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Monday, April 27, 2009 Kilo, Community Member, asks

Q: How can I set boundaries with my Bipolar boyfriend?

My 31yo BF has been diagnosed with Bipolar for about a year, although he has suffered with depression for a few years.  We have only been together for just over a year (since just after he was diagnosed). 

 

He is not very well at the moment and I am his only support.  He has a couple of friends but they aren't fully available to help out (and shouldn't be expected to, I guess).  All of his family are interstate.

 

I've twice had to call emergency services to assist in the last week.  I've had time off work to sit with him at the hospital.  I am physically unwell and absolutely not coping.

 

I feel like he is not trying to help himself (yes, I know that relatively speaking he hasn't been diagnosed for very long and may still be coming to terms with his illness...)

 

I am sick of being his emotional punching bag.  I understand that he is unwell but his behaviour is currently ranging from basic rudeness, to emotionally/verbally abusive, to childish tantrum throwing (slammed doors, throwing household items), to being completely cold towards me. 

 

I don't know how to get it through to him that I deserve to be treated with respect, even when he is unwell.

 

Any ideas?

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Answers (9)
John McManamy, Health Guide
5/ 1/09 1:25am

Hi, Kilo. Thank you for all you have done. What could be happening (mentioned in another answer here) is that your boyfriend's current behavior could be his illness talking. Ask yourself: Is the way he is treating you now consistent with the way he has treated you in the past?

 

Having said that, you deserve to set boundaries. I'm sure he understands things like no violence. Now dial that in to no loud voices, no abusive language, and further dial it in to treat me with respect.

 

It's wonderful what you are doing, and I hope things work out. But do look out for yourself.

Reply
polarizedwriter, Community Member
4/27/09 4:14pm

Hi Kilo,

 

First I want to commend you for your effort with your BF.

 

Many spouses cannot cope and leave.

 

So kudos for being there.

 

Next, this will not help while it's happening.

 

A symptom of BPD is uncontrollable rage. This fury will unleash on any and/or all target. The closest person is often the lightning rod.

 

A questionn: How would you deal with a child's tantrum?

 

My very best wishes to you and him.

 

A prayer for you if you want.

 

Best wishes if you don't.

 

Reply
Virginia W., Community Member
4/27/09 11:35pm

The behaviors you describe as your being his emotional punching bag are the symptoms of his condition.  It takes a long time to get the medicine right.  He is not doing it intentionally to hurt you.  He probably has amazing talents in some other areas of his life, right?  Help him concentrate on those areas.  Vigorous exercise and sleep are super-important.

 

Setting boundaries is counter-productive with us, though.  Shelley described Byron as "mad as the winds."  If your boyfriend is a free spirit like I am, he will resent any form of attempted control. 

 

You should read as much as possible about BP, and so should he.  I highly recommend Kay Redfield Jamison--Touched with Fire-- and David Burns--The New Mood Therapy.  A workbook for him, but good chapters for you, such as "How to Deal with Difficult People."Wink

 

If you stay with him, you'll have to deal with a lot of conniptions, as my grandmother would say.  He will probably hate the meds because they are, in fact, hateful.  If you like dogs, try a psychiatric service dog.  Try to get to the nearest medical school for an appointment.  They know a lot more. 

 

Also, my husband of 22 years (what a guy!) warns me of escalating mania by saying, Why don't I make you some tea?  That means take the clonazepam now.  A code word is helpful in public; plus, I bristle if he just says take the medicine.  I cannot take orders.  The more calm he is, the more quickly I get over it. 

 

You have to ask yourself how rewarding this relationship will be for you.  Apparently, my husband has found ours so in spite of my many problems. 

 

There is also the matter of heredity.  You don't get this if you don't have the genes.  But, in my family I am one of three siblings.  Both my parents have it but not my siblings.  Our son is OK so far at 21.  Godspeed to you both.

 

 

Reply
Kilo, Community Member
4/28/09 12:16am

Thanks for your advice.  It is nice to hear things a little more from his perspective.

 

We actually had a pretty good chat last night, as he was feeling a lot better and I thought it was an ok time to try to explain how certain things make me feel.  I think my main concern was that he often - even when well - acts as though those types of behaviours are ok.  Last night he assured me that isn't the case - that although he can't predict his moods, he does know that throwing things and screaming in my face aren't really ok.  He also assured me that he does want to help himself, and that in spite of this past (very bad) week, he does believe - like I do, wholeheartedly - that he can be ok.  Which right now is enough for me!

 

 

 

 

Reply
Trish, Community Member
4/25/10 9:10pm

I have had a boyfriend (on & off for the last 9 years) who is bi-polar, dislexic, & has had a # of head injuries.  He's a very talented organic food eating chef, a great bodyworker, & is very physically talented as a martial artist & athlete.  When things are good, they are very good.  When they are bad, it's the worst.  Rage, disrespect, an inability to communicate, blaming everyone else, being aggressive, impulsive, & exposing himself to danger are part of what happens when he's in a bad place. 

