Should People With Bipolar Be In Relationships?

February 11, 2014 Natasha Tracy

I’ve been writing about bipolar disorder and mental illness for 11 years. Eleven years. It’s been a long road.

And during that time I have heard a lot of people say a lot of horrible things about people with bipolar disorder. In no particular order, people have accused people with bipolar disorder of being: violent, manipulative, self-centered, selfish, abusive and many other negative things.

Certainly, if I bumped into a person with those characteristics, I wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with him or her. However, are people with bipolar really like that? Should people with bipolar disorder be in relationships? (I'm Bipolar: Will Anyone Ever Love Me?)

What Are People With Bipolar Disorder not Like in Relationships?

I, in no way, buy the nonsense that people spout against people with bipolar disorder. I, personally, am not manipulative, self-centered, selfish or abusive, and I strongly suspect I’m not the only one. Nowhere in that list of accusations is an actual symptom of bipolar disorder. While, I admit, anger does seem to be more prevalent in people with bipolar disorder, outside of that, none of those insults have been shown to be true.

There may be many things about a person with bipolar disorder that are different from your average bear, but all that crap isn’t part of it.

What Are People With Bipolar Like in Relationships?

Some argue that people with bipolar shouldn't be in relationships. But why is this? Should we, as people with bipolar, stay out of relationships? Well, we’re people with an illness. So we’re people, plus the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Primarily, this means that we’re people with bouts of depression and hypo/mania. Of course, we might also be euthymic (symptom-free) for long periods of time too.

So, I would say, people with bipolar disorder, are just people with mood issues. If I were to characterize myself, I would say I’m just a person, who often manifests depression (rarely hypomania).

However, what I think is really important to remember is that who we are, is not the disease. The disease lies atop of us like a blanket. If you’re in a relationship with one of us, you need to know and see that.

Relationships With People With Bipolar Disorder

Some people would argue people with bipolar disorder are so broken, they shouldn’t be in relationships. Some people would argue that we can’t have a positive impact on another person because of the disease. Some people would argue that the disease is such a defining factor that it, and it alone, should prevent someone in being in a relationship.

This, of course, is nonsense. I know people with bipolar disorder in relationships. I know people with bipolar disorder in long-term relationships. Are there challenges thanks to the disease? I have no doubt. I have no doubt that any disease would stand in the way of parts of a relationship. I also have no doubt that people can work through those roadblocks.

Did we forget? No one is perfect.

And excuse me, but all those people who say that we shouldn’t be in relationships – are they perfect? Do they bring no problems to a relationship? (It seems to me, that, if nothing else, their hateful close-mindedness would be somewhat of an issue.) Because they would be the first people ever.

So while I, personally, often feel very broken and worry about my influence on others in my personal life, that doesn’t mean that people with bipolar, en masse, should not be in relationships. We’re all different. Relationships are right for some of us and not right for others. Just like everyone else.

I think it’s easy to feel such disease-hatred that it morphs into self-hatred and makes us believe that we’re not relationship-worthy. But that is a logical fallacy. We’re worth everything that anyone else is worth. Are there issues with the illness? Yes, of course there are. Are they insurmountable? No, of course they’re not. We succeed and fail in relationships. Just like everyone else.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or Google+ or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at the Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2014, February 11). Should People With Bipolar Be In Relationships?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 17 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

December, 27 2014 at 9:55 pm

You cannot have a long term healthy relationship with a bipolar person because the bipolar person himself will go on a guilt trip every time he has the episodes. (Regardless of how the other person takes it). and it will finally end up in a broken relationship or hurting oneself of the other person. There is just no solution to it. It's a cyclic infinite loop! You just can't escape it!

December, 23 2014 at 3:37 am

Not all bipolar's are the same. Some have mild bipolar, some seem to manage their symptoms with medication. When bipolar is extremely severe and cannot be managed with medication, the other person in the relationship is in big trouble.
My ex, is manipulative, a liar, has a high opinion of himself, he screams and shouts, has violent tendencies, swears, is rude, cannot maintain friendship, could not hold down a job and loved to spend my money.
In the end I could take no more . Last year I had breast cancer and he was totally unsupportive. He cannot show empathy with others. He is the most important person on the planet.
I also think he has other issues besides bipolar, probably a personality disorder. He was 37 before he was diagnosed and only went to see a psychiatrist because I said I would not carry on with the relationship if he didn't. Unfortunately, his meds don't help and for my own health, I walked away. Now I am stress free.

