Why We Shout When In Anger
Spiritual Story by Unknown
A Hindu saint who was visiting river Ganges to take bath found a group of family members on the banks, shouting in anger at each other. He turned to his disciples smiled and asked.
‘Why do people shout in anger shout at each other?’
Disciples thought for a while, one of them said, ‘Because we lose our calm, we shout.’
‘But, why should you shout when the other person is just next to you? You can as well tell him what you have to say in a soft manner.’ asked the saint
Disciples gave some other answers but none satisfied the other disciples.
‘When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a lot. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other to cover that great distance.
What happens when two people fall in love? They don’t shout at each other but talk softly, Because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is either nonexistent or very small…’
The saint continued, ‘When they love each other even more, what happens? They do not speak, only whisper and they get even closer to each other in their love. Finally they even need not whisper, they only look at each other and that’s all. That is how close two people are when they love each other.’
He looked at his disciples and said.
‘So when you argue do not let your hearts get distant, Do not say words that distance each other more, Or else there will come a day when the distance is so great that you will not find the path to return.
Why I Want a Wife
By Judy Syfers (1971)
(Note: This classic piece of feminist humor appeared in the premier issue of Ms. Magazine and was widely circulated in the women’s movement.)
I belong to that classification of people known as wives. I am A Wife.
And, not altogether incidentally, I am a mother. Not too long ago a male friend of mine appeared on the scene fresh from a recent divorce. He had one child, who is, of course, with his ex-wife. He is looking for another wife. As I thought about him while I was ironing one evening, it suddenly occurred to me that I too, would like to have a wife. Why do I want a wife?
I would like to go back to school so that I can become economically independent, support myself, and if need be, support those dependent upon me. I want a wife who will work and send me to school. And while I am going to school I want a wife to take care of my children. I want a wife a wife to keep track of the children’s doctor and dentist appointments. And to keep track of mine, too. I want a wife to make sure my children eat properly and are kept clean. I want a wife who will wash the children’s clothes and keep them mended. I want a wife who is a good nurturing attendant to my children, who arranges for their schooling, makes sure that they have an adequate social life with their peers, takes them to the park, the zoo, etc. I want a wife who takes care of the children when they are sick, a wife who arranges to be around when the children need special care, because, of course, I cannot miss classes at school. My wife must arrange to lose time at work and not lose the job. It may mean a small cut in my wife’s income from time to time, but I guess I can tolerate that. Needless to say, my wife will arrange and pay for the care of the children while my wife is working.
I want a wife who will take care of my physical needs. I want a wife who will keep my house clean. A wife who will pick up after my children, a wife who will pick up after me. I want a wife who will keep my clothes clean, ironed, mended, replaced when need be, and who will see to it that my personal things are kept in their proper place so that I can find what I need the minute I need it. I want a wife who cooks the meals, a wife who is a good cook. I want a wife who will plan the menus, do the necessary grocery shopping, prepare the meals,serve them pleasantly, and then do the cleaning up while I do my studying. I want a wife who will care for me when I am sick and sympathize with my pain and loss of time from school. I want a wife to go along when our family takes a vacation so that someone can continue care for me and my when I need a rest and change of scene. I want a wife who will not bother me with rambling complaints about a wife’s duties. But I want a wife who will listen to me when I feel the need to explain a rather difficult point I have come across in my course of studies. And I want a wife who will type my papers for me when I have written them.
I want a wife who will take care of the details of my social life. When my wife and I are invited out by my friends, I want a wife who take care of the baby-sitting arrangements. When I meet people at school that I like and want to entertain, I want a wife who will have the house clean, will prepare a special meal, serve it to me and my friends, and not interrupt when I talk about things that interest me and my friends. I want a wife who will have arranged that the children are fed and ready for bed before my guests arrive so that the children do not bother us. I want a wife who takes care of the needs of my quests so that they feel comfortable, who makes sure that they have an ashtray, that they are passed the hors d’oeuvres, that they are offered a second helping of the food, that their wine glasses are replenished when necessary, that their coffee is served to them as they like it. And I want a wife who knows that sometimes I need a night out by myself.
