Does bipolar disorder make someone emotionally unavailable?

Hi there. I entered a relationship with an amazing man 4 months ago with excitement and heart palpitations!  He swept me off my feet with his strong, silent, presence. This was a blind date. We met at an online dating site.

Our first date consisted of a short walk on a local trail with the dog and a chat. I found him to be a bit ‘shy’ as I would put it.  After our date i didn’t hear from him for a couple of weeks…but we did connect and met again for dinner.  I labeled him the slowest man on earth at that time!  He was very guarded emotionally, but I felt that the fact that he’d asked me out, all was fine.  As the weeks turned to months, we dated about once per week (family obligations for both of us), and I began to feel very much a love for him.  He was always difficult to understand….as his moods fluctuated…I thought that it was ‘new love’ stuff and that he was just scared.  After 4 months I found some medication…Risperidone, Zyprexa, Lithium.  I’m a nurse, so I knew what this meant. When I confronted him he admitted that he had been diagnosed with bipolar 4 years ago (hence, the end of his marraige).  He assured me that he is fine now on medication and didn’t want to talk about it as he wants to look forward to the future …..

I find that I’m constantly craving attention from him.  He gives it!  But not enough……and not consistently.  I find that I blame it on myself, which I know if probably not the case.  It’s not physical attention so much, but emotional.  He doesn’t pick up on some subtle clues about how I’m needing attention, or how I need him to be gentle with my feelings.  It’s so subtle, that it makes it difficult for me to put my finger on exactly what aggravates me.  Basically, he’s not overly attentive……just minimally all of the time.

He tells me he loves me.  But he doesn’t feel like my ‘boyfriend’, although he is just that.

Is it me or is this what a medicated bipolar man is like and will be like forever?

He has told me that he thinks that I will break up with him, just because he has a history of being dumped. He asked me not to do it before Christmas. I’ve never before thought about breaking up with him, so I was surprised by his comments.

Now…I’m wondering what I should do.  I’ve read soooo much about BP since finding out about his diagnosis.  I love him and want it to work. I am willing to put effort into it. Does it get better? And why is he so ‘flat’ in his expressions?
Thank you in advance!


It’s really hard to say if the medications or the bipolar have anything to do with your boyfriend’s emotional ineptitude. Though I’m not saying it is impossible. It’s just without knowing him personally, I’d hate to make that sort of call.

HOWEVER 🙂 …. if these issues were to be the culprit, here might be why.

Bipolar itself: Having only been diagnosed a few years ago, he could be very guarded about his emotions and feelings. If he is taking his medications faithfully, then he is very serious about remaining stable. In which case, he probably is terrified. Especially if he does indeed have strong feelings for you.

When I think about what it might be like, I can’t help but be terrified myself. I mean, I have bipolar for monkey’s sake!!! To anyone out there who knows nothing about me or this illness, I look like a walking time bomb. And then what happens if I do slip? Who’s going to want to love me through all that? So I can imagine that I may be very cautious and emotionally detached as well. The fear of getting too close to someone  only to have them leave you over something you have little to no control over, especially when you are trying so had to keep it under control, is gianormous! And I mean terrifying! This may be part of why he keeps such a distance.

Another reason might just be the meds. It concerns me slightly when you say he seems “flat”. Now I’m not a doctor (nor have I played one on tv) but although what we want from our medications is to have a more even range of emotions, sometimes if the meds are too strong we can seem more sedated and unemotional. And lithium is a pretty strong med! So this could explain it also.

Soooo after all that explanation and such … what can you do about this?

Stick with me here, because this is much easier said than done. I KNOW he doesn’t want to talk about this, but he’s going to have to. If he truly does love you and he doesn’t want you to leave, then he is going to need to learn how to communicate with you effectively so you can learn how to read his ups and downs. This will be very important in keeping the relationship alive. He’s still going to have ups and downs and it’s best to know when it’s just life providing those highs and lows or if it’s his bipolar. It would be awful if you took something personal that in fact had nothing to do with you at all.

