Bipolar spouse

What does research tell us about the bipolar spouse?

bipolar_spouse_3

Is it possible to have a happy and healthy relationship if you have bipolar disorder or are married to someone with bipolar disorder?

The picture that comes out of the studies done to date is very mixed. What is particularly striking is the difficulty in separating cause and effect. Is it the chicken or the egg?

For example, we know that bipolar disorder erodes the quality or ALL interpersonal relationships, and marriage is no exception.

Perhaps for many of us the intuitive thing is to assume that a person with bipolar disorder will have poorer interpersonal skills and be harder to get along with than a “regular” person.

How many of us look at it the other way around?

What I mean is,have you ever considered that marital problems may be a trigger for mood episodes, and it is stress somewhere in the relationship that is making the bipolar spouse worse?

Overall, my guess is that the former applies. However, there is still some room for a complex interplay between marital tensions that arise from the behavior of the bipolar spouse during a mood episode, and possible increasing and/or triggering of episodes of mania and/or depression because the bipolar spouse is so vulnerable to any problems that arise in the marriage.

It is easy for a couple to fall into a downward spiral where the spouse with bipolar disorder behaves in ways both highly provocative and highly reactive. This leads to conflict with their partner, whose negative responses to this “bipolar behavior” makes the bipolar spouse more stressed and insecure, in turn triggering even more episodes of mania and/or depression.

Reminder

Bipolar spouses can be trapped in a cycle of “acting crazy” and knowing it, creating stress that just triggers more mania and/or depression.

There is also sometimes an infectious, contagious type of quality to bipolar disorder when one spouse is afflicted.

The non-bipolar partner, and the marriage itself, takes on a “bipolar life of its own” as the non-bipolar spouse see-saws between solicitous and extreme care-giving during their bipolar husband’s or wife’s depressive episodes, and feelings of blame, resentment, anger and betrayal when their spouse is in the manic phase
of bipolar disorder.

Thus the relationship can be very turbulent and uncertain. It is common for spouses of people with bipolar disorder to understand and be extremely, even overly, solicitous in response to depression in their partner, but to have more difficulty in seeing manic episodes as part of the illness.

Manic behavior is more likely to be perceived as malicious and deliberate, especially after the partner with bipolar disorder has been stable for a while and acting in a more loving, consistent, and
predictable manner.

Being in a committed relationship with someone who has bipolar disorder is a tremendous challenge.

A huge proportion of the emails and messages I receive are from people who need information and support for relationship issues that arise out of one (or both) partner’s bipolar disorder.

The best resources I know of are:

1. Bipolar Significant Others (BPSO) website.

2. When Someone You Love Is Bipolar, by Cynthia Last.

For me, as a person with bipolar disorder, maintaining a healthy and happy relationship involves committing to a Treatment Contract with my spouse, and sharing a lot of information such as my mood charts, having a transparent medication regime, visiting my psychiatrist together and so forth.

Bipolar divorce

Bipolar_spouse_4

It will come as no surprise to learn that bipolar divorce rates are high. The statistics vary according to the source, but most experts quote rates two or three times higher than the national average.

A common – but staggering – statistic that gets bandied about is that 90% of marriages involving at least one bipolar spouse will end in divorce.

Why is this figure so high? During episodes of mania, someone with bipolar disorder is likely to do things that are particularly destructive. Examples include:

1. Outbursts of anger.

2. Reckless spending or gambling.

3. Substance abuse.

4. Compulsive and obsessive behavior or grandiose schemes that alienate their husband or wife.

5. Staying up late, being undependable in their job, around the house, in their co-parenting and so on, all of which are far more destructive and disruptive than they may realize.

6. Sexual obsession, including hypersexuality, preoccupation with inappropriate or uncharacteristic sexual activity, and infidelity.

What are the consequences of bipolar divorce?

For the spouse who is NOT bipolar, the consequences of divorce are pretty much the same as for anybody else:

1. They may get on with life and be happier and healthier, either as single people or as part of a new couple.

2. They may regret the break-up of the marriage and wish they had sought counseling and other solutions.

3. They may reconcile with their ex-spouse.

4. They may repeat the pattern and end up with another spouse who has a mood disorder or other mental health problem.

The secret to a happy and healthy marriage with a bipolar spouse is simple – an accurate diagnosis and compliance with an effective treatment plan.