I want a wife who is sensitive to my sexual needs, a wife who makes love passionately and eagerly when I feel like it, a wife who makes sure that I am satisfied. And, of course, I want a wife who will not demand sexual attention when I am not in the mood for it. I want a wife who assumes the complete responsibility for birth control, because I do not want more children. I want a wife who will remain sexually faithful to me so that I do not have to clutter up my intellectual life with jealousies. And I want a wife who understands that my sexual needs may entail more than strict adherence to monogamy. I must, after all, be able to relate to people as fully as possible.
If, by chance, I find another person more suitable as a wife than the wife I already have, I want the liberty to replace my present wife with another one. Naturally, I will expect a fresh, new life; my wife will take the children and be solely responsible for them so that I am left free.
When I am through with school and have a job, I want my wife to quit working and remain at home so that my wife can more fully and completely take care of a wife’s duties.
My God, who wouldn’t want a wife?
Oxytocin keeps attached men away from hot women
By MyHealthNewsDaily Staff
The “love hormone” oxytocin may help maintain romantic relationships by prompting men to keep their distance from attractive women, a new study from Germany suggests.
In the study, men in monogamous relationships who were given an oxytocin nasal spray stayed about four to six inches farther away from an attractive, woman they didn’t know, compared with men in monogamous relationships who received a placebo.
The oxytocin spray had no effect on the distance that single men chose to keep between themselves and the attractive woman.
The results suggest the hormone promotes fidelity in humans, said study researcher Dr. René Hurlemann, of the University of Bonn. The findings agree with previous research conducted on prairie voles, which suggested the hormone plays a role in pair-bonding.
In humans, oxytocin has been found to promote bonding between parents and children, increase trust, and reduce conflict between couples. And earlier this year, a study found that couples with high levels of oxytocin in the early stages of a relationship were more likely to be together six months later than couples with lower levels of the hormone.
But until now, there has been no evidence that a dose of oxytocin given after a couple gets together contributes to the maintenance of the relationship, the researchers said.
The study involved 57 heterosexual males, about half of whom were in monogamous relationships. After receiving either a dose of oxytocin or placebo, participants were introduced to a female experimenter who they later described as “attractive.”
During the encounter, the experimenter moved towards or away from the men, and they were asked to indicate when she was at an “ideal distance” away, as well as when she moved to a distance that felt “slightly uncomfortable.”
The effect of oxytocin on the attached men was the same regardless of whether the female experimenter maintained eye contact, or averted her gaze. Oxytocin also had no effect on the men’s attitude toward the female experimenter — whether men received the oxytocin or the placebo, they rated her as being equally attractive.
In a separate experiment, the researchers found oxytocin had no effect on the distance men kept between themselves and a male experimenter.
Future studies are needed to determine exactly how oxytocin might act on the brain to affect behavior, the researchers said.
The study will be published tomorrow (Nov. 14) in The Journal of Neuroscience.
Healthy Relationship Tips
Here are a few healthy relationship tips that I learned through my own experiences. They work well for me, hopefully they will work well for you. This is a fun and useful topic, if you have any ideas of your own please do submit them through the contact page and I will add the best ones to this page or possibly start another page dedicated to tips and tricks. So here we go!
Have enough self respect to never be used, abused or mistreated. Leave any relationship immediately and never look back if this is happening.
Start everyday fresh. If at all possible deal with problems in the day in which they occur, once dealt with, let it go. Keeping score is bad news. Try not to let the sun set on your anger or issues.
Space. Everybody needs their space, have interests outside of each other. Firstly this gives you space, secondly it give you fresh material to talk about. If you are together all the time, pretty soon you are going to run out of new conversation.
Maintain old activities. Keep doing what made you fall in love. Avoid complacency. If you liked going out, don’t stop when you get comfortable with somebody.
Lighten up. Don’t be to serious about everything, have some fun, enjoy life, people will enjoy your company more.
Communicate. Most important, learn to speak your mind, but do learn to do it in a considerate, empathetic way. Don’t bottle things up, this is a recipe for disaster.