I try to be compassionate & understanding, but I am not willing to be the guy's doormat... so we have broken up many times... & had years of separation until we both forget.  I always hope he will grow out of it, but this idea seems unrealistic (as he is now 32).

 

I find that if he's eating right (minimizing sugar, no alcohol or pot, & excercising a lot... he does well).  Cranio-sacral work is helpful & B-12 too.  I think he's just at the beginning of acknowledging his condition.  He's been in denial about it because he didn't want to be labeled like his brother (who is officially bi-polar).

 

There's a supplement put out by the "Vitamin Research" people.  It's called "Lithium Orotate."  It is a very small amount of Lithium (4.8mg or something).  The reason it is said to work is because it is bonded with the Orotate.  The Orotate is a carrier for the Lithium & allows the Lithium to pass through the blood/brain barrier in the brain (where it needs to get to).

 

Prescription Lithium is usually 200-400mg.  They make it at such a high dose because most of it does not get absorbed into the system.  Thing is... that this high dose ends up putting a lot of strain on the liver & the kidneys as those organs process it.  This can be a real problem... because a liver under strain will inspire anger in a person as well... & is also generally depleting.

 

See if your boyfriend would be open to trying the Lithium Orotate.  It's supposed to be helpful for Nerves & Carpal Tunnel too (so people use it for other reasons as well).

Just Google "Vitamin Research" & you'll find "Lithium Orotate" on their site.  They also have knowledgeable people to talk to ... by phone.

 

Really, unless this person is willing to really work with their condition & take it seriously... it can be very challenging to deal with.  A functional life ... & a respectful relationship... will be impossible unless there is real concerted effort there.  Even then, who knows?

 

The advice the other people gave you was very helpful for me to hear too.  Thanks people. 

Reply
Virginia W., Community Member
4/27/09 11:37pm

The behaviors you describe as your being his emotional punching bag are the symptoms of his condition.  It takes a long time to get the medicine right.  He is not doing it intentionally to hurt you.  He probably has amazing talents in some other areas of his life, right?  Help him concentrate on those areas.  Vigorous exercise and sleep are super-important.

 

Setting boundaries is counter-productive with us, though.  Shelley described Byron as "mad as the winds."  If your boyfriend is a free spirit like I am, he will resent any form of attempted control. 

 

You should read as much as possible about BP, and so should he.  I highly recommend Kay Redfield Jamison--Touched with Fire-- and David Burns--The New Mood Therapy.  A workbook for him, but good chapters for you, such as "How to Deal with Difficult People."Wink

 

If you stay with him, you'll have to deal with a lot of conniptions, as my grandmother would say.  He will probably hate the meds because they are, in fact, hateful.  If you like dogs, try a psychiatric service dog.  Try to get to the nearest medical school for an appointment.  They know a lot more. 

 

Also, my husband of 22 years (what a guy!) warns me of escalating mania by saying, Why don't I make you some tea?  That means take the clonazepam now.  A code word is helpful in public; plus, I bristle if he just says take the medicine.  I cannot take orders.  The more calm he is, the more quickly I get over it. 

 

You have to ask yourself how rewarding this relationship will be for you.  Apparently, my husband has found ours so in spite of my many problems. 

 

There is also the matter of heredity.  You don't get this if you don't have the genes.  But, in my family I am one of three siblings.  Both my parents have it but not my siblings.  Our son is OK so far at 21.  Godspeed to you both.

 

 

Reply
Virginia W., Community Member
4/27/09 11:38pm

oops, I posted twice sorry.

Reply
angelfan, Community Member
10/ 9/09 2:33am

I just ended a relationship of a year with my bipolar boyfriend.  Unfortunately, from my own personal experience, I wish I can tell you that it will get better, but it won't.

 

If your boyfriend is on medication, he needs to stay on track, use alternative methods to calm down, and also not consume alcohol or any other recreational drugs.  This isn't just a doctor's warning, it is true, I've experienced the highs and the lows of my ex drinking every night then taking lithium, seroquel, colonazapam and having that become a nightmare cocktail.

 

The verbal abuse when we would get into arguments were unbearable.  He often apologized the next day for his behavior, but you really have to decide if this is something you can live with for the rest of your life possibly.

 

The relationship really took a toll on my own mental health.  He used every factoid we had ever discussed against me, then he would turn into an angel and beg for forgiveness.  This occurred nearly on a daily basis.  It got old quick.

 

Different people's reaction to their own bipolarity is different.  My ex's case was a bit extreme.  He often used his disability to be mean to me deliberately and repeatedly.

