BEING in a relationship with someone with bipolar is no picnic, But too often, it is the one living on the bipolar side of the divide who ends up feeling used and abused and thrown in the trash. As "Jane" observed:
I'm a good person and a loving person and I care deeply for people. People just do not, in return. So many just run and bail out on me, when things grow dark or topsy-turvy.
Part of it has to do with the fact that our personal suffering makes us far more sensitive to the needs of others. Those of us who manage to come out the other side of crushing adversity often describe transcendent turn-arounds. This is a well-recognized trait. In the words of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross:
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. Those people have an appreciation - a sensitivity and an understanding of life - that fills them with compassion, gentleness and deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen!
Unfortunately, beautiful does not necessarily attract beautiful. Typically, a breed of opportunist is only happy to emotionally rob us blind. An extreme version of this - involving the "successfully sinister" feeding off the "altruistic" - is outlined in my article, Figuring Out Evil, based on Barbara Oakley's 2007 "Evil Genes."
When it's over, we are left with a feeling of having been violated. We swear we will never allow this to happen to us again, but of course it does. Is the pain worse with our illness as a complication? Who knows? Many of us, for our own sanity, need to put a lot of space between relationships. We crawl under a rock and isolate. Eventually, we come up for air. Will we be wiser when the next tango begins? Of course not. Will we be luckier? Here's hoping ...
The other part of it has to do with the fact that we are wired to be both personal entertainment systems and workhorses to the rest of the world. As "Jane" goes on to say:
When I am "good", meaning UP, everyone loves me. I'm the hit of the office, hit of the group. I'm funny, charming, flirtatious, witty, can out-work everyone around me and the work is done exceptionally well.
This represents the sunny side of bipolar, one that lights up the lives of all we encounter. I frequently have to remind beleaguered partners that this is what they were attracted to in the first place. Yes, chronically normal has its strong points, but when you are looking to hear "God", "neuron", "Einstein", and "A Love Supreme" in the same sentence, only bipolar delivers.
Kay Jamison, in her 2004 book, "Exuberance," quotes Kipling describing a meeting with Teddy Roosevelt: "I curled up on the seat opposite and listened and wondered until the universe seemed to be spinning around and Theodore was the spinner."
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Significantly, TR's dark side imbued him with the kind of powers of reflection and introspection that seem to elude those the hopelessly normal. This is someone who read a book a day and wrote 40 books. So as well as a personal entertainment system and workhorse, those lucky enough to take a bipolar home with them are privileged to snuggle up to a deep thinker. Plus an empathic healer and nurturer. Wow! What's the catch?
Oh, that's right. We're bipolar.
But normal is not what it's all cracked up to be. It represents a norm rather than an ideal. Why would anyone want to be stuck in a relationship with individual with a bad case of "average-itis?"
Oh, that's right. They don't have bipolar.
Often, these "mixed marriages" can be made to work. But too often we are drawn into the same old trap. For any number of reasons, there is no true meeting of the minds. Then we're left alone to deal with our hurt and the crushing depressions to follow, with yet another trial to face - and one more opportunity for transcendence.
Reviewed July 15, 2016
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