For the bipolar spouse, the divorce may lead to a number of difficulties that compound their mental, emotional, physical, and
financial difficulties.

As Goodwin & Jamison point out in the most authoritative textbook on bipolar disorder, “Manic-Depressive Illness: Bipolar Disorders and Recurrent Depression”,
many studies show that living alone or being single often leads people to stop taking their medication and complying with their treatment plansin general.

Divorce is often a prelude to “downward drift” where the person with bipolar disorder seeks and receives less treatment, suffers more frequent and more serious mood swings, encounters problems with employment, the legal system, and life in general, and experiences
deteriorating finances and physical health.

Bipolar marriage

Does this mean a bipolar marriage is doomed?

Absolutely not!

In fact, research has shown that there is little or no difference between the state of the marriages where one spouse has bipolar disorder but is in remission, and other married couples in general.

Further, both groups had similar perceptions of significant events during the course of their marriages. They shared the same feelings about their courtship, first year of marriage, and the degree to which the marriage had met expectations.

In other words, marriage to a person with bipolar disorder who is in treatment and not experiencing any episodes is pretty much the same as being married to a “well” person.

Spouses with bipolar disorder

Bipolar_spouse_5

Spouses with bipolar disorder are likely to have a different impression of their marriage than their husband or wife.

For example, a married person with bipolar disorder is often not aware of the full impact their disorder has on their partner, children, or other family members.

A 2001 study by Dore and Romans found significant others reported serious difficulties in their relationships with the bipolar partner when s/he was unwell, with considerable impact on their own employment, finances, legal matters, co-parenting and other social relationships.

Bipolar_Spouse_1

Violence was a particular worry for partners when their spouse was manic. However, in spite of all this, many people stay emotionally committed to their bipolar spouse and are very patient and forgiving of problem behaviors.

This study has one serious limitation in that it included only committed spouses – not those who have divorced the bipolar sufferer. (And as the divorce statistics show, there are a great many of these.)

What is being presented here is a conflicting and contradictory portrait of the bipolar spouse:

On the one hand we are see the huge divorce rate, on the other we have research showing marriage to someone with bipolar disorder is pretty typical of marriage in general.

The difference lies in getting treatment so that mood swings and episodes are greatly reduced in both frequency and intensity.

Once the bipolar spouse is stable, it is possible for both partners to gain insight into bipolar disorder and its impact on both partners – both as individuals and on their marriage.

2017-07-12T13:30:49+00:00 March 4th, 2015|Categories: Relationships|48 Comments

48 Comments

  1. Free at last March 14, 2016 at 10:20 pm - Reply

    Great — IF your bipolar spouse takes responsibility for their treatment and behavior. Even with meds, mine eagerly embraced his bipolar as being emblematic of misunderstood genius as well as an excuse to treat others badly. After years of being emotionally and verbally abused, I left. To outsiders, I look like the witch who wouldn’t stand by her poor, sick man. But I can finally breathe, and my children are far happier without the constant drama and pointless fights. No regrets.

    • Laura March 10, 2017 at 3:48 pm - Reply

      May I ask how old your children were when you left? Mine are 8 & 5 and they are really struggling with Dad’s unpredictability. I am nervous to leave as I know it will upset them all but I fear I am doing my kids a huge disservice by standing by and watching as nothing he says he will “work on” ever changes.

  2. Kr October 21, 2016 at 9:56 am - Reply

    Eternally grateful at having escaped a marriage to bipolar abuser.

    • Laura March 10, 2017 at 3:44 pm - Reply

      What was the last straw for you or how did you know it was time to throw in the towel?!
      I am always so hopeful that this time will be the time that my husband will do it! He will take his meds! He will want to be better! If not for himself he will do this for his wife and for his children! But then he doesn’t and we start back at square one. I’ve been doing this for 16 years. I honestly don’t know how much longer I can let him keep “trying”.

