The Stigma of Bipolar in Relationships

December 1, 2013 Natasha Tracy

How many times of you heard, "oh, you can't date her, she has bipolar disorder." Well, okay, you might not have heard it, but many of us have been on the business end of that idea. People have advised others never to date us because we have bipolar disorder. In this video I talk about the stigma of dating someone with bipolar disorder and how it's just prejudice that produces statements like the above.

The Stigma of Dating Someone with Bipolar Disorder

Because of stigma, some people warn us to avoid relationships with people with bipolar disorder. This is ridiculous, unfair, and just prejudice talking. It's unfair, but some people treat us like we're lepers. Some people say that you should date us for your own protection. But this is unfair and untrue.

In this video I discuss how ridiculous it is to judge our "date-ability" based on a diagnosis.

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

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2013, December 1). The Stigma of Bipolar in Relationships, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 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.

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

December, 1 2013 at 6:25 pm

So true. I think this can't be emphasised enough, and if it stops just one person from calling off a potentially good relationship then it is worthwhile.
The first time my husband experienced me going to hospital, he was out of his mind with worry. And, he had no support from anyone. People were telling him to break up with me or have a lifetime of misery. People who knew me well and who even encouraged the relationship in the first place.
This was not helpful. He loved me dearly. Nobody was there to reassure him things were going to be alright.
But they were alright. And we are happy.

December, 2 2013 at 6:59 pm

I thought you broke that down beautifully. I have to show this to others. I know I have had that stigma by other people. You put it in everyday language, no one can't grasp that concept.
By the way, I think the braids are a great look for you. Very cute.

December, 4 2013 at 10:14 am

While it is true that people with bipolar disorder are just people, it is not true that they are just like everyone else. Yes, some are mean and some are nice, but some are both and swing in a different direction with no more than a moments notice.
I don't make judgments against people for their illness. Everyone deserves a fair chance. However, when bipolar rears it's head, life isn't easy. The "mean" part of bipolar disorder with mixed mania in a depressive state can be the ugliest thing ever seen.
I don't think it's reasonable to tell someone they can or can't date another, but if the bipolar has been shown to create a hostile environment or violence in the past, it will again.
I've been married to a bipolar man for 11 years and lived with him for 12. It took countless doctors and medications to get to a stable place after 2 years of pure hell.
I've heard the kind of statements you refer to more times than I can count, but I'm still here. You're asking that each person be judged on his or her merit, but that merit changes with bipolar. Opinions are developed based on behavior. So, it depends on what that family member or friend has seen from the person whether their warnings should be taken seriously or not.

Ingrid F
December, 4 2013 at 12:11 pm

Bipolar is a serious illness and I have a family member who is bipolar. She is married to a man with a mental illness and it is working out for them. They understand each other and the challenges they both face as a result of their illness. A person who is not mentally ill would have a very difficult time with a bipolar person. It's a challenge. I love my daughter unconditionally but I have to say at times her illness has stretched me to the limit. So no I don't think it's unfair for someone to be cautious of hooking up with a person with a serious mental illness. It doesn't make you bad on either side. It's just reality.

Ayelet Survivor
December, 4 2013 at 12:11 pm

My ex-boyfriend dumped me because of my bipolar disorder. Since then, I've been terrified of telling a potential match about it. As it happens, no relationship has developed to that serious a point, so maybe it will never be an issue again.

December, 4 2013 at 1:56 pm

Hello Ayelet Survivor: I have had four relationships end 'because of bipolar'. I tend to think its bipolar that sped up the end of those relationships. Now I'm married for 3 years. This part is hard but there is hope.

December, 4 2013 at 3:55 pm

I have been dating a beautiful women for the last 3 years. I have known of her bipolar condition from almost the beginning. It has been hard, a true test of the love I feel. But I can't ever see my self walking away from her because of her condition. It's a long story and I hope that when is all said and done we would have spend the rest of our life together. She is 51 years old and I am 48.