I know talking about bipolar is scary, but when you are in a relationship with someone who suffers from it, I feel that it is very necessary. Everyone is different and everyone’s symptoms are different. If you are willing to go the distance and work through the peaks and valleys of those symptoms, then you need to let him know that. You need to take his fear of you leaving away.

Tell him you know that the future is important to look forward to, but sometimes it is necessary to know a little bit about each other’s past as well. Let him know that he has nothing to be ashamed of or afraid of. I’m sure if his bipolar is what ended his last marriage then he is probably convinced it will end every other relationship as well.

Also, keep up on the research and the reading. The more you know about bipolar, the easier it will be to talk to him and understand him 🙂

Oh, and let’s not forget, he is a man. Subtlety RARELY works on men. You pretty much need to wave a big red flag that says “Hug me I’m having a crappy day” in there face for them to get the point. Sigh… MEN!!! I tell ya what. LOL (No offense to my male readers…just saying…)

I hope this helped a little. If you have any more questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!

2 thoughts on “Does bipolar disorder make someone emotionally unavailable?

  1. I can relate to what this person is saying about her boyfriend with Bipolar Disorder. When I met my husband 18 years ago I was very scared to tell him about my “condition”. I called it that because I didn’t know how he would react. Now, I have a harsh history and it is very hard for me to trust men. But…he WON me over by his character traits. I actually had another friend explain my condition to him. To my surprise he approached me and told me he loved me and believed I was the one for him. Whoa, wait a second was my first thought. So, we had a long discussion about the disorder. He has been by my side ever since and we’ve been married 14 of those years and now have three kids. I believe patients with Bipolar can have healthy relationships. But the person with the disease needs to be open and ask for help if needed and be open to how the spouse feels as well.

    I say education is power. Keep reading up on it and learn more about it. For a while I went through a period of ‘flat’ affect too and I was “too” medicated and we tweaked meds to take care of it.

    I don’t know if this helps at all. This is just my experience. 🙂

  2. I’m bipolar and me and my boyfriend started dating in June.I never had episodes took my meds everything we had an amazing relationship up till November madly in love.Then I noticed little signs him being distant guarding his phone,so I asked him if he was talking to anyone.He told me no so I didn’t feel he lied.He left his phone out on accident and before he could hurry back in for it I seen some vulgar text between him and this other female.I just went numb he got mad I had him take me home..As I loved him very much I forgave him..Then on thanksgiving he changed from this amazingly sweet man to this person saying the worse things imaginable to me within a 5 minute time span from smiling then that..That night I shut down but stayed with him,my episodes started getting worse and me and him were fighting all the time..Him always blaming the stuff he was doing on me there was so much Anger from him.Then I guess I sent a guy on 2 occasions naked photos of myself,and I have no memory of doing this but I apolized anyways but he left me that instant.He didn’t give me the forgiveness I gave him,calling me horrible stuff and making fun because I would say I couldn’t remember large in part my bipolar.Well he is understanding some about my illness and wants to work on us,I don’t remember when this all happened cause I have a very bad understanding of days right now ive been horribly depressed because he talks to me everyday goes and partys but tell me he loves me very much.But I haven’t left the couch barely eating showering hydrating myself.I’m very miserable,and have unknowingly tried twice once with pills and the second cutting to end it but snapping back to myself.But he wants to try again but has only came and seen me twice for a hug gets mad if I tag him in things on social media goes to strip clubs a lot,and he had actually let his friends put me down and wouldn’t defend me..I fill very detached and I asked him for a kiss tonight and he basically said that was moving to fast.Never actually says he is going to a strip club and then the next day ill see vidios or photos I feel its a public embaressment to me,him allowing females that are his friends talk down of me to him,I feel disgusted towards it all.And always calling me a lier and a slut and everything else and ive never done any of this.I just need some kind of understanding.Cause we want to fix us cause we had a very amazing love.

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