      • Katie April 4, 2017 at 10:12 pm - Reply

        Hi Laura, I spent 13 years protecting and making excuses for my husband, as he cycled, mostly in manic phases, refusing to accept his diagnosis and refusing to take medication. My children, 11 and 7, and I left just 2 months ago. To get away from his verbal and emotional abuse, I loaded my van and moved across the country. They miss their dad, but understand that he is ill and we had to leave. They hope to see him again, but we have no idea when he will be well again. He is paranoid and delusional this time. I am filing for divorce soon. I can’t handle living with someone I can’t trust who is abusive (not physical but the emotional trauma is debilitating) and who refuses treatment. My kids have seen too much and I regret not leaving sooner. My hope is that he hits rock bottom and accepts treatment, so My girls can grow up with a relationship with their dad, but I just don’t know if that will happen…

  3. Not my fault February 8, 2017 at 8:38 am - Reply

    What if the non bipolar spouse is the trigger for the outbursts. I think the bipolar spouse would be better off divorced!

    • Cheryl April 19, 2017 at 5:36 am - Reply

      There will always be a trigger for a bipolar individual, always. There are triggers for normal healthy individuals. The difference between the bipolar and healthy individual is their approach to handling the trigger. The world is full of triggers – children, neighbors, friends, co-workers, bosses and yes, spouses or partners. The diagnosis is so important but even more important is the commitment to taking med’s to stabilize their moods. Only after taking med’s will the bipolar individual adjust to society, friends and family. If the bipolar individual is in denial of their diagnosis, which I would guess a lot of them are, close relationships will be difficult if not disastrous.

  4. CYNTHIA February 25, 2017 at 2:25 am - Reply

    I have married for 32 yrs to a man with Bipolar. He had what we thought was depression 30 yrs ago. He took meds for 6 months and stopped taking it, saying he felt fine and he didn’t need it. Then he had another breakdown . Took meds and the same thing. 6 months and then stopped taking it. Now 2 yrs later, he is in a mental hospital. He has been in for 2 weeks and is bipolar. He is from the middle east and I thought he was just a jerk most of the time, or his culture. LOL But now thinking back, I see very clearly the reason why he was paranoid at certain times over something that I wouldn’t have given a second thought. Always drama about somebody or making me believe that there was something wrong with me and every thing was my fault. He thinks I am FBI in his delusions.Well there is a new sheriff in town and he is going to take his medicine or else.

    • Bipolar Lives Staff February 28, 2017 at 1:45 pm - Reply

      Great to hear Cynthia that you’re helping him take his medicine.
      Sarah

  5. Liz March 1, 2017 at 8:58 pm - Reply

    My boyfriend has just recently been identified as bipolar. We are expecting our first baby in 2.5 weeks. He’s struggled with substance abuse for months now (mostly cocaine) and he’ll disappear for days at a time with no phone or medicine (he’s also diabetic).

    It’s terrifying and stressful, and being extremely hormonal and scared and pregnant, I know I don’t handle the situation in a way that will lessen any stress that he’s feeling.

    After months of this, I decided I can’t have the drugs in my house with a baby on the way, and I asked him to move back with his parents. He’s seeking therapy and trying his best, but I’m terrified of saying the wrong thing and setting him off. At this point we only talk about our dogs or things he can do to help me prepare for the baby. We haven’t been able to have a real conversation about our future.

    This article caught my attention because I do feel as though I make the situation worse when I try to talk to him or calm him. Any advice as to how to talk to him so that I don’t trigger an episode?

