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Q:  Hi my boyfriend of four years is diagnosed with bi polar and refuses to take his medications.  We have two beautiful children and im so afraid my family is going to be broken due to his problem.  He lashes out on me and the children a lot. He is very distant.  He really seems to be pushing us away.  I do not know much about the disorder and im trying to learn as much as possible so i can keep my family together can you please help me.  Thank you for your time

Dear S,
     When your partner is not treating their bipolar disorder there will ALWAYS be problems.  This illness will not go away just because your boyfriend wants it to.  When he is untreated, it affects your life and all of the people around him, especially the children.  You need to get clear in your mind and set boundaries about what you will and will not tolerate regarding untreated bipolar disorder, and then you have to stick to what you say.  For example, " If you lash out again towards me and the children you are going to have to leave", or "if you want to stay in this relationship I need you to be taking your medication on a regular and constant basis".  If your boyfriend does not comply with his medications and cannot restrain himself from verbally abusing you and the children, I would strongly consider a court order to keep his distance in order to motivate his compliance.  It's important that even during a crisis you stay aware of the effects that your partner's bipolar disorder may be having on your children.  Young children simply don't have the maturity to understand that an illness is causing an adult to behave in a strange way.  They simply feel scared.  Protecting you children comes first, even if it means a temporary separation from the ill partner until control can be reestablished.  Talk with your children.  Ask them about their fears and worries.  If you're not sure what to do, get some professional advice. Try asking yourself the following tough questions:  Can I deal with this for 6 more months?  If things don't improve in a year, what am I going to do?  If my boyfriend refuses to work with me, am I going to stay in the relationship?  Does my partner's illness affect the children, and do I need to do something to protect the children?  What are my legal rights?   Will my partner harm me or someone else?

     You also have a few other options.  You can take a break.  You can talk with your boyfriends doctor about your options.  You can let other family members or friends take care of things for a while.  You can tell your boyfriend's family that they need to help more.  Give yourself some breathing room so you can think outside of the crisis.      The following excellent book for recommended reading can help you put together a new treatment plan for you and your partner but it does take time and it does not guarantee his participation (nonetheless it is worth reading): 

Loving Someone With Bipolar Disorder, Julie A.
Fast, 2004.
     Only you can decide how long you should stay in a relationship that isn't' working.  How long do you stay with someone who refuses help?  Only you can answer this question.  You do have a choice-even if it's a very difficult one.  Good luck.  You are not alone.  It is your boyfriend's responsibility, bipolar disorder or not, to take care of himself and to trust those who love him. 

David Schafer, M.Ed.
Staff Psychologist

Published June, 2006

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