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Thursday, May 28, 2009 GirlfriendofBP, Community Member, asks

Q: Transitioning romantic into platonic with bipolar mate.

Does anyone have experience with transitioning a romantic relationship into a platonic one with a partner who is bipolar? I have found it impossible to deal with some of the problems that come up in a romantic context, ie., other women, inability to deal with real problems that come up-  but I have some interest in maintaining a platonic relationship, we have a lot of fun together.. anyone made this transition successfully? When I have broached the topic, he doesn't really seem interested in a no sex relationship, but say's "sure", but I'm wondering if he just believes that he can transition it back... anyone been able to make the switch? thanks for your thoughts on this...

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Answers (3)
John McManamy, Health Guide
5/28/09 6:09pm

Hi, Girlfriend. I am a bipolar who has been in romantic relationships with bipolar women. First, the same general rules of relationships that apply to everyone else also apply to bipolars. We're not exempt from the rules, nor do we deal with rules no one else has to deal with. Having said that, having bipolar undoubtedly adds some complications. Any transitions or break-ups are fraught with emotions on both sides, and - you may have noticed - another name for bipolar could well be "emotions amplified."


Bipolars are especially vulnerable to stress, and relationship issues come bundled in stress. There is no easy way to negotiate a break-up or transition, but it will help if you can do everything possible to make your boyfriend feel emotionally safe and secure. No doubt, he will want to know your reasons for "rejecting" him, and it pays to be honest - but you need to figure out a way to do it without him interpreting your explanations as a personal attack or as a disparagement on his character.


I think it's natural for any rejected partner to want to turn "platonic" back into "sexual." Or, if that is not possible, for the rejected partner to view options as all-or-nothing. Too oversimplify, the person initiating the end game is invariably the one who sees reality while the "rejected" partner is generally living in a dreamworld.


It takes time to work one's way to acceptance of reality. One of the phases after "denial" is "bargaining." My guess is your boyfriend is in that state, hoping events will resolve back to the good old days. And, if he is feeling strong emotions - bipolar-type emotions - it may take a little bit longer to work through this.


This is where depression can be good. Bipolar comes wrapped in depression, and you can look at depression as a state where the rose-colored glasses come off and reality sets in. I would never wish depression on anyone, but if you are picking up depressed vibes from him this may be a sign that he is working his way to acceptance.


Whatever happens, if you are picking up depressed vibes, don't allow yourself to be manipulated. Trying to make him feel better may be counter-productive. The sooner he accepts reality, the sooner his psychic being becomes free, the sooner he heals, the sooner he is ready to move on.


Another point: Helen Fisher and others have done research noting that break-ups tend to re-ignite all the "passion" hormones. Your boyfriend will most likely experience this, and you may, too. It's an added complication that you need to be aware of.


I know this is a rambling response, but hopefully you can extract a few sensible suggestions from it.

GirlfriendofBP, Community Member
5/29/09 4:01pm

Dear Mr. McManamy,

So much good stuff here, first off, I would like to thank you for taking the time to give me such an in depth response to my question.

When you say ‘figure out a way to do it without disparagement on his character’… this is a tough one. I guess taking off with other women does seem like a character flaw (and he is a macho, posturing type), are you saying that it is the BP talking, or that he would be particularly sensitive to me calling this behavior out in anyway that sounds like a personal attack? Or are you just saying that because it’s the right way to communicate with any human being? I know that you are not suggesting that I put up with anything because of BP, could you just clarify that point?

All of the other points apply to both of us, very insightful stuff there. The re-igniting of passion in breakups is something that never occurred to me, I am feeling that too. I thank you again for your thoughtful response, it was by no means rambling, it was thorough and quite helpful.

This is a terrific site, by the way. Thank you for all that you bring to it….


John McManamy, Health Guide
5/29/09 5:30pm

Hi, Girlfriend. I'm so glad you got something out of my answer, and many thanks for your kind remarks. Re the interpreting something as a personal attack issue: if you're ending the sexual part of relationship then there's no sense in bringing up old issues. Him changing his behavior is not going to change your mind.


Obviously, to me, a partner playing around on me would be an instant deal-breaker. Bipolar would have nothing to do with it. But had you wanted to save the relationship, you two would have had to discuss it. But now that you've made up your mind - what's the point? What's done is done.


Hope this helps -



GirlfriendofBP, Community Member
5/29/09 11:09pm

I attempted to try to save the relationship, but wonder about the choices I made in how I discussed things... but I may not be cut out for the special nuance of communication required... and both of us have to want it to work out... as you say,

water under the bridge, thanks you, most helpful.

g2_man68, Community Member
5/28/09 2:57pm

Speaking as a non-bipolar man and having been in a situation where a woman tried to put a man back in the friend box, it doesn't work, because you already have the sexual relationship and trying to do that with a BP most definately wouldn't seem possible with out a total dissconect from that person!  Men in general don't like to be in the friend box to begin with, so once you let them out putting them back in only works for you, they are always wanting back out!

GirlfriendofBP, Community Member
5/28/09 3:33pm

You know, that makes a lot of sense. Not exactly what I wanted to hear, but that's the thing with BP dating.. not a lot of great news, it seems... thanks for taking the time, I totally get the points you're making....

JQ, Community Member
6/ 2/09 2:01pm

Dear All,


I just broken up for the second time my BF who is suffering from Bipolar Disorder. I have ;earned that he's been seeing two other parties while I was away to see my famuly in the Philippines. We agreed very clearly on exclusivity  and we even had  blood test to make sure we are safe for each other and healthy for each other. I find him very attractive and nice and sweet. When I learned about his BP i read a lot on this in order for me to cope and adjust and approach him properly coz I was hoping to jave a long term relationship with him. I will give him credit for his honesty but the cheating part really hurts me and I cannot tolerate it. He said that he was manic at the time he met them and slept with them and it did not just happened once but a few occations and he even brought them to his place and exchange numbers.I really wanted to be understanding and justfy to myself that it is his BP disorder which is driving him to sleep with other people during his manic stage.

When I broke up with him, he texted me and told me that the one he really loves is his ex(the one before me) and wants to spend the rest of his life with. and he asked me not to contact him again after that text. The last time I called him was the night when i called it off because i feel bad somehow and just wanted to make sure he is ok. If anything happens to him if he switch to his depression and harms himself i cannot forgive myself. My mind is set to call it off because i just cannot live with his promscuity, it makes me paranoid. I started to check his cell phone and I dont wann be like that longer. Question-- Is he excused because he is bipolar, Is it his fault or his BP disorder which led him to cheat on me? he said hes not perfect and he is pleading for forgiveness. i told him i forgive him but i am not taking him back again.

GirlfriendofBP, Community Member
6/ 2/09 2:34pm

I think that you can drive yourself crazy thinking about "is this BP, is that BP".

The bottom line is, it doesn't work for you, so don't put up with it, and it sounds like you've already decided not to take him back. I had the same issue with my guy, and chances are, if they cheat, they will cheat again. As far as  you being concerned about his depression and mental health, that's a tough one. I can't believe that you are the only support system he has. If you are very attracted to him, and possibly love him, you may need to make a clean break. Those check ins can draw you right back in. At the end of the day, you have to take care of yourself. You can lead him towards support groups, or a therapist, you don't have to take him on for the rest of his life, or you can, if you really care to. But you/he does have options.... That's just my 2 cents...

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By GirlfriendofBP, Community Member— Last Modified: 10/26/11, First Published: 05/28/09