Should I put up with my boyfriend treating me badly because he has bipolar disorder?

Absolutely not, says our elder.

Dear EWC

Hi, I’m an 18-year-old girl and I’ve been dating my boyfriend (19 years old) for two months. For the most part, it’s been great, expect for the fact that he has bipolar disorder and recently he’s been going through a manic episode. I’m so unprepared and unaware of how to handle this. He’s so focused on “being productive” that I feel like he’s not even focused on anything else, including me. I understand completely that that’s just him being manic right now but my god it really feels like he doesn’t care about me, or value me or my time.

Last week when he was really going through it he was ignoring me, talking to me like I was stupid, and completely disregarding my feelings. When I brought up how I feel, he said it was my fault he was acting like that because I made him mad. I’m also well aware that this isn’t ideally how anyone should be treated and that I deserve better, but knowing that he’s acting like that because of his bipolar disorder kind of changes things. He doesn’t act like that normally, like he’s normally so kind and understanding of me and my emotions!

I don’t know whether this is kind of an unhealthy relationship that I should get out of or whether it’s just part of the process of dating someone with a mental illness. I really like him a lot and I think that if he just treated me a little better this is a relationship I could see lasting a while, and I’m really not sure about what to do right now.

Sonora replies

I understand your dilemma. Being in a relationship with someone who has a mental illness is extremely difficult at best, and can be impossible and unhealthy for you. Just because someone has an illness does not mean that you have to accept or allow yourself to be treated badly. That doesn’t mean you can change the person that has the illness; it just means there is no good that can come from being in a relationship that is unhealthy that will ultimately damage you. It is unfortunate and of course you will feel badly for him, but you must take care of yourself first and foremost. 

When someone treats you badly it is never your fault, no matter what they say is the reason. If your boyfriend has manic episodes and treats you badly the best thing you can do for yourself is to remove yourself from the relationship. You have only been with him for two months and now you are seeing a small preview of what the future holds.

Unfortunately, just because you like someone and they are nice sometimes isn’t what it takes for a good healthy relationship.  All relationships have their ups and downs, but you deserve someone who is healthy and treats you with love and respect all of the time.

I hope my perspective helps.  If you have any questions feel free to write back.

Letter #: 432889
Category: Dating/Relationship

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