    Thanks,
    Liz

    • Laura March 10, 2017 at 3:38 pm - Reply

      Liz-
      I have been married to a bipolar man for 16 years. I can tell you that I have, for the most part, learned what to do/say and what not to do/say to trigger his outbursts but it is SO incredibly unpredictable that what worked last time may very well be what will set him off this time. There is absolutely no way for me to know how he will respond.
      When it was just us for the first 8 years it was manageable. I didn’t take the verbal and emotional things he would say and do personally, I knew it was “the disease”.
      In 2010, when our oldest child was 1, he had an affair and I promptly left him. We were separated for about a year then reconciled. About a year later we had a second child.
      He has never been committed to taking his medications and believes that all drugs are bad for him including his prescribed medications. He won’t even take Tylenol for a headache because it is a “drug” and gets upset if I give the children Tylenol for a fever as I am “drugging” them. This disease is now affecting our children a great deal–socially, emotionally and even academically. They don’t understand. They don’t know what to do and what not to do to avoid setting him off. And to be completely honest, I don’t want them to HAVE to learn.
      Nearly every day I wish I hadn’t let him say the things he knew I wanted to hear back in 2010. Granted, I wouldn’t have my second child had I not fell for it but literally nothing has changed. He still denies that he has a problem and blames me for his actions. He has even started to blame our children and will say “If you hadn’t done a.b.c., I wouldn’t have done x.y.z.”.
      I don’t know what to tell you except for in my own experience I feel I would have been much happier & healthier had I just kept on going in 2010 and if I were you I would seriously consider running for the hills! I fear it will be a life long cycle for you to fight against and it will only be that much harder to break free from once your child grows older.
      I do wish you the very best of luck with both this disease and with the birth of your baby. Maybe he can be one to beat the odds?!

      • Christy March 24, 2017 at 3:29 pm - Reply

        Laura, our stories are eerily similar. Together for 15 actual diagnosis 4 years in. He does take his meds but thats it. He self medicates with mostly pain pills and he has also had 2 affairs (overlapping). my kids are 8 and 3. i have one foot out the door as my H is currently depressed and abusing pain pills……..again.

    • Emma March 11, 2017 at 9:34 pm - Reply

      Dear Liz,
      I was in a situation very similiar to yours.

      It’s a good idea to use all the resources you can to find out about bi-polar – it sounds as though your boyfriend’s bipolar is very unstable – and he is taking risks and dangerous behaviour.

      You need specialist help with this Liz – you and him – can’t do this alone. You need to contact professional mental health services as soon as possible to get him into treatment.

      When you say ‘seeking therapy’ – is he in therapy? Prehaps you could talk to him about spending time in a closed rehabilitation clinic with specialists who can help treat addiction and bipolar – and a place where he has no access to drugs.

      If you can’t access rehab – I think it’s a good idea to go to therapy together – to learn about your boyfriends bipolar, what triggers a change in mood and how you can communicate most effectively.

      The only advice I can give you about communication is to communicate your needs clearly and calmly (stress is a trigger) – if it’s too difficult to talk at this stage – prehaps you could take some time to write down your feelings in an email or letter. That way you have more time to think about what you want to say instead of being overcome by your emotions.

      Good Luck Liz – get professional help, get a clear treatment plan, and learn all you can about bi-polar and finally – be strong (and get all the support you can from both your families and friends).

      Kind regards

    • PG March 11, 2017 at 11:19 pm - Reply

      Hello Liz, I have been married to a bipolar man for 12 years.The most important thing you can do is have a safe plan for you and the baby. Your boyfriend will be like this the rest of his life.As far as triggering things, you just never know when that happens.Basically,you can’t say anything even calm words.Physical and verbal violence will usually occur as well.I personally would not recommend being involved in a situation like this.They can only be “normal” part of the time.Anything sets these people off.They are the problem not you.You cannot fix them .

      • Summer March 16, 2017 at 4:19 pm - Reply

        U may not be able to fix us but you can love us! U can learn how truly special the bipolar person is, maybe find out what it’s like to live with no filter from anything! To feel the tides change in your stomach from the top of a mountain! Or the sadness of people dying in another country from your bedroom! did any of you ever consider we aren’t broke ? Deeply misunderstood and if talking about “normalcy” please define? And I will respond gladly to that comment. Everyone has to live out their own choices. We aren’t broke nor are we just those people you should just stay away from or disregard as human I’m sorry for some of your pain but not every part of the bipolar person is trash or destruction we are also art creativity and life! When we can’t understand something we label it and cal it broken… we as a society create the “norm” so expand your Normal to include people who aren’t like u or who aren’t easily understood. Where their is a will their is a way and we are just different than u and to society a lot too much to handle but it doesn’t mean we are less or evil or mean. Maybe “normal” is what needs to me treated!