November, 11 2014 at 6:12 pm

I met a bipolar 2 person about 4 weeks ago. Things seem to be going well, there was a break and then things seemed to be going well again, suddenly silence again. This guy is absolutely wonderful and expresses interest in me but then it feels like it can't be sustained. I guess there is always a possibility that there is a loss of interest unrelated to bipolar 2 but it doesn't feel that way. I wonder if anyone can share some possible insight into what might be going on.

November, 5 2014 at 11:27 am

I have found from being in a very long term relationship, one of the bigger issues I face with type 2 bipolar is being able to cope with both my brain's distorted requirements, as well as her requirements, reasonable or otherwise. When the depression is in ascendancy, and you can't explain why you can't perform a task or job, it can be hard not to beat yourself up about it, but when your partner is also imposing her desire for you to do the job, how do you deal with it? I vary between a) summoning the extra energy and doing the task anyway, fully knowing that this is likely to have severe negative effects on my health, often extending or worsening the depression, or b) shutting down and ignoring the task, trying to explain to her why i can't do that. This can very easily lead to conflict and frustration, especially as bipolar is chronic for me and ever present for a long period of time. It's not that I don't care that her needs are met, and if anything i'm hyper-sensitive to her needs. I am fortunate that we have been in a very long term relationship and can weather a large amount of conflict, but i can only imagine how hard it would be to be dating in the same circumstances.

November, 4 2014 at 11:28 am

Some Bipolar sufferers can be manipulative, self centred, selfish and abusive during an episode.These are symptoms of Narcissism which can occur during hyper mania/ mania.In my partner it usually occurs in conjunction with irritability, grandiosity, nightmares and sleep paralysis, intense activity and project obsession with low productivity, alcohol abuse and hyper sexuality.He finds the depression the hardest aspect while for me it's the hyper mania. I think the more episodes of hyper mania or mania a bipolar sufferer has the harder it is to stay in a healthy relationship. Treatment for hyper mania / mania is crucial to maintaining a relationship.

October, 30 2014 at 1:03 pm

Im happily married to an amazing man who is kind, caring, funny, loyal and trustworthy. Who makes me very happy.
We have been together 2 years, 11 months married :)
My husband has bipolar.
Yes the highs are high and the lows are really low, but isnt a marriage about being there, in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer.
Marriages needs to be worked at.
And in my opinion there is no reason why a person who happens to have bipolar shouldnt have a fufilling relationship

Anthony Padayao
October, 22 2014 at 8:13 am

I was in a relationship with my GF who is Bipolar. She refuses to use any recommended medication and does not see some one to talk to. Based on her Urging, we got a place together 3 weeks ago. She moved out, after ONE WEEK, while I was gone one night without an explanation. Over the past 5 years it has been a ROCKY ROAD traveled, for the BOTH OF US. Although I do believe that she is Not her illness. And I know and love who she is aside from it. I would say that it is IMPOSSIBLE to be in a relationship with someone with BP that does not take the necessary steps to somehow manage her symptoms. Without causing much distress to the other partner. I love her very much, but feel like I am just enabling her by propping her up during her episodes or constantly taking her back when she leaves, since she refuses her self to deal with the illness.

October, 16 2014 at 11:14 am

Dont fool them either. Your going to have tohave self respect and lots boundaries with them, never a moment of weakness shown to them if yu dont want get played. Dont try study them or fix them, learn self respect dont let anyone run yu over treat yu less destroy your esteem

October, 12 2014 at 7:22 am

I lived with and loved a man for 3 years that was bipolar but refused meds. There were times when he was wonderful, loving and playful. Mostly though he was selfish, mean, cold and abusive. Also he felt he should be able to have sex with me whenever and wherever he wanted. I took it for a long time but eventually we went separate ways because of his severe mood swings. Every time he went with another woman and it didn't work he was sorry and wanted to come back to me but eventually I moved away and he stopped trying. I still think of him and miss him but from what I know he is still in and out of relationships. If he would take meds he would have a much happier life.

Jennifer Sabharwal
August, 26 2014 at 7:39 pm

Relationships are based on liking the other persons character and supporting your loved one when in difficulty ect. If you as a person cannot commit support to anyone with a disability, then your family would not receive the Duty of Care they have a right to and deserve. So it is you who should not consider being in a serious
relationship until you can grow into a compassionate and mature, well rounded person.

