Dear Therapist: My partner suffers with bipolar disorder


Published: Thu 17 Mar 2022, 3:27 PM

My partner struggles with bipolar disorder. This has been very challenging for our relationship, as there are moments when he completely withdraws, and then there are times when he is too emotionally dependent. How do I not feel guilty while taking care of my own mental needs? — Name Withheld

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Dear Writer, you are facing a very complex issue; caregivers of individuals with chronic mental illness definitely need help in navigating their new roles in life. You have rightfully recognised that your self-care can clash with being there for your spouse. Essentially, it would be best to communicate with your partner about your needs (and his). Having clear communication on how this would go a long way in avoiding interpersonal distress. Understanding signs of distress, ways that you need/like being helped and recognising what individual space means for either of you is crucial to nurture your relationship.

From your query, I sense that your partner is not completely aware of his difficulties and I recommend that he initiates psychotherapy. These sessions would also help you understand him better and help analyse triggers within the relationship for your partner’s struggles. Getting professional help too will minimise caregiver burden or burnout, allowing you space and time to take care of yourself too!

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