  6. Anand March 7, 2017 at 5:15 am - Reply

    Most of the times it is not Bipolar which is Diagnosed, Real Bipolar cases are different, many who think
    married a Bipolar person is not true, Please dont generalise and stereotype…

  7. Sue March 11, 2017 at 10:17 pm - Reply

    I have bipolar and was diagnosed a year ago. I am successful personally and in business. I have many friends and healthy relationships. My husband blames my bipolar with everything that has gone wrong in our lives. This breaks my heart as he has his own issues that he won’t deal with. He attacks me repeatedly and then says I’m verbally abusive when I have had enough and defend myself. In my life right now he is the only one I have any kind of extreme conflict with. This weighs on me greatly as I need him more then ever and has made my depression worsen which gives him even more power it seems.

    I read so many negative comments about people with bipolar from their spouses yet wonder in how many cases they play a role and impact the relationship in a very negative way.

    • Jane March 23, 2017 at 8:14 am - Reply

      Thank you for sharing. I feel like I am reading my own personal story in what you have written. I was diagnosed 3 years ago but unwell for 7 years total. Bipolar 2.
      I have a good job and education, but I feel the same as you describe, whenever I try and defend myself it inflames his temper more and the verbal and psychological abuse gets worse. I have been cycling very rapidly, and nearly needed ECT recently because so severely depressed.
      I’m trying to work out a way out, and recently been started on a changed medication combination, I think iis extra hard to be logical and have confidence in yourself when mood is abnormal. I’m sure my illness must be hard to live with, but don’t think it should justify nasty, aggressive and psychologically twisting attacks. Good luck

    • Gwen April 1, 2017 at 10:59 am - Reply

      Sue, I totally agree with you. I came on here as someone with bipolar trying to better understand myself and how to deal with my partner who has chronic, debilitating depression. I am also successful personally, career-wise, and have many health friendships. It really saddens me to see all of these negative comments, especially because I feel like I’m having to relive the reasons why my mom left my dad. She has an incredibly hard time dealing with emotion, something which even the rest of her family agrees on, and he was undiagnosed bipolar. I used to take her side, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to see the other side. Two incidents stick out to me, since they are the two times I reached out:

      When I grew up, I had an incident of cutting myself and instead of addressing the emotional issues, or taking me to therapy, the first thing she said was “how could you do this to me” and scared me to straighten up or I’d go on pills. She never tried to understand why I did it, why I resorted to that, how it made me feel, what I thought was happening, nothing. She just got mad at me and scared me into going silent. After that incident blew over, we never talked about it again. I was probably 13 at the time. Then when I came home from university (graduated with honours) and told her I found out I had bipolar, again, she thought I was blaming her. I couldn’t understand it. I just wanted to talk about what I had been going through at school, at work, with my relationship, and try and make sense of what any of it had meant. And then once again, a very important conversation that needed to be had, turned into being about her and feeling blame. So we’ve never talked about that since, either. Don’t get me wrong, my mom and I are great friends. We never fight when we’re together and can talk for hours. It just can’t be about feelings, ever.

      So I really hope some of you change your mind about what you’re thinking or saying. It’s not that simple. You shouldn’t be here to blame and further demonize people with bipolar. Your partner may legitimately be giving you issues, but a lot of people with bipolar are just hurt people and a lot of us are quite different from each other.

      Every time I tell someone I’m bipolar, they say something like “oh no way, I’ve known people with bipolar and they’re crazy”. How do people not feel bad about this? It’s a brain disorder triggered by stressful life events, and it’s really hard to live with and try and neutralize. But a lot of us do it and work really hard. If you’re not patient or understanding enough of a person, being in a relationship with a bipolar person is not for you, and that shouldn’t be a reflection of them. And if you tried your best and it didn’t work out, don’t take it out on the rest of the world and try to ruin the lives of other bipolar people, who you know nothing about and had nothing to do with your relationship.

      I also hope more people with bipolar speak up on here.

  8. Jay March 14, 2017 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    Sue,

    My spouse was just diagnosed BP, but i have know for years, She has been going through a very serious Manic phase that has threatened our marriage. She painted me with the evil brush to literally everyone in our lives during this phase. Your husband could be doing wrong by you, i dont know he’s not. But look deeper, he loves you, maybe he’s stressed, maybe he’s been busy with extra responsibilities, talk to him. Isnt is possible your having a hard time too? I wish my wife could of heard that before she did what she did.

