis of bipolar for over 45 years.

    it is difficult living with bipolar and living with someone with bipolar.

    You are very understanding and kind . ,jkj

    I think you maybe need to look after yourself . When you are living with someone who has different needs, your own needs tend to be neglected.

    I was opposite to your boyfriend in that my mania and highs were the most destructive and I was more comp,ain’t when depressed. In fact people preferred me when depressed as they knew I would be still and clam.

    There are other threads here akut lving with someone with bipolar that may be of interest.

    Other people don’t really understand how you feel .

    Feel free to keep posting here and asking questions if you want to.

    Thanks again for sharing your story honestly..


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