August, 26 2014 at 4:24 pm

Any person that suffers from any illness including mental illness should not have a problem with maintaining a healthy relationship as long as they strive to maintain stability through meds, therapy, and support. My son was married, developed schizoaffective disorder and his wife left him in the midst of him trying to actively recover. When he started on his road to recovery, he stated that when he was ready to date again he wanted someone who also battled mental illness so at least they would understand each other's struggles. All of this was said in jest however he did meet a young woman who was diagnosed with bipolar. They've dated for a year and a half and go to doctor appts and therapy sessions together and stand by one another during the bad days. They make sure they are taking their meds and they encourage each other to strive for a healthy life. At first I was a little nervous about the relationship but now I am thankful they are there for each other and will soon be married in October.

August, 26 2014 at 2:49 pm

I was in a relationship with a bi-polar male for approx 4 years off and on. he was manic only and all the time...charismatic, reckless, energetic, seductive, over-confident, constantly spinning delusions of grandeur, extremely self centered. it was very appealing at first, and medication made it markedly better, but in terms of long-term relationship material??? I really felt like some of the behaviors that the meds helped curtail (over-spending and gambling, for example) had become habits. I determined that he was...and always will be...a great guy to have fun with, but not settle down with long term and we were headed for marriage. I saw numerous liabilities ahead. just my personal experience, knowing that every bi-polar person is different.

August, 26 2014 at 1:20 pm

I totally agree with CmM.
I care for myself first. Stay on a regime that allows me to function and stay out of the hospital. THAT selfcare MUST come FIRST. If I can find someone who respects and fits into my world that's great.
Unfortunately, partners can't fit into my discipline for long.
I don't believe what I am doing is selfish or manipulative or controlling, its survival. I am honest with perspective dates, but I dont think they understand what they are getting into dating me and my illness.

April, 15 2014 at 3:45 am

I think the reason Natasha wrote the article is that it's unbelievable how many people give relationship advice that if one person has bipolar, the other person should immediately dump them, that it can't ever work. There is a fake statistic online that 90% of marriages where one partner has bipolar, will end in divorce. I did spend 20 minutes googling and could find NO SOURCE for this information, other than a made up number in an article in Psychology Today, and everyone cites this. Some people even say "Studies show that 90% of marriages. . ."

Eileen Hunt
April, 14 2014 at 3:09 pm

My daughter who struggled with bi-polar illness was blessed to have a romance like you read about.They had their ups and downs but their love carried them through.They had 15 years which only ended when she died from an illness unrelated to the bi-polar disorder. Yes, people with mental illness can and do have wonderful relationships,I know I witnessed one for 15 years.

April, 14 2014 at 12:12 pm

The question posed is completely ridiculous! We're human bipolar people have difficulties but who the hell doesn't. I have multiple diagnoses and have been blessed to have two men who were and are tolerant loving and supportive. It hasn't been easy but life isn't meant to be. It's a lesson and everyone, mental illness or not, has the potential to contribute and enhance t life of others

March, 15 2014 at 3:30 pm

This article just perpetuates stigma. It doesn't even answer the question in the title. Waste of 5 mins of my life

Anthony Lee
March, 14 2014 at 3:26 pm

Me and my wife been married for 14 years,but she left after some arguements over petty things.The reason was she was having Narcissitic disorder, and earlier i didn't know that there is a disorder of this sort.She is the hard working type but ocd nature still can be tolerated.
Lately only i found out, about this disorder otherwise i would just keep quiet and after a couple of weeks she would revert back normally.At times she can be abusive too.Is difficult but not impossible to live together if i knew this earlier.
Sad and broken hearted.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

March, 6 2019 at 4:01 pm

you know bi polar is all consuming and impacts attention significantly as well as mood, making most of us sufferers seem quite self centered. You say your wife's a narcissist but my question would be this; does she have a conscience? Does she exhibit ( ever) the ability to feel shame and guilt? if the answer is no she cant feel shame or guilt then your assessment of her disorder is accurate but if she is just as you described she is likely just bi polar. My ex wife was a narcissist sociopath and I have bi polar