December, 4 2013 at 9:28 pm

I can see everyone's viewpoint. I appreciate that there isn't any fear mongering, hate-filled, anti-bipolar comments. Really annoying....That being said, I wouldn't want to date me during a bad, unstabilized episode - mixed or heavily depressed. So I can understand others' trepidation. However, as many of you pointed out (like sarah) it takes work on both sides and can be very successful.
@Ingrid. Totally understand. I knew someone who went through a seriously bad period of depression, suicide attempt and all. Plus, truthfully, he was an a**hole for quite some time - horribly irritable, irreverent (in a bad way), sloppy, filthy and inconsiderate. He really tested people's patience, that's for sure. However, despite this, I still think of him as a very intelligent, funny and witty guy. And helpful. He really did me a major favor once upon a time that I will never forget it. The point is, there is so much more to a person than their illness. You can certainly judge one on behavior alone (and very understandable if they did something major, like ruin your life) but the picture will be so one-dimensional and a true disservice to the individual as a human being. There may be so many positive past behaviors and future ones to come. Why cement your focus on a period that is only a drop in time in the long view? The hollywood ending to this story is he is doing well and indeed very lucky that he has people around him who accept him as he is now. If only we were all as lucky.
I hope everyone finds the happiness that they deserve.

December, 5 2013 at 1:53 am

What does mixed mean? And what does it mean if the person who is bipolar isn't on meds? What should I do if the person won't get help? The relationship is ripping me apart

December, 5 2013 at 4:21 am

I went through hell myself. I am thankful to my family for being there for me.especially my brother Joey and my wife, Docia. Now its like recovering and getting hold of my finances. I understand bipolar condition better than there people around me but hey its not always that you feel you are 'sick' and behave abnormal. I am tempted to believe I am no more bipolar, but you have to look out for science of adjustment disorder within your environment. I love my two kids too. they are fun and takes my mind from so much stress.....

Ingrid F
December, 5 2013 at 4:34 am

Thank you Judy for commenting to me directly. Yes, I totally understand where you are coming from and it is my daughter I am talking about. She is a wonderful human being and I love her unconditionally. Her life isn't fairy tale perfect and I don't think anyone's is. She has some great periods and other times she seriously struggles. I've always been there for her and her family and it does break my heart when I see her hurting and struggling. Any mother would feel that way, but thankfully she is alive because there was a horrible period when she was suicidal and she hung herself but survived. I am grateful she is still with us and she has never again attempted suicide. I think being a mother has forced her to think how she would hurt her children if she did any kind of self-harm. She is a good mother and loves her children very much and her husband who has schizophrenia is a great dad, however I am also there as a co-parent because I know my grandchildren need me when things aren't going well and there is no shame in that. We all have challenges and do the best we can.

December, 8 2013 at 8:59 am

Yes of course it's unfair to dismiss someone as undatable because of an illness. But after a very hurtful experience with a bipolar guy (and just to be clear - he still means a lot to me and I think he's a great person) I can understand why people might be apprehensive.
I was in a relationship with this guy for a year. He told me from the beginning about his bipolar and his past. He was concerned how this would affect the way I viewed him. As far as I was concerned, it didn't change how I felt about him. In fact, I was impressed by his honesty.
I read everything I could about the illness, and we discussed it very openly. He was on medication, and whilst he was struggling at times, he was not doing badly. I loved him very much and we were very close. He kept telling me he felt the same about me. It wasn't always easy but I couldn't see myself walking away from the relationship. He was the person I wanted to be with.
He then turned from hot to cold within a very short space of time. I tried to work out what was happening. He kept telling me everything was fine and he loved me. he just needed some space. And then he ended it. He did not have an episode. He was not aggressive or rude. But he was cold- as if it hadn't meant anything. I was desperate to find out what happened. I had no idea what I'd done. His only explanation was that he had too many "crazy" thoughts, and how it had nothing to do with me.
I was pretty shattered. After a few months of a rather awkward relationship we are now at a point at which we are, at least, relatively close friends. It's not what I had envisaged, but it's better than not having him in my life at all. Also, due to work we see each other all the time anyway. He says he is glad I'm in his life. But quite frankly I'm worried all the time that he'll cut me loose as a friend as well.
I have never been in a situation like this before, ie gone from hot to cold so rapidly for no apparent reason. And it's been quite hurtful. Of course not everyone who has bipolar is the same. And I certainly wouldn't tell anyone not to date such-and-such because that person has bipolar. I have, however, now come across two people in my circle of friends who had very similar experiences with bipolar partners, and were just as bewildered as me. I would not not date someone because of a mental illness, but I would now probably be much more guarded.
I hope this makes sense and I haven't stepped on anyone's toes. I just wanted to explain the other side. And I will never think ill of my ex- partner, he is a great person and his frienship means a lot to me.
kind regards

