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But when those episodes do occur they can wreak havoc on a relationship.
During the manic phase, a person can lose his or her sense of judgment.
"That's because you want to pull them out of their shell and you don't know how to do it." Bipolar disorder can become an issue from the very start of a relationship.
When Jim Mc Nulty, 58, of Burrillville, Rhode Island, got married in the 1970s, everything seemed fine at first.
"It was an absolutely normal courtship," he recalls. During his "up" or hypomanic states, he would spend huge sums of money he didn't have.
"But once you sense that there's a mutual attraction and you decide to become more serious with this person, when you decide that you want to date this person exclusively, I think at that point each partner needs to come clear with what the package includes." Knowing what triggers your cycles of hypomania, mania, and depression and watching out for warning signs that you're entering one or the other phase of the cycle can help you avoid uncomfortable situations in your new relationship.
"I think the more the person knows what their cycles are, the better they might be able to be in charge of them," says Myrna Weissman, Ph D.
But when one partner has bipolar disorder, simple stressors can reach epic proportions.
That may be why as many as 90% of marriages involving someone with bipolar disorder reportedly fail.
Warning signs, she says, can include disturbed sleep and changes in activity level.
Any number of things, from work stress to money issues, can lead to arguments and put strain on a marriage.
Then he would hit the "down" side and sink into the depths of depression.
These wild swings put stress on his marriage and threatened to run his family's finances into the ground.
He eventually signed the house over to his wife to protect her and his two young children.