Be Kind. Pretty basic.
Say you are sorry. It’s amazing the power an authentic apology carries. It’s not that hard once you get use to it!
Turn the TV off. Best thing on the TV is the off button.
Get away together as often as possible. Getting away from routine daily life can be great for a relationship.
Take trips away individually. Give the other person the gift of missing you, it’s a fantastic gift. It’s good to miss each other from time to time, brings back a sense of appreciation.
No jealousy, ever. Jealousy is completely toxic to a relationship. If you can’t trust, your with the wrong person or just not ready for a relationship. Jealousy is bad, bad, bad.
Compliments. Everyone one loves a compliment, be generous with them so long as you are sincere.
Surprise. Throw a surprise into the equation from time to time. It keeps it lively and interesting.
Lastly, maintain your individuality. Try to avoid losing your own identity. Too often in a relationship we forget ourselves and start to take on the identity of the other person, this is a mistake really.
So there you go, some of my top healthy relationship tips. Good luck and I hope they are helpful.
New Study Provides “Confirmation for Stereotypes About Sex-Hungry Males and Naïve Females”
Posted by Nick Margerrison on October 24, 2012
Harry: … men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.
Sally: That’s not true. I have a number of men friends and there is no sex involved.
Irritating rom-com, When Harry Met Sally, may have been on the money as regards the age old question of platonic relationships between men and women. Scientific American reports that, according to new research, men see their women friends as potential conquests:
researchers brought 88 pairs of undergraduate opposite-sex friends into…a science lab. Privacy was paramount—for example, imagine the fallout if two friends learned that one—and only one—had unspoken romantic feelings for the other throughout their relationship. In order to ensure honest responses, the researchers not only followed standard protocols regarding anonymity and confidentiality, but also required both friends to agree—verbally, and in front of each other—to refrain from discussing the study, even after they had left the testing facility. These friendship pairs were then separated, and each member of each pair was asked a series of questions related to his or her romantic feelings (or lack thereof) toward the friend with whom they were taking the study.
The results suggest large gender differences in how men and women experience opposite-sex friendships. Men were much more attracted to their female friends than vice versa. Men were also more likely than women to think that their opposite-sex friends were attracted to them—a clearly misguided belief. In fact, men’s estimates of how attractive they were to their female friends had virtually nothing to do with how these women actually felt, and almost everything to do with how the men themselves felt—basically, males assumed that any romantic attraction they experienced was mutual, and were blind to the actual level of romantic interest felt by their female friends. Women, too, were blind to the mindset of their opposite-sex friends; because females generally were not attracted to their male friends, they assumed that this lack of attraction was mutual. As a result, men consistently overestimated the level of attraction felt by their female friends and women consistently underestimated the level of attraction felt by their male friends.
Men were also more willing to act on this mistakenly perceived mutual attraction. Both men and women were equally attracted to romantically involved opposite-sex friends and those who were single; “hot” friends were hot and “not” friends were not, regardless of their relationship status. However, men and women differed in the extent to which they saw attached friends as potential romantic partners. Although men were equally as likely to desire “romantic dates” with “taken” friends as with single ones, women were sensitive to their male friends’ relationship status and uninterested in pursuing those who were already involved with someone else.
The last word: He said he was leaving. She ignored him.
When Laura Munson’s husband asked for a divorce, she ducked instead of fighting. He needed to learn, she says, that his unhappiness wasn’t really about her
Happiness starts within. Eventually, my husband got it. SEE ALL 110 PHOTOS
Let’s say you have what you believe to be a healthy marriage. You’re still friends and lovers after spending more than half of your lives together. The dreams you set out to achieve in your 20s—gazing into each other’s eyes in candlelit city bistros, when you were single and skinny—have for the most part come true.
Two decades later you have the 20 acres of land, the farmhouse, the children, the dogs and horses. You’re the parents you said you would be, full of love and guidance. You’ve done it all: Disneyland, camping, Hawaii, Mexico, city living, stargazing.