 

My suggestion, if your bipolar significant other is halfway understanding, sit down and talk about some of the boundaries and eachothers' needs.  You will always have to be the "bigger person" and let them win in arguments, otherwise, it will turn ugly each time, I promise.  Sit down, and devise an agreement with one another to never fight dirty.  If he/she can reason at that time, even during an episode, it can help alleviate some of the negativity and caustic behavior.

 

It is not easy, in all fairness to you, your bipolar mate should stay on track with medication and treatments, they need to commit to that not just for you but for themselves.  If they become suicidal, you need to take them to the hospital right away.

 

After one solid year, I still love this man.  I wholeheartedly dedicated 100% of myself to our relationship, but unfortunately, he can't see it, so I had to walk away.

 

The choice is yours, can you deal with it?  Ask yourself

 

 

Reply
Kilo, Community Member
10/12/09 7:23pm

I could have written all of that word for word.  I lasted a year & a half before I ended it.  I tell myself it's because he came home with other girls' (yes plural) numbers, and that I could "handle" the bipolar stuff, but at the end of the day (and 4 months on) I'm kicking myself for putting up with what I did - I'm a little embarrassed that it came to almost (or maybe, actually) being cheated on, before I took that step. 

 

My ex is still not taking responsibility for himself - I had to call him this morning after messages last night suggesting he wasn't ok - I specifically asked if he is alright, he said "I am really not ok"... I went on to ask is he taking medication (yes), is he drinking lots (yes), is he doing drugs (yes).  Friends of his who know his situation are partying with him on the weekends.  I'm so infuriated.

 

Oh and I hear you on the 'took a toll on me mentally' - there wasn't much left of me after putting everything I had into him for a year & a half.  Am just feeling normal/balanced again now (4 months later). 

 

Bipolar sucks.  Or maybe just those people who have bipolar who don't take responsibility for it suck.  I have faith that my ex can be a great person, but so far since we've broken up, he hasn't figured out how to become that, which is really sad.  I still love him, but I'm thankful every day that I'm not in that situation anymore.

 

You will be ok.  You will be great.  And with any luck, so will our exes.  If I were a religious person, I'd pray for them.  All we can do is hope, I guess.

 

All the best to you.  And on behalf of your ex, and others like him - thank you.  I know you won't ever get that from him, but having been there myself, I can appreciate what you went through and I can't ever give you enough kudos for that! 

Reply
green eyes, Community Member
9/29/10 5:10pm

Hi, what you wrote hit me hard.  I too have been with someone for over a year.  He says he is not bipolar and that I am.  I am the one with the problem.  I couldn't take it any longer.  I love him very much but I just can't take the verbal and phsical abuse any longer.  He too would appoligize after every episode and things would be great for a bit but then he would strike again.  It is soooo hard to walk away from someone like this.  He would call 15 to 20 times a day and now it has been a month since I have moved out of town so that he cannot find me and he calls once a day now.  He has not found a new victim is what I am thinking.  He would not call at all if he had.  But my question is, how to move on?  I miss the good times we had so much.  He could be so much fun and so exciting that I really miss that.  He too would get physical with me and then I would separate myself from him but I always seem to go back.  Well not this time. I am so sad and miss him so very much.  I just wish I had never met him.  I wonder what he is doing all the time and I am not over him.  But I know if I was to stay with him, he would eventually hurt me or kill me.  So how do you move on?  How long does it take? I do not call him ever...he calls me.  Should I just not answer? Should I try to forget him completely?  Does someone who is not on meds and does not believe he is ill and drinks daily ever change?

 

 

Reply
Lilac, Community Member
11/ 9/09 7:47pm

Hey Kilo,

 

4 year vet here.  Although we are no longer a couple, I am still the safety net/nag/doormat/outside perspective. 

 

I have found it helpful in both rages and depressed episodes to just hold him (hold tight if it is a rage!) and talk quietly.  Ask him to breathe deeply and do it with him until his heart rate slows.  Kind of like being a human blanky.

 

If you are going to stay in this relationship, you need to build a fortress of support for YOURSELF first....then build his.  Find a support group for family members, keep active with your hobbies, exercise, de-stress every day, get out with friends and find substitute babysitters for days when you just can't take it anymore.  Read about codependency, too...because it is SO easy to give too much.  I mean this in the most compassionate way: bipolar people are energy-sucking sponges.  Be ready for it.

 

Watch for cycle triggers.  Not just moods, but repeated behaviors and cravings for sugary foods or alcohol.  If you like graphing, you may be able to predict when he will be manic or depressed (depending on how regular he is).  It might be a good idea to keep his favorite movie or snack handy for rough times (survival kits).  Comedies are a good distraction.  Or, create a quiet place for him to go and safely be alone.