February, 23 2014 at 2:34 am

Damn right people with bipolar should be in relationships ... I've had dozens!!
I have just been dumped by a woman who told me "I realise you have an illness but nevertheless you were expecting an awful lot of a vital, well-adjusted woman to make a life with you...I don't know any woman who would have a relationship with you. That sounds callous, but it's the truth." She then went on to say, "My friendship is always here for you Bruce if you want it xox".
Clearly this woman wasn't right for me, but reading what she said, would any sane man, bipolar or otherwise, want to be in a relationship with her?
It's too easy to get sucked into the stinking thinking that says "I'm not OK 'cos I have bipolar". Yes, we are not easy people to live with all of the time, but as one who has dated and been in relationships with so-called normal people, I can vouch for their demons and inadequacies too. It's called life.

jacinta arevalo
February, 18 2014 at 4:55 pm

My husband which now separated from we'd been married for 16yrs and I know now what I didn't know back then that he has what's called narcissistic. There is actually no way of any reasoning. There was no way me and my kids could live under the same roof as him. I couldn't get anything through to him just too much frustration. It was nothing but a circle going nowhere.

Rebecca Randolph
February, 18 2014 at 10:10 am

I am Bipolar II, and I have been married for over 24 years. My husband has loved me enough to educate himself and involve himself in my recovery, and he is a big part of the reason I have done so well. Sometimes I ask him why he puts up with me, especially when I am symptomatic and difficult to live with. He tells me it is because he loves me, and that I am intelligent, funny, loving and gifted and he has enormous respect for me. He further says that as a result of being married to me he has grown as a human being, become more compassionate and patient and appreciative of life's little blessings. I am so lucky to have such a wonderful man as my mate!

Irving Gottesman
February, 18 2014 at 7:03 am

Facts about the risk of developing mental disorders in the offspring of persons suffering from Bipolar disorders may be of interest to the readers of this Blog. My Danish colleagues and I were able to use a national cohort of 2.7 million citizens to identify the outcome in the offspring of rare parental combinations compared to the general population risks. When neither parent in a couple had bipolar illness, the risk to offspring of developing that disorder was 0.48%, about 5 in 1,000. When both parents had bipolar, the risk to offspring of bipolar plus unipolar depression was 36.0%. When one parent was bipolar and the other had never been psychiatrically admitted, the risk was 4.4% for developing a bipolar disorder. These "naked" facts are only the starting point for a discussion with an informed genetic counselor.

Terry Fritz
February, 15 2014 at 10:08 pm

Bipolar is different for everybody. Untreated, it can be very destructive, including of relationships. As with alcoholism for example, the biggest hurdles are accurate diagnosis and acceptance by the patient. It is not simple or easy. Not all problems of bipolars stem from bipolar. There is plenty of information on the internet and professional help is needed. There are effective medications. A new treatment for bipolar and depression utilises N-acetylcysteine on its own or adjunct to harder drugs. Look it up and talk to your professional about it.

February, 15 2014 at 1:58 pm

My wife and I had many road blocks with my depressive episodes because they last for weeks. I think communication is key. I have to remain open with her and share. She does the same. We're at a place in our relationship where everything is on the table. For us it's the only way we've been able to stay together for 16 years.

February, 14 2014 at 11:41 pm

I've had trouble with my manic attacks causing me to throw my morals out the window and have allowed me to cheat. That's a big issue for my husband of 9 years. If I do it again he'll leave so I worry all the time that that one person that makes the grass look greener will walk by.

Faye Deaver
February, 14 2014 at 4:49 pm

I think this is a great article. I had already been married for 5 years before I was diagnosed. Before then, I manifested almost every symptom there was. My husband loved me despite my symptoms. We were married for 16 years. Did I question myself, as to was I a good person to be in a relationship, sure I did. But that was a self esteem question. Sometime I still question myself. I have good days, I have bad days and then when I am manic I have terrific days (lol). But I think I am worth getting to know and to fall in love with. I have to remember that I am not my disorder and the person who accepts me will realize it too.

david dominguez
February, 14 2014 at 10:22 am

I was diagnosed as bipolar in 2004. A couple years later, after 32yrs of being married, I was divorced. Looking back on those years I can see that it my illness that was the primary cause. I suffered through countless bouts of depression. I didn't know what was going on during that time. I only knew I was down a lot of the time. Since that time I have dating a woman who understands and accepts me. I see a therapist and I am on medications. My illness has abated some but it still raises up at times. I can control it but I have to be vigilant. I'm okay now.