Sure, you have your marital issues, but on the whole you feel so self-satisfied about how things have worked out that you would never, in your wildest nightmares, think you would hear these words from your husband one fine summer day: “I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did. I’m moving out. The kids will understand. They’ll want me to be happy.”
But wait. This isn’t the divorce story you think it is. Neither is it a begging-him-to-stay story. It’s a story about hearing your husband say, “I don’t love you anymore” and deciding not to believe him. And what can happen as a result.
Here’s a visual: Child throws a temper tantrum. Tries to hit his mother. But the mother doesn’t hit back, lecture or punish. Instead, she ducks. Then she tries to go about her business as if the tantrum isn’t happening. She doesn’t “reward” the tantrum. She simply doesn’t take the tantrum personally because, after all, it’s not about her.
Let me be clear: I’m not saying my husband was throwing a child’s tantrum. No. He was in the grip of something else—a profound and far more troubling meltdown that comes not in childhood but in midlife, when we perceive that our personal trajectory is no longer arcing reliably upward as it once did. But I decided to respond the same way I’d responded to my children’s tantrums. And I kept responding to it that way. For four months.
“I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did.”
His words came at me like a speeding fist, like a sucker punch, yet somehow in that moment I was able to duck. And once I recovered and composed myself, I managed to say, “I don’t buy it.” Because I didn’t.
He drew back in surprise. Apparently he’d expected me to burst into tears, to rage at him, to threaten him with a custody battle. Or beg him to change his mind.
So he turned mean. “I don’t like what you’ve become.”
Gut-wrenching pause. How could he say such a thing? That’s when I really wanted to fight. To rage. To cry. But I didn’t.
Instead, a shroud of calm enveloped me, and I repeated those words: “I don’t buy it.”
You see, I’d recently committed to a non-negotiable understanding with myself. I’d committed to “the End of Suffering.” I’d finally managed to exile the voices in my head that told me my personal happiness was only as good as my outward success, rooted in things that were often outside my control. I’d seen the insanity of that equation and decided to take responsibility for my own happiness. And I mean all of it.
My husband hadn’t yet come to this understanding with himself. He had enjoyed many years of hard work, and its rewards had supported our family of four all along. But his new endeavor hadn’t been going so well, and his ability to be the breadwinner was in rapid decline. He’d been miserable about this, felt useless, was losing himself emotionally and letting himself go physically. And now he wanted out of our marriage; to be done with our family.
But I wasn’t buying it.
I said: “It’s not age-appropriate to expect children to be concerned with their parents’ happiness. Not unless you want to create co-dependents who’ll spend their lives in bad relationships and therapy. There are times in every relationship when the parties involved need a break. What can we do to give you the distance you need, without hurting the family?”
“Huh?” he said.
“Go trekking in Nepal. Build a yurt in the back meadow. Turn the garage studio into a man-cave. Get that drum set you’ve always wanted. Anything but hurting the children and me with a reckless move like the one you’re talking about.”
Then I repeated my line, “What can we do to give you the distance you need, without hurting the family?”
“How can we have a responsible distance?”
“I don’t want distance,” he said. “I want to move out.”
My mind raced. Was it another woman? Drugs? Unconscionable secrets? But I stopped myself. I would not suffer.
Instead, I went to my desk, Googled “responsible separation,” and came up with a list. It included things like: Who’s allowed to use what credit cards? Who are the children allowed to see you with in town? Who’s allowed keys to what?
I looked through the list and passed it on to him.
His response: “Keys? We don’t even have keys to our house.”
I remained stoic. I could see pain in his eyes. Pain I recognized.
“Oh, I see what you’re doing,” he said. “You’re going to make me go into therapy. You’re not going to let me move out. You’re going to use the kids against me.”
“I never said that. I just asked: What can we do to give you the distance you need … ”
“Stop saying that!”
Well, he didn’t move out.
Instead, he spent the summer being unreliable. He stopped coming home at his usual 6 o’clock. He would stay out late and not call. He blew off our entire Fourth of July—the parade, the barbecue, the fireworks—to go to someone else’s party. When he was at home, he was distant. He wouldn’t look me in the eye. He didn’t even wish me “Happy Birthday.”
