Because day to day living isn’t hard enough to navigate with bipolar disorder or other SMI (serious mental illness) let’s add dating and see if you can manage a relationship too.
So you go online, find the dating site of your choice and start to write your profile when it occurs to you;
Is there a specific rule for disclosing a mental disorder?
You are in a conundrum and one there is no real set in stone answer for. There are of course opinions from both those who have mental illness, have withheld for awhile, and then tried immediate disclosure, neither with much success, and those who have had the big bomb dropped on them at the worst time and felt like they were trapped or tricked.
Then of course there are those who just like hearing their own, misguided due to complete inexperience, voices chime in because they can. Online dating communities, possibly because the human interaction is not immediate, tend to be quick to judge, therefore more of a crapshoot.
Tell too soon and you run the risk of never dating at all, tell too late and you may be accused of trying to trap or trick someone into loving you before you tell them.. you aren’t really all that lovable (a common yet errant misconception)
The fallout from the reaction of telling at the wrong time, can be devastating to a person with bipolar disorder or any other SMI. To make a connection with someone and feel the little pangs of hope and butterflies of attraction, to spend enough time with them to think they may be the one, only to be completely rejected and often in a cruel manner, is not easy to bounce back from.
If it happens repeatedly, it can trigger an episode of depression or mania. especially if relationships are a trigger.
It’s hard to know what to do but with a little more experience in the dating scene, there are a few good indicators of when, and even if, you should get to the point of disclosing your mental disorder. Once you have a feel for the types of reactions you may get, telling or not will become more natural to you. .
The Right to Privacy vs The Right to Know What They are Getting Into..
if I should tell you I have bipolar disorder before we meet, shouldn’t you tell me you snore really loud?
Apples and oranges, but really, not so much.
Look at it like this, bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness and one of the reasons it seems to be such a hot button on the dating scene is due to the fact being a disorder of extremes in mood resulting in impulsive, often unpredictable behavior, and dating being an activity that can trigger high emotions, extreme mood swings,and lead to some of the dysfunctional behavior, directly affecting the person dating the bipolar candidate, the fact there is something amiss is often apparent shortly after meeting if the two hit it off and the feelings start to grow.
Conversely, the person with bipolar may have the milder forms and be stable until farther into the relationship, not unraveling until things begin to get serious.
Either scenario has the nonbipolar one feeling a little confused and a little deceived, like they should have had the choice at the get go, before any emotional involvement takes place to stay or go.
Problem is, if told up front, most likely, they would have bailed without looking back.
They would flat out ignore the, smart, funny, gosh darn it people like you, very cool fun vibrant person you are and seen only ..crazy.
Sure that ends up being their loss but it’s yours too because, whether they want to admit it or not, most people, even the ones who think they would say ‘ oh well ok’, don;t want the extra crap that comes in a relationship with someone who has a mental illness.
Relationships are hard enough, Being the person who may be in love with the person with bipolar disorder automatically makes it an effort.
Nevermind that all relationships require effort to sustain.
But once a connection is established, there is mutual affection and attraction, there has been enough time to see the stable person before the disorder comes out, there are many who will say,” I want to be with you anyways”.
They just don’t know it really because they base their opinion on outdated or erroneous information, and once with a stable person with the disorder, see the truth. But the ones who suffer with bipolar disorder, know they are worth loving and having a relationship.
They also know starting out with “I have bipolar disorder” as a way of introduction will leave them without even a shot, a chance, a glimpse, or a long shot at best anyway, as much as someone telling you they have a horrible snoring problem, so bad that one night the upstairs neighbors called the cops to stop the noise, has of finding someone to sleep with, after disclosure of the issue.
The two facts are different because no one thinks to tell you they snore so loud no one sleeps, before you find out for yourself, yet most think bipolar disorder, or other serious mental illness should be disclosed immediately, even so far as to suggest it be added to the profile questions.
So that they can pass over the ones who have something undesirable there without any involvement at all.
It’s just easier that way. For them, No need to make anyone uncomfortable.
Except the ones revealing something to every Tom Dick or Harry perusing the profiles for casual encounters, they only tell the closest most trusted of their friends and family.
The facts are the same because both scenarios in some sense or other, to whatever extreme, affect the other person, possibly disrupting their lives.