  9. Steph March 15, 2017 at 3:44 am - Reply

    I have been with my amazing partner for 5 years he has had bipolar for 7 years. He takes his medication every night without a doubt and has an app on his phone which he fills in each night to monitor his moods he also goes to his gp about once a month to monitor. His very open to me about it an always asking how he has been or how he was at an event.

    Unfortunately work stress and a few other stress’ in his life set him off to his first manic episode since being treated. He was in hospital for about 2.5 weeks and is now home and doing great.
    I look back now and can see signs that we should have acted on earlier and hoping in future we will know the signs a bit better and get stronger medication before it happens.

    He has so much drive and loves work and doesn’t want his illness to effect him. He also wants to see a phycologist regularly to talk about everything which is awesome!

    I was just wanting to know how often are “hospitalisation” episodes likely to occur?
    Now that we know what to look for etc..

    ?
    Thanks

  10. DJ March 16, 2017 at 11:14 pm - Reply

    Married to person For 25 plus years.. He was diagnosed at age 19 . I have been supprtive, over and over again , been to a marriage counselor …… I just can’t take the ” cycling ” of any of it anymore.
    It is depressing to me now, that after all these years and promising steps forward nothing changes with him. It really feels toxic.

  11. Tim March 21, 2017 at 11:36 am - Reply

    My wife of 18yrs is Bipolar and we have known for 4yrs. We both know that she went un-diagnosed for many years as we grew are family. After a year a half of battle with addiction, we finally split our ways when she was diagnosed. we reconciled after 10 mos of being apart, in those 10 mos we both found other companionship. I was the one that found it first while she was in recovery at the time.
    Now we have gone through her first full blown mania cycle and she did some damaging things to our relationship. I to look back and see the signs that were creeping up to this episode. I was filled with rage when I found out and still did not realize why she was doing it. She is now in the hospital getting treatment as I type this and she still feels that I am the enemy. The trust has been broken, and she has not come to terms with what she has done to our family these last couple weeks. I know she will come around eventually, I am just not knowing if I can hang on. She has put up with a lot of BS over the years with me, and I her. I do want what is best for her and for her to be healthy, just at what expense to my well being. My support system is not large and I know that hers is smaller inside as far as family and friends. Just need some advice, will this pass, or is she so upset that we are needing to split once again….

  12. Anna March 22, 2017 at 1:58 am - Reply

    Anyone with a bi-polar spouse and young children? Did you leave? I am not sure I can stay with my bi-polar husband. The anger, the impulsive behavior, the blaming, the irritability, the over-reacting. It’s crazy. He is medicated and his psychiatrist told me that he is as good as he’s going to get. I feel hopeless and I think about leaving. However, I worry that life would be WORSE if I left him. I’m scared it will make him so angry that co-parenting would be sheer and utter hell. He cannot be logical when he is in the thick of his illness. I picture my children caught in the middle of an ugly battle. He will use them to hurt me and he won’t even realize he is hurting them. I worry it will be worse for my children if we split up. Right now I can usually protect my children from his illness. I can only imagine the drama, fighting, and awful things he would say to our innocent children if I left him. I would worry for their safety when they were with him. My Momma Bear is in full swing and I’m so scared it would be worse if I left him. I just want to protect my babies. I want them to live a happy and innocent childhood.

    • Lori March 24, 2017 at 6:10 pm - Reply

      Anna I am in exactly the same position as you and I am truly changing my mind daily about whether to stay or go. I have 3 children under 6 and my heart breaks when they witness his temper. He says the nastiest things to me and makes me cry very often. I can’t reason with him it’s impossible. I know if I leave he will make my life hell. My partner was undiagnosed for years and will not take meds. He drinks to excess and does nothing to help me at home. It’s so tough.