But I didn’t play into it. I walked my line. I told the kids: “Daddy’s having a hard time, as adults often do. But we’re a family, no matter what.” I was not going to suffer. And neither were they.
My trusted friends were irate on my behalf. “How can you just stand by and accept this behavior? Kick him out! Get a lawyer!”
I walked my line with them, too. This man was hurting, yet his problem wasn’t mine to solve. In fact, I needed to get out of his way so he could solve it.
I know what you’re thinking: I’m a pushover. I’m weak and scared and would put up with anything to keep the family together. I’m probably one of those women who would endure physical abuse. But I can assure you, I’m not. I load 1,500-pound horses into trailers and gallop through the high country of Montana all summer. I went through Pitocin-induced natural childbirth. And a Caesarean section without follow-up drugs. I am handy with a chain saw.
I simply had come to understand that I was not at the root of my husband’s problem. He was. If he could turn his problem into a marital fight, he could make it about us. I needed to get out of the way so that wouldn’t happen.
Privately, I decided to give him time. Six months.
I had good days and I had bad days. On the good days, I took the high road. I ignored his lashing out, his merciless jabs. On bad days, I would fester in the August sun while the kids ran through sprinklers, raging at him in my mind. But I never wavered. Although it may sound ridiculous to say, “Don’t take it personally” when your husband tells you he no longer loves you, sometimes that’s exactly what you have to do.
Instead of issuing ultimatums, yelling, crying, or begging, I presented him with options. I created a summer of fun for our family and welcomed him to share in it, or not—it was up to him. If he chose not to come along, we would miss him, but we would be just fine, thank you very much. And we were.
And, yeah, you can bet I wanted to sit him down and persuade him to stay. To love me. To fight for what we’ve created. You can bet I wanted to.
But I didn’t.
I barbecued. Made lemonade. Set the table for four. Loved him from afar.
And one day, there he was, home from work early, mowing the lawn. A man doesn’t mow his lawn if he’s going to leave it. Not this man. Then he fixed a door that had been broken for eight years. He made a comment about our front porch needing paint. Our front porch. He mentioned needing wood for next winter. The future. Little by little, he started talking about the future.
It was Thanksgiving dinner that sealed it. My husband bowed his head humbly and said, “I’m thankful for my family.”
He was back.
And I saw what had been missing: pride. He’d lost pride in himself. Maybe that’s what happens when our egos take a hit in midlife and we realize we’re not as young and golden anymore.
When life’s knocked us around. And our childhood myths reveal themselves to be just that. The truth feels like the biggest sucker-punch of them all: It’s not a spouse, or land, or a job, or money that brings us happiness. Those achievements, those relationships, can enhance our happiness, yes, but happiness has to start from within. Relying on any other equation can be lethal.
My husband had become lost in the myth. But he found his way out. We’ve since had the hard conversations. In fact, he encouraged me to write about our ordeal. To help other couples who arrive at this juncture in life. People who feel scared and stuck. Who believe their temporary feelings are permanent. Who see an easy out and think they can escape.
My husband tried to strike a deal. Blame me for his pain. Unload his feelings of personal disgrace onto me.
But I ducked. And I waited. And it worked.
This essay originally appeared in The New York Times. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Love Rollercoaster: Dating with Bipolar Disorder
At the end of my first date with Sara, she moved in with me.
You might think the date was extraordinary. It wasn’t. We’d gone to a Hollywood hamburger stand and gabbed about bands and writers for four hours. Until that night, we’d only spoken on the phone a few times. It didn’t matter. By the time the ice in my soda had melted, I’d fallen in love.
Sara was twenty-seven, and what people used to call a wag: smart, quick-witted, encyclopedic. She could recount every failed Everest expedition in mesmerizing detail — the sort of a talent I would expect of a rock climber, not someone who’d never gone camping. I kept wondering why no one had snapped her up. Then I found out.