So would becoming involved with a person who is HIV positive, but they by law, do not have to disclose their status. End of debate on that. A contagious possibly life threatening, certainly life altering disease, transmitted through body fluids, like often happen during dating, and although the ethical dilemma is certainly there, it is not open for discussion or repercussions.
But having bipolar disorder, or another mental illness, is? Not legally but as judged by the very people who thought someone was the one, special, not too long ago, who upon finding out, consider that still special person, (for we all are), subhuman and treat them as if they pissed on their Wheaties in secret every day they knew each other.
Searching the forums is not the best answer, as it feels much like a witch hunt if you stay too long. I speak from experience of exploring dating forums looking for the proper etiquette as far as disclosure goes and seeing answers like, don’t bother, why would you think you deserve love? run away without looking back… “these people, if you can call them that, are not worth loving, they will suck the life out of you and they don’t deserve a minute of your time.” directly from a forum no longer active from a major popular dating site.
So what is the right answer?
It is an ethical obligation, in my mind, disclosing a condition such as bipolar disorder to someone who may be affected first hand by the fallout of bipolar episodes. The more serious form of the disorder, the more there should not be any question about telling a possible serious love interest. And there is a line when it does become deceitful not to tell, which if crossed puts the true foundation of the entire relationship at risk, but when it comes to dating, when is the right time?
Theoretical debate sometimes has a way of not playing out in real life. Whatever the theory or proper answer here, this is an issue once in the midst of the dating scene, or starting to date and becoming exclusive with someone, which, like life tends to do, just happens. The reactions you get are as varied as the people you may meet or interact with online, and the more you do interact and date, the easier it is to guage the right time, or if the person you are seeing but not more then occasionally and just for company now and then even really needs to be informed.
A lot depends on how open you are about your illness, and how you feel about yourself. If you feel like you are less then because of your illness then it will be a bigger issue to you and possibly cause undue stress from worrying about the when and how and the reaction you will get.
Even in a place of confidence, if you really want so and so to like you, or they are really who you want to be with, it will be harder to tell or decide when, and should they react badly or even nicely, but not want to see you, it can be devastating. If you choose to dwell on the what ifs, dating can be very depressing.
The type of Bipolar Disorder, you have, how it effects you and how stable you are should play a big part in your decision to tell and when. Even the most stable person with bipolar disorder, compliant with treatment and meds, who hasn’t had an episode in maybe years, runs the risk of having some dysfunction present itself while dating, especially if they have not been in a relationship for awhile, change alone can trigger an episode, nevermind the emotional intensity of a new relationship. or of realizing love.
If you are having bipolar depression or mania, and you are dating someone, don;t hide it from them if you are gong to interact with them. The more accepting of yourself and able to cope with the illness you are, the more chance you will find acceptance from others. You may plan a speech then forget the words, blurt it out when you are just talking but when you are ok with yourself, not stressed about hiding you find that those things don;t happen with the ones who don’t need to know. Soon it comes naturally, and you will see the opportunities and share in your own way.
You can only control yourself, so be prepared for anything, pleasant and not so much but don;t judge and don’t let it get you down ,especially if you don’t get the happily ever after you thought you wanted.
It just makes room for a different one, just as good or better.
Some Golden Oppurtunitues to Tell
(or know when you shouldn’t)
- They bring up mental illness in their family or past experiences with it.
- Watching a tv show or movie and one of the characters has bipolar disorder or mental illness. If the information is erroneous this may be a good opening for discussion to see where your prospective significant other sits on being informed and open mindedness.
- You actually have the “Let’s take this to the next level” relationship talk. Oftentimes that talk never happens, or you are too far into the relationship to have not already told them, as in; the next level is marriage and you still haven;t said a word.
- You are feeling insecure, recognize that you might behave irrationally and also that it is more the disorder than how you really feel. If you are that self aware, then be upfront and tell them. It is easier to accept when you tell them what to expect than if you try to explain after an episode.
- The opportunities become more plentiful and easier if you know the person you are with is open minded and also if you are open with at least those closest around you. the more you try to hide, the harder it is to tell the big secret. If it isn;t a secret, then it’s not as hard.
- They tell you what a whack job their ex is and how they will run for the hills if they ever hear the term bipolar disorder again.
(This would be a good indicator you might not want to worry about dating this person, much less telling them you have bipolar disorder.)
28 thoughts on “Dating Dilemmas for the Crazy; when to spill the beans.”
