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Caught in same love trap again
November 29, 2010 1:43 PM   Subscribe

What do I do about bipolar boyfriend?

I was going through a very traumatic illness. He was bipolar. He more or less swept me off my feet, showed me a great time and also took care of me.

I let him know I wasn't in love. He became obsessively jealous and very smothering.

The eventual breakup was difficult. I was semi-living with him. He would take me back to my parents' house, and then he would persuade me to come back. I think this happened twice. This was *after* we got engaged and un-engaged twice. (I know, this makes me sound as crazy as him. Could be, I dunno.)

Unfortunately, those who can't sufficiently remember history are apparently doomed to repeat it. Five years later, it's here we go again, with the same guy. (I am still at my parents' house, and have not been staying with him at all this time around). What happened was, we became friends again for whatever reason, and now we've been great friends for a year, but now his switch has flipped and he's in love, and, again, I am not. Sure, I love him, and sometimes we have so great a time, and I feel like I care for him so much, that it's almost like being IN love. But my memories of the last time are too bad to want to go back with him. Even if he's changed a lot, which he says he has and I have some reason to believe may be true, he still wears me out with his overactive/hyperactive behavior and mood swings.

I suppose the smart thing for me to do would be to DTMFA, but this is difficult. I'm a naturally clingy person. I'm almost 50, fear loneliness, and seriously wonder if I can do any better. I know when this relationship ends, Mr. Bipolar will crash terribly, like he did the last time, and like he's done other times he's been in love. I sure don't want to do that to him. It doesn't help that he's extremely persuasive (should have been a salesman).

Do I need assertiveness therapy? Loneliness therapy? What? (I occasionally suffer from depression and anxiety, which I self-treat. Not into the meds, but I might be open to therapy.) Do I really have to squash this guy? He'll become an obsessive recluse, and then move on to "the next one" and the same thing will happen again. Is he hopeless that way? Does he just need someone to really commit to him? Do I care too much about him, to my detriment?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Do I really have to squash this guy?

Yes.

He'll become an obsessive recluse, and then move on to "the next one" and the same thing will happen again.

Why is that your problem?

Is he hopeless that way?

Probably.

Does he just need someone to really commit to him?

To keep feeding his mental illness, yes.

Do I care too much about him, to my detriment?

Yes. You can't save, control, or change other people.

Do I need assertiveness therapy? Loneliness therapy? What?

Loneliness therapy. For some reason, you'd rather be in a poisonous relationship than be alone, and that's not right. Look into the reasons why you can't face your own independence.
posted by Melismata at 1:50 PM on November 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


Honestly, if I were lonely, depressed, anxious, ill, and living in my parents' house, I too might find it tempting to keep associating with someone who brought Excitement and Drama into my life.

I think you have the right idea about getting the mental health issues sorted out, but also, I have the inkling that if you lived on your own and developed a more extensive social life and dated more, you might have less of an urge to keep coming back to this.

As to the risk of him crashing out ... this rollercoaster does not sound like it's good for him at all. And I think it's not very cool to be bringing him along with you for another ride on the rollercoaster, under the justification that he'd just do it with someone else anyway. You don't know that, and two wrongs don't make a right. It's like saying I might as well try to rip off money from my Grandma because she'd probably give it away to con artists anyway if I didn't.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:54 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I suppose the smart thing for me to do would be to DTMFA, but this is difficult. I'm a naturally clingy person. I'm almost 50, fear loneliness, and seriously wonder if I can do any better. I know when this relationship ends, Mr. Bipolar will crash terribly, like he did the last time, and like he's done other times he's been in love.

You seem to be seeking permission to DTMFA. Go for it! You are not obligated to care for others above your own well-being.

And yes, get therapy to get over your personal issues. It's great that you have recognized you have some personal issues which have been feeding the unhealthy relationship as well. Therapy will help you deal with these issues, as well as change your feelings about not being in a relationship.

Good luck!
posted by benzenedream at 1:56 PM on November 29, 2010


You won't be doing anything to him by dumping him. Whether or not he uses his coping tools is his choice. Even if he was unaware that he was bipolar, it still wouldn't be your responsibility to deal with the fallout. So, cut this guy off and focus on you. Nothing good will come of this much drama.

You are what should be important to you. If your life isn't going the way you want, it's up to you to get it going where you want it to. I can't say whether you need therapy or not, but a few sessions might be a good idea, just to test the waters. The worst thing that can happen is that you'll be out a few $, and you might actually find it useful.

Don't settle for this guy just because he comes to you because you're the only person who puts up with his behaviour. If he's as erratic as you say, there probably aren't many people out there who would tolerate him.

It can be scary to be alone. However, this guy is filling your view right now. Take a step back from him, survey the area and see who else is available. There are other people out there who might like you, if you give them a chance to find out.
posted by Solomon at 2:00 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't live your life being the supporting actor in someone else's drama, which is what appears to be happening with this guy.
posted by Windigo at 2:03 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do I really have to squash this guy? He'll become an obsessive recluse, and then move on to "the next one" and the same thing will happen again. Is he hopeless that way? Does he just need someone to really commit to him? Do I care too much about him, to my detriment?