    • Teresa April 12, 2017 at 10:14 pm - Reply

      Anna – I feel like everything you wrote is something I could have written ten years ago. My children are now 21, 19, and 14. Every time I’ve been confronted with the decision to stay or leave, I chose to stay, for all of the same reasons you mention. My kids always came first for me – if I had decided to leave, it would have been because I thought it was best for them. Bipolar has been like the sixth member of our family, and while I would say it has left its scars on my children as well as me, I’m proud that I was a pretty darn good referee/distractor/mediator in order to minimize the brunt of it for my kids. When he’s his “best self” my husband is a great dad, and though at times he seemed determined to destroy his relationship with each of the kids, I ran interference. I can’t say for sure I made the right decision by staying. And unless he starts taking his disorder more seriously (he takes medication, but has somehow managed to avoid EVER going to counseling/therapy, even after he behaves dismally and PROMISES to go), I don’t know that I’ll stay with him once my youngest has gone off to college. If I could go back, the one thing I would have done differently ten years ago would be to insist that he stop living in denial about all of his symptoms and go to a talk therapist on a regular basis. Medication alone is not enough, and I’ve learned that the hard way. Hopefully I’ve offered some advice from ten-fifteen years down the road that you find useful. Take comfort in the fact that you’re clearly a devoted and loving mama. Best of luck.

    • Emily May 9, 2017 at 10:59 pm - Reply

      This sounds terrible. I’m so sorry you have to go through this and face this decision. This may be a dumb question but have you tried marriage counseling? If you can meet with someone that your husband trusts then that person can help him to set goals to guide his behavior as a spouse and a father. It would have to be the right counselor which is hard to find in the first place. The right counselor can do wonders but it takes the cooperation of both partners.
      The problems your husband is having are treatable if your husband is able to grasp his part in the chaos. If he doesn’t feel any responsibility for his negative behavior a therapist may be able to help him develop some introspection. Ideally he should have his own therapist and you should both being seeing one together.
      I’m sorry if I am telling you things you have already tried. I can see how hard co-parenting would be with someone who is unstable. This is a very difficult situation no matter which decision you make.I feel your pain and pray that you will find peace for you and your children.

  13. tony March 24, 2017 at 6:55 pm - Reply

    It would be good if the health profesional in australia would help instead if.puting.people with bipolar in the to hard basket

  14. Worried Wife March 27, 2017 at 6:34 am - Reply

    Hi Liz,
    I have been with my Husband for 14Years and he was diagonised with Bipola 3Years ago. Since being diagonised he has had one episode of Mania and was able to keep his moods etc under control most of the time.
    We have 2 children 4 & 7,and are on our 3rd year now and since the start of the year he has left my kids & i 3 times, basically up and left the house with no reason, hes since returned to our family home and we were fine for a few days and the certain events occured where he just outbursted with verbal abuse and its got to the point where he kicked us out of our home and has now gone into pretty much hiding.
    Hes told me that we are going through a seperation, he hasnt asked to see the kids, we have tried multiple times to getting our belongings back, and everytime we get to the house we argue and fight.
    Hes told multiple people that i have physically hurt him, that i miss used all of our money, cleaned out all our bank accounts, and stole our property.(these are things he has done to us) is this normal?
    He also talks alot about spirits and being in the spirit world, and has also burnt bridges with alot of friends or family people as he threatend people and had no remorse.
    I have had to put up with years of verbal and emotional abuse, No co-parenting i have been the sole parent responsibilities, he sleeps for only 3-4hours and has lost all personal care of himeself or of our property.
    I doubt he has been compliant with his medication and is in more denial than anything else blaming the world for all of his issues and i feel being the main support network and the closest to him i cop the most of all his anger and abuse to the point its caused us to have a marriage breakdown and im still lost as to why or had closure on it all.
    Now that we have left i feel he wants to take the children off me, many threats have occured our kids already fear him and i dont feel comfortable them seeing him in this state alone, and i rather be with my babies whenever they see him, has any one got advice??