“There’s something you should know about me,” she said, a couple of hours into the date. “I hope it doesn’t scare you off.”
Panicked thoughts raced through my mind. A jealous ex? An STD? I tried to remember if I’d sipped from her drink.
“I’m bipolar,” she said.
“Good,” I replied.
This was the odd humor Sara and I had already established, but I wasn’t entirely joking. I’d had several close bipolar friends, and had once been in a long-term relationship with a bipolar woman, Nyla, whom I still consider the smartest person I’d ever met. From a distance, I’d seen how much energy it took Nyla to keep her episodes under control: weekly doctor’s visits, blood tests, complicated regimens of medications.
And yet for all their problems, my bipolar buddies had always kept things interesting. Take my friend Jerome, hired one summer to drive a van full of rich and annoying European teenagers across the country. Somewhere in the Midwest, without telling the kids or his employer or anyone else where he was going, he simply got out at a gas station and walked away. “I was bored,” he told me. Irresponsible, yes, but hilarious.
I didn’t hear Sara’s story until later, but it didn’t have many funny parts. Her condition was rooted in a childhood depression that began when her father died suddenly of stomach cancer. At eighteen, she enrolled in the Ivy League university she’d dreamt of attending since childhood, and within a semester, was incapacitated by depression; she dropped out and returned to L.A. Suicide attempts followed. Then came her diagnosis, and years of experimenting with different psychiatric drugs until her doctors found the magic combination. Sidelined for years, she was finally looking forward again: doing PR for a record label and working part-time toward her bachelor’s degree.
How could you not admire such a person? When I looked at Sara, I felt inspiration, not pity. And even though I’m not the type to plunge quickly into relationships, I was convinced I was in love. I invited her back to my place. Aside from a quick trip to clean out her studio apartment a few weeks later, she never went home.
“Of the two of us,” I told her as we lay happily in bed, “I must be the crazier one.”
Nine months later I stood over her pale, unconscious body, frantically dialing 911 for the first time in my life.
You could compile an entire book of quotes comparing love to madness. But of all the psychological issues in the DSM-IV, only one really resembles the experience of love. “An illness that is unique in conferring advantage and pleasure,” writes Dr. Kay Jamison in one of the most famous memoirs of bipolar illness, An Unquiet Mind . It’s easy to confuse love with mania, Jamison says. The trouble is that love is fleeting. There’s no cure for bipolar.
The popular caricature of the disease — people swinging rapidly between happiness and sadness — isn’t the whole story. Most of us may have been unhappy enough at one time or another to recognize a fit of depression, but the other half of the disease (the mania that leads to everything from religious fervor to shopaholism to insatiable libido) is much harder to fathom. For instance, hypomania, which is a mild form of mania characterized by enviable productivity, can lead to what is called a “mixed state,” in which the bipolar individual is both miserable and energetic enough to do something about it. Before L had found an effective combination of meds, she drove halfway across the country in a mixed state, buying expensive clothes and jewelry for herself, with the goal of committing suicide when she reached California. Fortunately, her mania dissipated before she made it there.
Like such behavior, love is nonsensical. All relationships suffer from irrationality, which is why they can be particularly susceptible to the ups and downs of bipolar. The most obvious problem is the wild swings in libido: one week your partner wants sex all the time — maybe too often — and the next they’ve got the sexual impulses of a Buddhist monk. With both Nyla and Sara, I never knew what sort of response my advances would receive. And after sex, when I thought we’d both enjoyed ourselves, sometimes S would burst into tears. “What’s wrong?” I’d whisper, to which she’d cryptically reply, “I feel overwhelmed.”
Sara’s life was a constant battle against entropy. While most of us are bored by too much routine, Sara was obsessive about hers, and as her boyfriend, I found myself joining her in it. I, who have never liked TV, started watching hours of it with her every night. Infatuated with cleaning products, Sara taught me the joys of repetitive household maintenance. It took her all day to clean the bathroom, and when she was done, she would begin all over again. “It’s better than watching TV, isn’t it?” she’d say, as if these predictable tasks were the only options.