January, 5 2014 at 6:07 pm

Phew.......I had a relationship with a bipolar and it nearly killed me, but yes, at the time I had people judging me. Now don't get me wrong, I would tell anyone to run, run fast and never even think of getting into a relationship with a bipolar, as I know just how twisted and heal on earth it was for me (and no doubt for them to be that twisted too), but I had no support, I was the stupid person who got involved with him, so I brought it on when I fell apart after a year and a half of emotional torture, I was left totally alone..........whilst my bipolar ex just went on the internet to pick up another woman to replace me with in the game.
I have to be honest, I don't know how anyone does it, I don't know why anyone should. The spending, the lies, the sexualisation, the nasty, manipulative twisted games, the criticism, the nit picking, the finger pointing, the creating drama to criticise you about the dram they's just a living hell.
I used to believe in love, that made sure I never would again. So yes, if one of my friends told me they were thinking of dating a bipolar, I would tell them what happened to me, what it really is like and ask if they really think they should give their life to that.
Yes, I am sorry anyone suffers that much that they are that mean, cold, spiteful and critical, thinking they are above everyone else, have higher purposes, elevating themselves when they can barely hold down a part time job washing dishes............but gosh, falling in love with a bipolar, it changed my life. I will never love again, I have become celibate and have been for two and a half years, I will never have a relationship again.
So whilst we focus on bipolars and how they deserve love.............wonder if we are allowed to focus on those that get destroyed too?

March, 1 2014 at 10:47 pm

@Amber: It seems for me that you never realized he probably did it for you. He was trying to protect you by breaking up the relationship. If you loved someone deeply wouldn't you do anything to avoid them from getting hurt? Even if that meant you would have to break up with them?

March, 1 2014 at 10:52 pm

@Amber: It seems to me that he did it to protect you. He didn't want to hurt you. Wouldn't you do anything to avoid someone you love from getting hurt? Even if that meant you would have to break up with them?

Non Bipolar
June, 22 2014 at 6:34 pm

I feel for you. It sucks to be stigmatized. You want to be loved like anyone else. But I dated a girl with bipolar disorder...basically every thing I'd heard was true. Bipolar became an excuse for all her indiscretions and ubnirmal behaviors. It was like "I'm bipolar, so I have a ready excuse for everything, and you need to be able to handle everything and expect nothing in return. and sometimes yo matte and sometimes to don't. but if I feel like the world is caving in l, you'd better be there for me. oh but don't count on me to be there for you". what kind of "relationship" is that? maybe you are totally different front that, but, according to to google, you'd be the exception. I wish you all the luck, but I'm so sorry: I will never date a woman with bipolar disorder again.

