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Bipolar Partner: Gaslighting and no empathy?

Community Member

I am tired. I have been with my partner, who has bipolar, for 19 years. I am sure it is the same for all of you, but there is so much to say that I do not even know where to start. Also, I do not want anyone to think she is not a good person who has amazing and beautiful characteristics. She is the strongest person I know.

I just feel like my experience is absent. Even from me. After 19 years, I can no longer answer questions like "what do I want?" or what is important to me. I find it really hard to make decisions, or to trust in my interpretations.

I could count on one hand the number of times in the last few years she has asked about my day, or how I am feeling. Now I am writing that it sounds so petty but it is one thing in a larger context. That context includes me feeling like I need to check with her about everything. Feeling nervous if I need to say something and I am not sure of her reaction. She doesn't say thank you often. I can be talking and she does not respond. Her making decisions about her life as if we are not even in a partnership, like looking for a job where she would be away for months. She says these things definitively - no discussion. If I am sick it is like it is an inconvenience to her. All of this (and more) adds up to me feeling worthless and hurt.

I can not say anything that she interprets as criticism - small or big. When I have tried in the past, she somehow turns it all around on me and goes into attack mode. I end up apologising cause I don't want the situation to keep going and to get the silent treatment or make her angry. If I say anything too big, I am afraid she will just say "well that is it then, if you don't like me the way I am then it is over". I don't think she is happy but I am too afraid to have the conversation. I get that I am not perfect, but I try and be a good partner.

I feel like I don't even know who I am anymore. Does this stuff ring true with other people's experiences? Even now I am frightened she will somehow see this and I will be "caught" talking. And this is when things are stable and she is well. We have had more difficult times where she has been very unwell.

I am not feeling desperate, though I have many times in the past. I would just appreciate some perspective from people. Thanks for your time.

5 Replies 5

Community Member

Good Morning HeyJupiter,

Cold windy night here in my local hills. Thanks for posting here on bb.

What does it mean to be a strong person? Some see emotions as a weakness, could that be occurring?

Would it be weak for ur partner to be vulnerably intimate with you?

I can remember times when I presented to the world as emotionless and uncaring but inside I was hurting deeply. I was so fearful of provoking others I had to be super careful how I spoke. When a relationship has us second guessing every word we might say, we might end up saying nothing at all!

Conflict and cooperation intertwine in good relationships, conflict reveals boundaries, cooperation negotiations comfortable living within said boundaries.

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi, welcome

I am bipolar. A few thoughts.

One thing my psychiatrist told my wife after diagnosis in 2009 was "your greatest difficulty will be deciding on what behaviour is due to bipolar and what is personality".

It seems in your post (if I'm not mistaken) that you believe her "difficult" behaviour is mostly or all due to her bipolar...?...whereas I'd suggest some of it could be due to attitude or marital dissatisfaction or similar sources. E.g. a distant friend of mine had a midlife crisis that caused similar attitude change.

The bipolar aspect of her behaviour can include things like depression, mania, elation, frustration, sensitivity depending on the individual. However, to clarify further, nastiness, lack of respect, lack of empathy, consideration, care, teamwork and ultimatum ("....it's over then") is not among that which is caused by her illness.

I've experienced this myself. My ex would claim my excessive hobby time was due to bipolar. At a counselor meeting the counselor explained that as she didn't have a passion like I did...my ex saw my dedication to my passion as a form of obsession due to bipolar.

I don't hold optimism in your future as her would need to turn around her attitude especially the abuse (silent treatment is a form of abuse) and that is unlikely however professional consultations could give hope.

I think you should ask her to attend relationship counseling. If she won't go then attend alone on the basis that you'll need to be taught how to cope with her in order to move forward with her or seperately.

Either way you deserve better treatment from her imo.

Self preservation is important.


Community Champion
Community Champion

Hey Jupiter

Welcome to the forum and thanks for your post which very honest and insightful.

Tony and DnG have given well thought out and I formative posts.
I have thought like Tony’s pysch for the 45 years I have been living with bipolar that the difficulty is in determine what in my behaviour is bipolar and what is personality.

I try to be responsible for all my behaviour and not blame it on bipolar but of course some behaviours when I was unmedicated were due to or made worse by the mania or depression.

I have always said that bipolar is no excuse for bad behaviour .

Tony has given you good suggestions about seeing a counsellor as you need support.
You sound like a very patient , caring and understanding person.
We are listening if you want to continue the discussion. I wonder is she seeing a pysch and is she on medication or has it changed over the years.

Community Member

I realise this is an older post, but I just wanted to tell you that I am in exactly the same position with my boyfriend…..almost every day is an emotional struggle. Things were very, very different when we first met. He was so supportive, loving and full of compliments. I can relate to never being asked how my day was, whether I enjoyed dinner, how I feel about anything etc. Now all these years later, all I do is walk on eggshells and have to countdown to the next time that will come that he reacts so unpredictably to something most people would have a simple conversation about and I’m ignored in every possible way. No eye contact, no conversation, sleeping in seperate rooms for days on end. Its absolutely devastating, and he knows I feel this way. I think that’s why he does it, he knows it’s such an effective tool to break me down completely. He apologises in his own way afterwards by sarcastically turning it back on me, asking if I’m done with my episode. I just want him to be happier again and us go back to our semblance of normal. 


Community Champion
Community Champion


welcome to the forum and thanks fir reaching out. If you read previous posts you will get some suggestions. 
i am sorry you have been treated like this. I have had bipolar for nearly 50 years and have never disrespected my partners.

my partners have given me the silent treatment and called me names. 

Do you have any support .?  Would ring up a support line like Beyond Blue.? 
Take care.