Our relationship became defined by obsessive routine, something that might normally have made me feel antsy and restless. But because Sara clung to the structure so fervently, I followed her lead. I began to drop off the social map. The parameters of our life together drew further and further inward, until we were living in a tiny, airtight box created by the quirks of her disorder. I became not only her enabler, but her progeny as well.
This probably isn’t how most people picture bipolar disorder. Yet despite this, more people than ever think they know what bipolar is — a mixed blessing for those who suffer from it. This is partially thanks to the ubiquity of advertisements for medications like Abilify and Zyprexa, and partially due to diagnoses, which have doubled over the last decade. A 1997 National Mental Health Association survey found that more than two-thirds of Americans had limited or no knowledge of the disease; almost a decade later, eight out of ten Americans think they know what bipolar disorder is. Everyone from disgraced New York Times reporter Jayson Blair to Debra LaFave, the high-school teacher convicted of seducing her fourteen-year-old student, has employed the bipolar defense. And if they don’t trumpet it as the explanation for their misdeeds, media experts are happy to do so on their behalf. Without ever having met her, Fox News contributor Dr. Keith Ablow all but diagnosed Britney Spears on air this month. “I would put on the list of possibilities a mood disorder like bipolar,” he said, further cementing it as the official catch-all for crazy people.
“There is never a story or scene with healthy, happy bipolars because even though that type comprises the bulk of the population, it doesn’t sell and isn’t exciting,” says a bipolar woman who maintains a blog about bipolar disorder called Weird Cake. “Top this off with sensational misinformation from people like Oprah, and you build a population that fears us and looks for us in dark corners.”
As a result, half of all American adults say they wouldn’t date a bipolar person. Back when I dated Sara, I wasn’t one of them. I’d read in Psychology Today that ninety percent of marriages involving a bipolar person end in divorce, but I figured that statistic applied to couples who were ill-informed about the illness, people who weren’t prepared to meet it head-on. I also ascribed the figure to reporting bias: there were plenty of people out there who were bipolar and lived drama-free lives, and thus never made it into the statistics. Yet even with everything I knew about the disorder, I still constantly discovered new challenges, as basic as figuring out who my partner really was, as mundane as whether I should say something when she started cleaning the toilet bowl for the third time in a row.
Even in the most even-keeled people, dating can be a crisis between ideality and reality. We’re constantly told that the key to successful dating is to be yourself. However, “when you have a psychiatric illness, it’s a part of you,” says a bipolar Brit who keeps a pseudonymous blog: Social Anxiety and Bipolar Diary of Annie. “You cannot tell where your personality ends and the illness begins.”
Locating this gulf between personality and illness often falls to the significant other. “I find it difficult to realize when my daydreams cross a line into unhealthy hypomania,” says Annie. “This is where I rely on my friends to put me right and stop me from getting carried away.” The role of caregiver can strain any relationship. While Sara took her meds and saw her psychiatrist faithfully, she also neglected her physical health, leaving me with the choice between watching her eat nothing but popsicles all day long, or nagging her about it.
And as anyone would, she resented it when I played nutritionist. I eventually decided the only way to preserve the relationship was to let her do what she wanted. As her physical health seemed to deteriorate, I resisted temptations to call her doctor. But according to David Oliver, I should have. Oliver, who is not a psychiatrist, runs one of the internet’s most popular sites on bipolar disorder, Bipolar Central. He launched his bipolar consulting business because he was dissatisfied with the professional care his bipolar mother received.
“There’s a huge flaw in the system,” says Oliver. “They give you fifteen minutes at the doctor, they forget to tell you there are ten to twelve different meds, or to warn you about the side effects you’re experiencing.”
That lack of professional supervision means people in relationships with bipolar individuals must step outside the normal boundaries, according to Oliver — communicating with your boyfriend’s doctor behind his back, for instance. Such actions have saved lives; they’ve also violated trust, and in the end, I found myself unable to tell where the line separating those two requirements was. “It has been my experience that some people [with a bipolar partner] use the disorder as their immunity card,” says Danielle. “Nothing in the relationship is their fault because they’re dating or married to a bipolar person.” My relationship with Sara was filled with gray areas — the popsicle issue, for instance — in which I could never figure out the right thing to do.
