The questions of how and when to talk about your bipolar disorder with a romantic partner are complex. There is no one right answer, and personal preference, style, and comfort with the other person, as well as with disclosure, will guide the time and place when you discuss your bipolar disorder. For some, it makes sense to hold off until it appears there is a connection and that this is a relationship that could develop into something long-term. Fears and concerns over how the other person will handle the information are normal.
One practical way to enter into the discussion is by using terms that most people will be familiar with: “I’ve had issues with depression and mood swings and am currently in recovery with this.”
Depending on the other person’s response, you’ll get a feel for his or her ability and desire to want to know more. This may be the time to introduce the actual diagnosis: “I have bipolar disorder, and it’s manageable.” It’s common for people to have misconceptions about bipolar, some can be quite extreme, and by getting things into the open you can address these.
There is of course the risk that the person you’re interested in is just not able, for whatever reasons, to handle the information. If that’s the case, the consolation may be that it’s better to find out now than down the line when you need him for support and he’s not there.
As the relationship progresses and your partner expresses a willingness to become a part of your life, you might want to consider including him in a session, or more, with your practitioner(s). This further decreases the mystery around your bipolar and can enhance the bond that you share.