Dating with a mental illness, especially bipolar disorder, can be a minefield to navigate. You need to find someone who will support you in all aspects of life, including your struggles with your mental conditions.
Finding such a person can be daunting. A lot of people who have little experience with mental illnesses tend to think that people with bipolar disorder are “crazy” and out of control. Stigma and awful stereotypes are very real. Some people may bolt as soon as they hear the word “bipolar.”
You have to communicate honestly with your significant other about your disorder, but first you have to disclose to them that you have one. But when do you disclose to your dates that you have more to deal with than a neurotypical person?
Honesty is the Best Policy
You may have a million questions when it come to dating. For example, when do you disclose your illness? Will you be honest on the first date or will you wait until you’ve gotten to know your date before letting them know? If you can’t work and are on disability due to your illness, how do you explain what you do? When do you let your date know if you’re on meds?
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to these questions. Dating looks different for everyone regardless of their mental conditions. When you disclose should always be up to you.
If you are just dating casually, disclosing your mental illness isn’t that important. But if you are looking for a long-term relationship, disclosing that you suffer from mood episodes should be your highest priority.
If you can hide your illness and let your boyfriend or girlfriend know months into a relationship that you’ve been keeping something so big a secret from him or her, then he or she might feel betrayed and break up with you, or worse.
When it comes to dating with an illness that is hard to hide and impacts your life every single day, then honesty is the best policy. Letting your date know on the second or third date, before either of you has invested too much into the relationship, is better than waiting until you’ve moved in together.
Tell your date about your disorder before you make any long-term commitments to that person. Explain what he or she can expect when you suffer a mood episode. Let them know what steps you usually take to manage your disorder, and the treatment team you have in place.
This way, your partner won’t be shocked when your moods and behaviors suddenly shift, and may even be prepared to help you through your mood episode.
Explaining your mental illness to your dates before you make a long-term commitment is crucial for your relationship to thrive.
Some people may run for the hills when you disclose your struggles. Let them. They wouldn’t have been capable of supporting you or committing to the whole you anyway. Find someone else who you know will be able to remain strong in the face of your mental illness.
Dating with a mental illness can be difficult. But if you are honest with your date about your mental condition before feelings start to grow, then you avoid the risk of alienating them and suffering from a hard breakup.
I wish you well in your journey.
- Disclosing That You Have a Mental Illness, part III: Friends and Family
- Disclosing That You Have a Mental Illness, part II: How
- Disclosing That You Have a Mental Illness, part I: When