Which is why some bipolar people prefer to date others with the same disorder. Thirty-seven-year-old librarian James Leftwich struggled for years with relationships because of his schizoaffective disorder — essentially bipolar coupled with schizophrenia’s delusions or hallucinations. Tired of being misunderstood by a population generally unfamiliar with his condition, he created NoLongerLonely.com, one of the few dating websites for the mentally ill. In four years, he says, the site has helped produce countless relationships and at least six marriages. But even for someone with a similar illness, another person’s mental health is not an easy thing to be responsible for, and Leftwich says even he isn’t sure he would use his own website right now. “Personally, I’m in a frame of mind where I’m not sure I want someone with a mental illness,” he says.
On the other hand, an issue like bipolar disorder may encourage a healthy sense of compassion. When twenty-eight-year-old software engineer Jil told her husband about her illness on their very first date, she was happy that he seemed a little bewildered and had lots of questions — it meant he cared. “I also wanted to be a better person because of him, and when I feel no other reason to swallow those pills that stabilize my mood, I do it for his sake, not just my own,” says Jil.
It was a sunny Saturday morning. Just a few minutes earlier I’d been lying on the couch, reading one of the self-help books Sara had given me to help ease us through our crumbling relationship. Then, without warning, she stumbled out of the bathroom and collapsed on the floor. I think I would have lost it had she not regained consciousness a minute or so later, or if the paramedics had not arrived as quickly as they did. After I gave them the names of Sara’s medications and watched them load her into the ambulance, I called her mother, a woman I’d only spoken to a few times. She received the news almost serenely. It wasn’t the first time her daughter had been whisked off to the hospital.
Sara’s wasn’t an overdose, or a suicide attempt — at least, not an overt one. I’d known Sara was severely anemic, that her pills had made her stomach bleed. For months I’d asked her what her doctors were doing about it, and she’d given me cheerful answers about iron infusions and blood transplants. I no longer believed her, but I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. I researched her medications and learned all sorts of frightening things. One of them wasn’t even indicated for her disorder; it was an epilepsy medication that the drug companies encouraged psychiatrists to use off-label.
But it was difficult for me to voice my reservations about her care. Sara liked hospitals. She loved Scrubs. She admired doctors, detested any criticism of the medical system, and talked about her psychiatrist as if he were a best friend. When she spent a night at a sleep-study clinic (she thought she was narcoleptic), she talked about it as if it were a slumber party. She kept getting into fender benders from falling asleep on the freeway, yet still insisted on driving to volunteer at the hospital that had saved her after her suicide attempt. It was more than simple gratitude, she admitted; the hospital’s rituals made her feel safe and comfortable. She talked about it the way other people talk about visiting their grandparents.
When I told Sara what I’d learned about her medications, she told me she would rather die than get off of them, and pointed out that she knew the cost of them better than I did. She couldn’t remember words, for instance — she who had wanted to be a writer. But those pills had given her a reason to live. Did I know better than her doctors did? No, I supposed I didn’t. I knew that for us to have a healthy relationship, though, I needed to trust her. The trouble was, I no longer did. At that moment, I decided I couldn’t stay with Sara any longer.
That day, when I got to the hospital, I found her looking happier than I’d ever seen her. I was baffled. Five minutes earlier the doctor had informed us that her life was in danger if she didn’t find some way to fix her anemia. But she seemed at peace now. That was the worst part about it — in her hospital gown, sitting up on her austere gurney bed, she looked as if she were finally at home.
I have my own theory about relationships with the bipolar: the successful ones are those in which the relationship simply isn’t in competition with the disease. Sara seemed to regard the illness as a more intimate part of her than I could ever understand — not just a profoundly affecting experience, the way other serious diseases are, but almost the entire essence of her existence. In the end, I simply wanted there to be more.
Justin Clark has written for L.A. Weekly, Psychology Today and Black Book