Here are some ideas that may help when the one you love is living with bipolar disorder:
1. A long tight hug will get so much farther than any words.
When your partner is agitated or emotional, no words that you say will make them better. If you use words, it will be very easy for your partner to misunderstand or feel threatened and become more agitated.
Your partner needs to regulate themselves. The way you can help is by taking them in your arms and giving them a tight long hug. As you are hugging them, focus on breathing deeply and encourage them to join you. You will feel the muscles in your partner’s body relax. Their heart rate will slow down. Lastly, they should experience calmness and because they are in the arms of someone who loves them, they should feel safe.
Now your partner is ready to talk.
2. An imaginary remote control that has a pause and rewind button.
We express ourselves without thinking. Every emotion we have or imagine in our minds easily escapes our mouths.
When your partner is having difficulty with this challenge it can easily and probably will lead to conflict in a relationship.
If you expect your partner to be able to not impulsively express themselves, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment.
Instead, expect your partner to speak before they think and give them a gift of a remote control.
To use this imaginary remote control all your partner has to do is say “PAUSE”, just as they are getting themselves into trouble with their words. If it’s too late and their words have already caused trouble, all they have to do is say “REWIND” and then take a moment to pause and correct their mistake by actually thinking before speaking.
If you are kind enough to give your partner one of these special remotes, you get one too!
3. Your partner needs to take responsibility for how they live with Bipolar Disorder, NOT YOU.
If your partner is making their bipolar disorder your responsibility to manage and you accept the responsibility, you are enabling them to practice behaviors that will only do more harm than good. It may feel like you are helping them, but you are not.
Your partner living with bipolar disorder needs to be responsible for educating themselves about the disorder, taking their medication consistently, being in therapy, making the sacrifices they need to make in order to be stable and doing the best they can to reduce harm to themselves and you by preventing episodes if possible.
If your partner is releasing their emotions on you and it is hurting you, it is NOT okay. Your partner can learn how to release and contain their own emotions through other vehicles, for instance therapy. It is your responsibility to let your partner know that impulsive release of emotion hurts you. It is your partner’s responsibility to learn how to channel their emotion in a way that is safe for the both of you.
Because your partner is living with bipolar disorder, they may not be able to contain their emotions consistently everyday. However, they can improve and do better. There is no excuse for not trying their best to contain their emotions using other vehicles and tools that I will share in an upcoming blog.
4. Do NOT get on the emotional roller coaster with your partner.
Your partner is living with bipolar disorder. This means that they are going to roller coaster from positive to negative to positive etc emotions. DON’T GET ON THE ROLLER COASTER WITH THEM.
If you accept your partner to do this and are not affected by it you can have a good day and not be hurt and think you are going insane. However, if you get on this roller coaster with your partner, both of you will be nuts. Nothing good will come out of it.
Don’t try to make sense of the emotional roller coasters, instead you can simply hug your partner. Your partner will work their way off of the roller coaster eventually. The emotional roller coaster is simply a ride of emotions that your partner is feeling that may or may not have anything to do with their current experience.
Another action you can take that may help your partner gain awareness are the words “STOP IT.” or “Stop it, you are roller-coastering.” When said in a loving and caring way, versus an angry way, these words will bring someone into a different kind of awareness that takes them outside of their emotional process and into a reflective thinking process.
5. The Gift of Forgiveness & Acceptance
When you love someone with bipolar disorder they are going to do and say things that they will need you to forgive them and accept them for.
This does not mean that hurtful actions are okay, but it means that when they do happen, after you talk about it with your partner…the greatest gift you can give them is to let them know that you still love them, accept them, and forgive them and know that they are doing their best.
Receiving the gift of forgiveness and acceptance, opens the door for your partner to be able to forgive and accept you more freely and easily. It gives you permission to make mistakes and enjoy your gift of the imaginary remote control.
By taking these actions with your partner, your partner may be able to better return the love that you so deserve.