Great post! It truly is a gray area. I don’t feel anybody with a mental disorder should be obligated to disclose up front (like your snoring comparison) but it should be brought up once things get serious. As a caring partner, I’d want to know.
Absolutelty and as a caring partner I’d want to tell a caring partner ..but I think its like everything in life..timing.
I’ve had a great experience resultant of online dating where within a few days of chatting online I told the person that I had been diagnosed with Bipolar II. She was incredible understanding and had her own menagerie of mental mishaps. This made her all the more understanding and we have a great relationship. Not destined to be together forever but we support each other and maintain a close friendship.
It was because of this experience that I wrote that I was Bipolar II at the end of my profile. I explained how it manifests and also made the point that without me announcing it – the person probably wouldn’t declare me mentally ill.
The way I see it – I ONLY want to know someone who is capable of understanding the illness because, let’s face it, it’s here to stay. I’m not interested in getting attached to someone who isn’t capable of understanding what I go through or at least behaving in a way that can accomodate some of the more trying times provoked by my insanity.
All the best,
I m so glad you have that positive experience of acceptance and finding someone.
I have had it too..and I’ve had the crap experience as well.. At some point if I don’t tell it will be very obvious I am a little skewed.. But its pretty much out there for anyone to find if they are interested enough in me to want to find me.. So I’m more surprised when they don’t know and more wary of their intentions ..
Sometimes I throw it out there just to watch the show.
My profile is so vague ..was ..I don’t bother online dating..solely because of the experiences that got me to writing this..but no one could accuse me of misleading them but I did not out myself there either.
I would date you.
Thanks Mama.. You are awesome..I’d date you too. ❤
This was a great post. I have just discovered I most likely have Borderline Personality Disorder–which is closely related to Bipolar Disorder. I have been crazy for so long without knowing why, and screwing up relationships over and over because I am so impulsive and clingy or distant or both or neither and completely unpredictable. Now that I have learned about and am still learning about this disease, I think I will be open for the most part–normally I am an open book. I have no shame in sharing most things…haha! But this is something that I have to get a handle on first before I start spouting my BPD to everyone I date or want to date. And my theory is…if they run when you tell them? Not worth your time anyway……..though I know that is easier said than dealt with. Luckily relationships arent my triggers—-the emotion involved is….. OY.
My best suggestion is to learn as much about how it affects you before you try navigating those waters ..only because when you know and accept yourself ..it really is easier to deal with the part about the ones who can’t get past the label being not worth it… You know you are a gift .. Not easy but worth it and rejection from those who can’t see it.. Is like a free pass .. You won’t invest enough in them to worry when they take off ..it is their loss. 🙂
Wow, I can’t see that there’s any easy way to do it.
Though it would be nice if it were no more of an issue than say, telling someone you have a prosthetic leg, or a tear duct disorder, or cry at Jim Carrey movies.
Right? Although honestly it has become for me that kind of passing thing ..so I’m surprised when someone gets all bent out of shape anymore .. Not like its a big secret. Actually weeds out the muck.. And I haven’t had a date in quite a while ..sigh. Oh well.
I like that middle ground place. No need to add bipolar to a profile, but before a pair rounds second base, people should have that talk where they are upfront about themselves. At the same time, waiting until one or the other proposes marriage or even moving in, is waiting too long.
Its all a crapshoot when emotions and attraction is involved and the middle ground is the best place .. Its just sometimes hard to be ..logical when you are emotional. If I were to rewrite this on a ..workplace disclosure level I’d have a quite different opinion of need to know and right to know .
I think, be honest from the outset of meeting some one. There u will see or read this persons response to what u have told him/her and i think it will make it easier at the beginning.
Agreed. And again it falls back on self acceptance. I think if there were no need to be protective of being exactly who we are.. It wouldn’t be an issue at all
After my divorce, I did not disclose my mental illness, bi-polar disorder – anxiety & depression, ever. My ex-wife used it against me and I did not plan to marry again. But when I met my wife, she knew something was up with me, asked me about it, and everything just came out. I have no regrets. It’s my wife, then girlfriend who encouraged me to get help/meds/shrink, etc.
I think it’s a personal decision. Your mental illness is part of you. If you find the right person and want to share it, then fine.
Its been a journey …at times desperately painful but looking back I realize that I wasn’t just trying to prove myself worthy of love to someone, but to myself..
