The Sweethearts Deal: How To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Building a strong relationship takes work. When one partner has bipolar disorder, thriving together takes a more focused effort. Here is what helps couples cope.

Maureen met her husband, Gary, 24 years ago. They were both on a bowling team for people in the music business—she booked internationally known artists, he was a touring jazz musician. 

By the time they got married, they'd known each other nearly a decade. Then two years later, she was diagnosed with bipolar I. 

The California grandmother has a pro-active array of self-management strategies, including seeing a therapist weekly, belonging to a support group, practicing yoga and tai chi, and studying mindfulness. Still, her moods fluctuate almost on a daily basis. 

Through a lot of trial and error, the couple has found positive ways to cope when the going gets rough. For example, Maureen acknowledges when she is entering an irritable phase and wants some time to calm down. If the immediate whirlwind doesn't subside, Gary might go for a walk. 

"At first I would say to myself, 'How could he do that? Why is he leaving me when I need him the most?' I was definitely confronted with that," she says. 

"Now we've developed a way to turn a bad situation into something that works for the good … to defuse the tension that's inevitable."

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