DWB: Dating While Bipolar

BROOKLYN– My parents are one of the quintessential examples of what a marriage should be. At the age of fifty-eight, Kevin and Robin Carter have been together for 36 years. This has rubbed off on three out of the four men I am thankful to call my little brothers. Just recently, one of my brothers and his wife celebrated ten years of marriage. My best friend and his wife have been together nearly fifteen years.

So with all these shining examples of marriage working, where did I go wrong?

As the sun sets here at the coffee shop where I’m writing this, I’ve had a lot of things on my mind. I guess that’s to be considered normal, seeing as I have bipolar disorder. I perceive things a lot differently, which adds a third dimension to the way I normally think and react to things. Maybe that’s one of the great things about finally getting this disorder under some type of control; I have found myself thinking very carefully before reacting to things. I’ve become calmer, very rarely raising my voice about anything anymore, a direct opposite to the way I used to be. My former behavior was both very erratic and had a high amount of volatility. Perhaps this explains a lot of things that used to go wrong in my life. Especially the jobs I used to go through. Three months here, three weeks there; you get the idea.

But as unstable as my work life was, my love life has been just as erratic. I have been through two marriages, all before the age of thirty-five. Both unions were marked by volatile moods, the aforementioned instability in the workplace, reacting very poorly to stress, and being over quick, fast, and in a regrettable hurry; my first marriage lasted all of three years. The second one? Not even two years passed before that one ended. Those who know me well who will read this know very well that the second marriage was the one I just knew would stand the test of time.

Oh, and did I mention these two relationships had a slight touch of overlap?

Now that I am currently single, living in a brand new city and fending for myself in ways I never thought I’d have to, I’m finding that being single is a very isolating, emotionally exhaustive thing. I’ve always craved real, romantic love with a woman who does so unconditionally. Who remains loyal to me through my disorder, and wants to build something that will last.

There’s just one problem, and it’s not just the two marriages. Maybe it’s a mix of the bipolar disorder and the ache of the unhealed scars of the previous marriage, but I have found my desire for these things have become elevated, and every woman I’ve dated up here has seen it–and run. While it has been easy to spot disinterest in me (which is bad enough), moving at a healthy pace has been an insurmountable task. Recently, a woman I showed genuine interest in asked me to take a step back because my rapid, almost myopic pace to find that special someone had begun to make her uncomfortable around me.

The other problem has been trying to figure out when to tell a woman in which I have some interest about my baggage. Three dates? A month? Three months? Never telling them about my disorder can’t be an option, for if things become serious, eventually my new girlfriend is going to have to know why I pop four pills every morning. Or why I appear to be extra needy on a given day. Or why I’m not in a particularly good mood. So far, my timing has had me batting 0-for up here.

Lost in both the inexperience in dating, and the raging urge to find love on the express track, has been this: I have forgotten that love requires a friendship to begin first. The idea of “love at first sight” is largely bullshit, as I’ve come to find; it’s even more that way with bipolar disorder. A deep friendship is all I’ve really ever wanted, and finding that through my disorder and baggage has been tough to do.

I’m a good man. I’ve been through a lot of storms, and all I really want is someone to weather those storms with me without seeing me as some sort of headcase to be avoided. For my part, I need to learn how to slow down a bit, and remember the joys of getting to know someone. This is, of course, the tao of a healthy, loving, long-term relationship: always learning about the one you love until the day you leave this plane of existence.

May that someday be my portion.