Now that I know I am worthy and that the person who will love and accept me is gonna be one lucky dude.. I don’t care so much about proving shit. The right one will see it and see past the pitfalls .. If they can’t get past the label they aren’t the right one. If they hold it against me for being the way I am..who I am.. To hell with them.
I think where I am is at the point of not really understanding why it is an issue..a bit of disillusionment with people for the shallowness.. But pained to see all the hurt it causes those who are still there trying to navigate the muck of fitting in and having a chance to have something good. I’ve been on both sides of the telling too late and too early but ultimately those who had issues with either approach are not part of my life and not important anymore ..but they were.. Its all hindsight and just a statement to enlighten and possibly help those who are still struggling.
This is truly fascinating! And as you say there really isn’t a clear cut answer.
Speaking from purely a behavioural point of view (I studied Animal Behaviour at university and lets face it, Human Beings are a species of animal) the reaction that non-bipolar people would display would be purely instinctual. It comes from the coding so deeply written into the genes of every living thing that operates on sexual reproduction to find the strongest candidate to bring about the best possible offspring. A Peahen will choose a Peacock with the most vibrant tail and plumage, a Lioness will choose the lion with the thickest mane, a Gazelle doe will choose the buck that can jump the highest and so on. When a person is presented with a prospective partner the act of “checking him/her out” is the same thing and is very much a subconscious method of predicting how pretty their kids will be.
Yes, it is shallow but then that is nature. (This is of course no reason for people to be rude or spiteful or downright insulting to a person with a condition)
Any mental health or physical issue a person may have (I have panic attacks and small-group based social anxiety) would biologically be seen as a weakness which could be passed down to any offspring. However Peahens, Lionesses and Gazelle do not fall in love.
Along with the blessing of conciousness we as humans have the ability to see someone for who they are and not for their condition, or how fast they can run. The issue is that some people either seem to not want to look past their instinctual reaction or can’t get past it. These people would not be worth your time.
I object to a person being forced to declare any conditions they have however in my case I know I would want to tell the prospective boyfriend otherwise I would spend every day obsessing over if the other person would still be with me if they knew and that would make me a million times worse.
The bottom line of my rambling comment: If they are scared off by a condition you may have then why would you want to settle for them anyway?
I wouldn’t settle .. And there is of course that point and since I no longer am protective of my condition .. I find its hardly even an issue of disclosure anymore because I’m not hiding anything. I presume that someone interested enough in me to need or want to know would quite easily find the information themselves..
That being said.. The biggest problem is the fact there are many really decent people who base their choice to not even try on bullshit information they get from TV..or perhaps one of their friends had a bad experience with someone and instead of it being like …it takes two to tango and perhaps the friend was just as much at fault.. The chick was crazy ergo ..crazy is bad.. Surface scratch and it conditions us to not look deeper.. There are plenty of fish in the sea why pick the one who may need some help or cause problems.. ? (The point you made I believe 🙂 )
Yet when they actually get to know someone before they have a chance to judge on a label..they can see past it.
Your example of the instinct makes sense but see .. Knowing what I know and my gifts I’d think the instinct would be to be drawn to it ..like moths to a flame baby ..lol..
On the flip side..there are those who just as easily take advantage of someone with a perceived weakness..which is I suppose why we even need to worry about being hush hush to begin with..
Its a crapshoot I guess and in the end the right person will stay and love and accept…
My opinion on this has changed over the years…I know myself and accept myself so ..I’m pretty much take me or leave me.. But learning to navigate the social scene has been enlightening and it used to tear me up to be rejected for something that isn’t all bad and before they could see beyond their preconceived bullshit notions.. . Its more about self perception really.. If you don’t perceive it as a weakness you don’t expect others too and it becomes a non issue.. Until they make it one.
I struggle with the idea of disclosing my mental illness (schizoaffective disorder) all the time, at school to professors, to friends, as an explanation for bizarre behavior or missed events. Thinking about disclosing it in a dating situation is even scarier… till I read this post and it makes sense. There will be a time.
Do you mind if I re-blog this?
Not at all.. Please feel free and I’m glad it maybe helped some
No right / wrong easy answer is there.
It for sure has to be a tough call… when…where and if to tell . Too soon and no relationship… too late and an ended relationship…’Discernment …intuition… is the key I would imagine…’ But not easy or simple…. Diane
Those are absolutely the keys but without self awareness they turn no locks or open any doors unfortunately.. Self awareness followed by self acceptance seems to be …at least for me..the only solution to the puzzle..