Kathy Flaherty
February, 14 2014 at 6:01 am

On Valentine's day, no less? Usually I like your site's posts, but frankly the way you titled the post just buys into the stigma. We are human. We deserve to be in relationships as much as anyone else. Signed, someone living with bipolar disorder who happens to be married for 15 years to a wonderful man whose last name is Valentino so I'm just particularly aggravated by this post.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Jordan James
March, 19 2019 at 2:21 pm

I believe the author did absolutely amazing at speaking for both sides of the same coin. The author spoke for those who feel more capable of managing their bipolar in a way that is healthy for a relationship, and for those who feel they are much better suited with solitude and most likely prefers it. I really needed this post today!

Charles Mistretta
February, 13 2014 at 3:07 am

My best times with people have been those who understood the consequences as well as the perky peculiar fun side of BP. The list includes animals, children, and adults who have lived - have a history worth remembering, or possess a quality of intelligence I can respect. Please choose your environments wisely or acquire a taste for solitude.

February, 13 2014 at 2:50 am

I have been with my boyfriend, who has bipolar, for almost 18 months now.
No, it's not easy, but yes, it is worth it. So what if he has mood swings? It's all about learning to deal with it the best you can.
I have bladder problems, but I'm not labelled because of it.
He is the most thoughtful, caring and kind person I have ever met, so a little depression here and there is more than manageable!
Plus, he is so much fun when hyper!!

Gary Ledbetter
February, 12 2014 at 3:51 am

I've been married for sixteen years and I owe it to my partner to be as well as I can. But I think that goes for any illness and relationships. Also there is no need to self disclose at first. We are ourselves not the illness!

February, 11 2014 at 11:00 am

I have to admit, I thought this article would be about dealing with bipolar disorder -- the symptoms, how you manage bipolar disorder -- and whether all these things make it difficult to have a relationship. Or, maybe you've written about that subject before.
My routine, my schedule, that I keep to try to ensure that my bipolar cycle is manageable almost necessitates that I avoid the "normal" course dating, e.g., going out evenings for dinner, a movie, home at midnight -- when I *have* to be home at 6pm and in bed by 10pm. You know, dating could be done on weekend days or during a weekday lunch, but the WHY of it almost demands that you reveal your bipolar disorder early or before you're ready to talk about such a thing.
My bipolar rapid cycling with its constant mood swings has also made it difficult to maintain any type of long-term relationships. I don't have remission tho, so the relentlessness of the moodswings (as viewed by others) becomes exhausting. I hear things like "how can you deal with it" , , , "don't you just want it to stop" , , , . But also, sometimes people don't take seriously the fact that, for instance, if they wake me up at night & keep me up, or if I don't go to bed on the strict schedule, my disorder starts spinning out of control. And, all it takes is 3 days not on schedule for me to go into a "spin-cycle" of intra-day mood swings for about 3 months. The fragility is difficult to understand.
There's many other things that, even my daughter, doesn't tolerate well, like the fact that during a mania I have to vigilantly clean my house and stock my freezer with made-ahead food to prepare for the coming depression. All the schedules and quirks can be a bit odd and a weird way to live life; and can I really expect another person, in a relationship, to sign on for all that if my own daughter can't do it?
Gosh, I'd really like to hear from other people how they develop relationships, in the midst of what you talked about and if they have the same sort of problems I do with keeping schedules and etc. ... .

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

March, 6 2019 at 3:49 pm

Maybe Bi Polar is something we need. I say we cause I'm in your boat as well. I'm BPII ADHD PTSD CELIAC and something new every year or so. I cycle just as you described. So here are my thoughts on the matter. I will date again no doubt. I shut down 9 years ago. I think I need a muse with bi polar and she will understand and support me the way in which we both need. So we will both keep separate places even if we live together. We will both respect the other persons need to be supported but left alone when overwhelmed so that one persons episode isn't triggering to the other and that we help only in so much as the other person invites that help and the rest of the time we mutually help each other remember to take our vitamins, probiotics and to stop and breath, meditate and get out into the world. I reckon 85% of all people cant get in our shoes so will have difficulty in being empathetic and will this devolved to treating us with pity and eventually disdain leading to abandonment. ( after all we Bi Polar peeps have to still navigate a world full of both good people with healthy ways and a whole lot of damaged neurotic and often narcissistic individuals. We can easily attract the wrong sort, the predatory sort. Good luck dating. I'll look into setting up that website, cause I don't take rejection well and telling someone in the first couple of dates is likely going to lead to a bad outcome. Do you think two bi polar people can date or do you think one person needs to be a normie?

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