July, 2 2014 at 9:24 am

I am in the situation that AJ and NonBipolar found themselves in. It's all of the above with my BP. (I call him that now because he doesn't feel like a partner in life or a participant in a marriage.) I have split from him twice now.
And because I do love him, because I do know the person inside who is kind, considerate, creative, fun, funny, loving, patient, friendly... I have reunited with him, twice.
The last time, I made him leave our home after several years of drug use which culminated in a months-long bout with severe alcohol abuse and accompanying florid psychosis.
He cleaned up, and tried to find a place to live but the mechanics of doing so were overwhelming to him - he was too paranoid to use the library, too disorganized to complete a rental application. I tried to help, but no place was good enough for his 'needs.'
He begged to come back 5 months after leaving and I relented, thinking that we could go back to being happy together.
He has never been the same since. There is always underlying psychosis regardless of med levels or sleep, diet, exercise, stress...
Having a relationship with him has been hard, I know that having kids with him was even harder for his ex. (They have 5 together.)
When thinking about having a long-term relationship with a person who has BP, think about all the bipolar stuff which is often triggered by daily stressors. Then think about the usual progression of an LTR, which can mean marriage and children. Add the 'normal' stresses of parenting to the bipolar life, and realize that all the troubles that an unstable bipolar person brings to a relationship are the antithesis of characteristics of parents who raise well-adjusted children.
My BP is not, cannot be, consistent: with routines, discipline, promises made to his kids... as a result, my BP cannot be counted on to care for his child who has type 1 diabetes and bipolar, whose needs include a consistent wake time, mealtimes, injection schedule, and bedtime.
My BP often will not or cannot, put his kids needs first to do things that a parent must do whether they like it or not: go to recitals, doctor's appointments, parent-teacher meetings...
My BP is often reckless and irresponsible: driving aggressively and erratically with the kids in the car, using his money for his own 'needs' instead of feeding the kids...
My BP often displays behavior that is toxic to happy children: behaving unpredictably, yelling at all of us, picking fights with me in front of them, involving them in his fights with me and his ex-wife, and disciplining the kids overly harshly for issues that 'normal' parents take in stride.
My BP cannot teach the kids healthy coping behaviors, because he has none. He does not model appropriate adult behaviors, because his ideas of what is appropriate are so skewed. His executive functioning is so poor that he cannot teach or model planning behaviors, predicting cause & effect, logical consequences, or impulse control.
These may not be 'character defects' per se, but these deficits make for a piss-poor parent and partner.

March, 1 2015 at 3:59 pm

How do we compassionately deal with family who can not see what their behavior is doing to their families, when everything that happens is chaotic? I hope that someone makes a movie about this with a long discussion on the film afterwards. There are so many people's stories that we could all learn from.

April, 30 2015 at 6:54 am

I couldn't agree more with Ingrid F. Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness. So it is EXTREMELY difficult for someone who does not suffer from a mental disorder to put up with it. And people who do, end up developing depression (myself included). So, I am sorry, bipolar people might think it's unfair, but it's also unfair to "normal" people. At least normal people have a choice. They CAN live without a mental disorder, whereas bipolars don't. I don't want to sound cruel and I am not a prejudiced person, but this is common sense. Of course, there always can be people who have serious issues themselves -not necessarily suffering from a mental disorder, even though most of they times they ARE depressed- who choose to stay with someone who is bipolar. I am not addressing those people here. I am addressing "normal", "non-abused", "every-day", "optimistic" people, who might read stuff like this and think "why not? Dating bipolar won't hurt me", guess what? It will. If you don't want to get depressed, walk out before you reach a point where you can't remember when the last time you were truly happy was.

April, 30 2016 at 1:55 am

It's a very difficult illness. Some people think you're crazy, but some think it's no big deal. I get the "everyone has problems," speech from a couple of people. You have this everyday, permeating all relationships, jobs, goals, self-esteem. The people who think it's a minor issue hurt me so much. They don't understand why I could not work a high stress job (my chosen field), since I was able to attain a high level of education. I feel sad a lot of the time. I have recently lost a friend of 26 years, no explanation. My husband's family are high achievers and have no interest or understanding of limitation. This illness is not like other problems. It's like a bunch of problems rolled into one. I'm sorry. I'm just so tired of this illness.

August, 8 2016 at 11:11 am

Hi, as someone whose bipolar (among other diagnoses) ex drive her up the wall after his constant mood swings, anger, and suicide attempt and threats, I still don't fully blame bipolar disorder for his issues as much as the toxic environment his family provided, his refusal to seek help, his distrust of therapists, and his paranoia. The lack of support my family provided while he was in the hospital due to his injuries from his suicide didn't help either. I know people who are bipolar who are in happy relationships/marriages, but the most important part is to seek help when it's needed.

John C
October, 7 2019 at 12:35 pm

Recently lost a relationship with a bipolar woman. I tried so hard to help her and give her a better life. She would drink and then just be awful to me. When she was nice, she was wonderful. She left me saying that she was doing it on my behalf. It’s been 3 months and I miss her so bad!

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