I AM UNEQUIVOCAL in my view that no one should have to put up with outrageous behavior, whether bipolar-related or not. But what is the flip side? What is the bottom line if someone living with bipolar wants to enter a relationship? Naturally, we shouldn't have to put up with outrageous behavior from our partners, either. But something else enters into play as well.
Even in well states, many of us experience and express a range of emotions that are likely to take our partners by surprise. They may react with humored bemusement, or they may let loose with outright hostility. The tables have been turned. We're the ones walking on eggshells. We're the ones who are emotionally unsafe.
This is no abstract conversation with me, and I have more than my share of failed marriages and busted relationships to prove it.
My issue turns out to be emotional safety. My "normal" may well be my partner's "strange." When I'm up, Jim Carrey appears soft-spoken. I get road rage even when I don't drive, my depressions would put an existentialist to shame, plus I frequently get anxious and have a bald head to prove it.
And I haven't even gotten into my personality quirks.
So, what's my bottom line? As I wrote in an article on HealthCentral:
I want to be able to laugh - laugh real loud - without my partner thinking I'm flipping into mania. I want to be able to get upset without my partner thinking I'm out of control. I want to be miserable without my partner giving me "the look." I want to express my visionary ideas without my partner thinking I'm grandiose. I want to make off-beat observations and dream without my partner playing her "practical" trump card. I want to bubble with enthusiasm without that "here he goes again" expression from my partner.
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I don't want to be told to snap out of it, take a chill pill, stop acting like a baby, be patronized, talked down to, and otherwise made to feel that I'm the weird and irresponsible one in this relationship.
I want my partner to say, "I understand," when I go to pieces for seemingly no reason. I want her to say, "I hear you," when I'm upset and distressed. I want to hear her laugh as loud as me, laugh with me, cry with me. I want her to take me in my arms, and hear her say, "It's okay. I know where you're coming from. I would feel the same way in your situation."
I want her to give me a swift kick in the pants when I need it. But I want her support and not her disapproval and judgment.
I need to be safe. Emotionally safe. Otherwise, I'm the one walking on eggshells. Otherwise, I'm the one living in a constant state of stress.
That's a tall order for any would-be partner of mine. Who on earth could possibly understand where I'm coming from?
The answer to me is a no-brainer. Another woman with bipolar, of course.
Reviewed July 15, 2016
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