Yes, you have to squash this guy, but you have no idea whether he'll become an obsessive recluse or not. No one is doomed to a lifetime of unchangingness, for all you know he could get his act together (or find someone who doesn't mind) and not have the same problems in his next relationship that he has in this one. He may or may not need someone to really commit to him, but it really doesn't sound like you are the person who should be doing that, since you do not love him. I think you definitely worry (instead of care) too much about him; it seems to me that the most caring thing you can do for him is cut the ties and let him go.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:06 PM on November 29, 2010


It sounds like you already know the answer to your question. Are you looking for confirmation that dumping him is the right thing, or permission to do the wrong thing?

The wrong thing would be to stay in a relationship that has proven to be catastrophic in the past with somebody you aren't sure about because it happens to dovetail with your own neurosis and because, in the short-term, it's easier than breaking up. The right thing would be to wrestle this under control now. Right now.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:07 PM on November 29, 2010


Does he just need someone to really commit to him?
Do not allow yourself to think that if you could just "really" commit to him, everything would be perfect. You know the right answer. He's not good for you, and you aren't good for him. Cut this off now.
posted by coupdefoudre at 2:15 PM on November 29, 2010


Check out Codependents Anonymous. (This isn't a diagnosis. CODA is for anybody who wants to help develop healthier relationships.)
posted by Wordwoman at 2:27 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Commitment does not fix bipolar.

He's an exciting mess when he's not a horrendous mess, but mess he is. If he is not committed to making a stable life for himself-difficult but not impossible-he can't expect to drag YOU into his mess.

And it is a mess. The only worse thing than being the S.O. of a bipolar is being that bipolar. I'm sorry but love does not fix it. If only it did!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:29 PM on November 29, 2010


Also, please read Facing Co-Dependence by Mellody, Miller, and Miller. You self-describe as "clingy." You can't let go of Mr. Bad News and you self-justify by worrying about him and how terrible it will be for him if you break up. Thus, I am extremely comfortable in the armchair diagnosis that at least some of your issues are connected to co-dependent habits of mind.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:43 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just create some boundaries. Anything you see in him that smells like bipolar crash, allow yourself not to give a crap. It's fine to want some of someone for sex or companionship or getting out of your parents' house or whatever, think of it like a movie buddy or drinking partner. It happens all the time, you just need to be able to compartmentalize it and not let it become the 110% of everything that you already know cannot be from your experiences 5 years ago and from what you write here about already knowing it will happen again. As long as you're honest and open about what your expectations from the relationship are, including not being party to any psychological issues that may arise.

You know how bad it is to say "if you loved me, you'd..." right? Well this is how you do the same thing: "X, Y and maybe Z are the only things I want from you." Flip it around such that you aren't prohibiting bad behavior after the fact, you're promoting sane behavior as the only kind you'll stick around for. "Dude, you're cool as long as you have your shit together." Who knows, if you two are really great friends, maybe it'll be what motivates him to handle his business. Maybe not, but just lay it out straight that you're gonna have to only be a fair-weather friend. Maybe also start testing out a "no means no" approach to his sales tactics.
posted by rhizome at 2:43 PM on November 29, 2010


I suppose the smart thing for me to do would be to DTMFA, but this is difficult.

It always is, but many difficult things are.

We can't tell you exactly what you need to be able to do this other than that you need a conviction to do the things you know are best for you. Given your statement about being clingy perhaps it's a self-esteem thing and you need to convince yourself that you deserve better and can do better. Or that if the options are this crazy unpleasantness or nobody then you should pick nobody.

I'd say you start with "I know what I am choosing to do is not good for me" and move on to "how do I make better choices?" "Why do I do this?" is nice to know but maybe you don't need to know that immediately.
posted by phearlez at 2:48 PM on November 29, 2010


Do you want to do this for the third time when you 55? No?

Then you need to stop this. Don't duck behind the excuse that he's persuasive. Move along with your life and he'll move along with his.
posted by 26.2 at 3:11 PM on November 29, 2010


Bipolar doesn't mean a person is not a keeper. The question is, does he manage his illness? Does he take his mads, see his doctor and/or therapist as required by them, not by him. Unmanaged bipolar or other disorder is a deal-breaker. You care for him, so look him in the eye and tell him he needs to manage his illness.
posted by theora55 at 6:36 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


As someone with bipolar disorder I'd like to assure you that we're just as capable of getting over relationships as we are of losing ourselves in them. What we don't deal with very well is mixed messages and ambivalence from others.

You have your reasons for clinging to the drama and the crazy and he has his, but it doesn't sound like either of you is bringing healthy, functional, adult behaviour to the table. You certainly can't help someone else with their issues when your own reasons for being in the relationship are more about your fears of being alone than they are about wanting to be with him.

It doesn't sound like either of you are right for the other. Let this go so that you can each find someone who is right for you.
posted by Lolie at 6:10 PM on November 30, 2010


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