 

Also, be aware that every med change affects personality and memory in some slight way (or some dramatic way).  You may have a different boyfriend next week, or 6 months from now when the latest meds no longer seem effective. 

 

Good luck and take care of yourself!!!

 

 

     

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Destiny782, Community Member
7/21/10 1:49pm

Oh girl, I have been on and off with my BF who is Bipolar for seven years, and he is not on meds, althought I encourage him that he needs to be.  Not all times are bad, there are good times when he is not in his manic depressive episodes or low episodes.  What I have learned to do is that when one of his episodes comes on and I am able to recognize it, I completely leave him alone for a little over a week, which is about how long it takes him to come back down to earth and be normal again.  

 

It's hard doing this because relationships shouldnt be like this, you should be able to see you're significant other on a daily basis and hug and kiss and snuggle and communicate on a daily basis, however, with bipolar people especially when they are in their "episodes" cannot be reasoned with, no matter how much sense you try to talk into them.  The best thing to do is to just leave them completely alone for more than a week until he bounces back to normalicy.  This will not solve the problem but at least he will get over his episode and takes you out of dangers way.

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poeticsong725, Community Member
12/ 1/10 12:26am

Hi there. I just did a search for "how can I survive this?!" since it's late night/early morning and my bf of 4+ years just went to bed...when he gets tired he gets cranky, and his anger comes out, where he says mean things to me and then gets me all worked up and upset, while he goes tra-la-la-ing off to bed like nothing has happened. Here I am, falling apart mentally. And by tomorrow morning, everything will likely be just fine all over again.

I know I need a life on my own, I know I need friends, but right now my only outlet is staying here in his apartment (while he uses my car to get back and forth from work), and play with my kitten. I haven't been able to make friends in this state, and I'm running out of options.

My bf gets defensive and angry whenever I bring up the fact that I think he's bipolar. He actually agreed to get help once before, about 2 years ago, but the ONE medication they decided to put him on made him supersick and he blamed ME for even having to go through that, since I was the one who wanted him to get help...and we haven't revisited the topic since. I just need some people to talk to, some people who understand. I know my goal is to become a stronger person who can handle this, not take everything so personally, and to be able to continue on, because my goal is NOT to leave him...the rest of my life together with him is too good...

I just need support, and advice, and guidance, and a shoulder to cry on occasionally.

Anyone?

Reply
Joy, Community Member
5/ 1/11 12:07am

I am jumping into this conversation late, but so much of this hits so close to home.  I recently broke up with my BP boyfriend because he chooses not to treat his illness.  I wanted to stay with him because I love him and wanted to support him, but not if he refused to take care of himself.  When he is in a "good" place, our relationship is as good as it gets.  But, when he is in a bad place our lives are put on hold and damage is done that takes time to rebuild.  Love is not about putting up with the bad to be rewarded by some good. It is about constant love and respect, through every mood, every trigger, every tough time.  Care and respect is sacred and if you are giving and the one you love is not giving that back, illness or no illness, they are not equipped to be in a committed relationship.  Good relationships take the effort of two and someone with BP has to work harder than most, and that is not your fault, or their fault, it is just a fact of life that THEY are responsibe for, not you.  No one is worth losing yourself over. My best to everyone going through this, I hope you all find a way to either muster the courage to stay with your loved one and find ways to work lovingly together, or have the courage to love yourself more and just let go. 

Reply
GentleOne, Community Member
6/19/11 9:16pm

My BF will often attribute just about anything to "it's my illness" and that is getting old very quickly. He is not at all abusive. It is the mood changing and the going back on his word that I find so, so distressing. I am a mental health professional; I know about BiPolar from a clinical standpoint but now I know about it through a personal relationship for the past 7 months. He makes plans and promises, but is able to follow through on very few of them. He is kind and thoughtful, but those mood changes are so hard to cope with. How do you tell family members that your BF is BiPolar? I wouldn't say anything about it unless he tells them and then I think I'll be embarassed and I feel guilty about that. I am in my late 50's and he is in his early 60's so we're neither one of us without a lifetime of experiences. But, I've never experienced the uncertainty, inconsistency and disappointment like I've experienced having a BiPolar partner. I wonder if I got in too deep and can't imagine how or why I should get out.

Reply
DONNAMNA@aol.com, Community Member
7/24/12 9:46pm

you described EXCATLY  whats been happening with me for years .... it wont change

get out while your still young and dont have ALOT invested... fyi TIME, EMOTIONS, ETC....

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DONNAMNA@aol.com, Community Member
7/24/12 9:47pm

you described EXCATLY  whats been happening with me for years .... it wont change

get out while your still young and dont have ALOT invested... fyi TIME, EMOTIONS, ETC....

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By Kilo, Community Member— Last Modified: 01/10/14, First Published: 04/27/09