  15. Jenn March 28, 2017 at 11:44 am - Reply

    I have been with my spouse for 4 years now. It has only just come to light that he is a least suffering from Bipolar depression/mania. Had I truly seen the warning signs in the beginning or actually listened to the warnings given to me by other to stay far away then maybe I wouldn’t be where I am today. But I didn’t listen and I stayed with him. In the beginning, which I now realize was a manic state, things seemed great. He was confidant, funny, outgoing, hardworking, had huge dreams and aspirations. Telling me that all these horror stories that were being told to me were just garbage made up by disgruntled exes or people that he came into contact with that had a problem with him not putting up with their BS. Then the finances took a huge downfall and so did my credit. Believing him when he would say that he would never let anything happen to my credit , that he would always make sure to make payments. LIES. Now there are two young children in the mix. 2 and 6. He has been in a major depressive state for more than one month. He would not get out bed, barely eating, suffering from alcohol abuse, etc. I had tried to get him to let me take him for help because through even the irritable and nastiness he threw my way, he knew I was right. He would not allow me to take him, always saying “not today, do it tomorrow….” so I called the Crisis Center. I told them I was fearful that he would explode when someone came to take him for help. They send police to come and take him to the hospital. I in no way knew that they were coming with shackles for his own safety. I stand sobbing outside just feeling lost because this man that I love so much has to be taken this way. To him I am the enemy now, to him I made the wrong decision. To his family, the way it went down is unforgiveable. They do not understand that I was calling trying to get help to save him and this is what crisis services initiated. By the end, he discharged himself and went home with his mother. He left his wedding ring behind at the house. Now I am here with the two kids, feeling completely lost and made to feel so small for making one of the hardest decisions that I have ever had to make to try to help save my husband from himself. Should I feel relieved that he left his ring? I don’t. I feel empty and sad.

  16. Janni March 30, 2017 at 2:55 pm - Reply

    Dear Anna,
    I was, and still am, in the same situation. Know that you have kept him stable. He would be like he is no matter who he is with. He is mentally ill. You did not cause it and you can’t cure him. You can focus on yourself. It’s easy to loose your perspective and it can be devastating when you realize that your spouse is not capable of being a healthy, supportive partner. It feels more like you’re married to an adolescent. Leaving was not an option, because of finances, he has been (mostly) gainfully employed, the emotional toll on the children and the negative impact on his stability. He is not physically abusive, has been employed, takes his medications and we do not have ugly outbursts in front of the kids. The most important thing you can do is to get support and educate yourself. Take care of yourself – Get therapy/counseling for yourself (don’t settle for the first person, if you’re not comfortable because it’s too important). 2: Establish boundaries and rules. e.g. I will not drive alone, in the car, w/my husband when he is high. I don’t tell him, i just recognize that it will be an abusive situation and I will not expose myself to it. I will not engage him in an argument I’ll change the subject to something benign. Because I know it will not end well. I will not get the resolution that I want. he has very little self awareness and will not acknowledge my feelings or take responsibility. I don’t set myself up for it. 3. Develop strategies and a plan: Both long and short term goals Keep the kids from exposure and seek counseling together with a trained professional. Know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

  17. Wild March 30, 2017 at 4:09 pm - Reply

    Your life will not, i repeat, WILL NOT be worse!!! I left three years ago, an entire life of 30 years, a home, pets, adult children, grandbabies, but I almost lost my soul staying all those years. At the end,. I feared for my life and my children’s, was sure we would be a statistic when I found images of rape, torture and murder on his computer. It almost killed me, I was so devastating at first, the grief and loss of all I had built, but it was a fantasy life. I finally faced reality. It was very very hard, but I didn’t go back… I couldn’t. Three years later, healing my own childhood wounds and my propensity to try to be there and fix someone who didn’t want help, I am a survivor and now fully thriving. No more pain, fear, unpreictability. Peace peace peace. My only regret was not leaving sooner and protecting my children like a proper parent should.

  18. OM April 2, 2017 at 12:45 pm - Reply

    Married for nearly half an year with a bipolar wife. I was always thinking that with my love things could change, and with meds of course. Well, I still get very frustrated when she begins to blame every bit of unhappiness on me, wherever the true source may be. And, as you may also feel, you can’t really say that you’re anxious, frustrated, angry, depressed or any of such kind of words back to her, which will only make things worse. I’m really have a life in hell. I dare not to leave her right now, for I fear that the departure will sentence death to her given her unstable mood at the present. But god, you really want to see another person get driven into madness too???

  19. Julie April 4, 2017 at 9:56 am - Reply

    Well, I guess I am feeling completely ambivalent about everything I have read so far. From the article to all the comments that followed. I myself was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 about 6 years ago. I had been diagnosed initially with depression 19 years ago. Then other “symptoms” were officially diagnosed here and there till finally I had a multitude of medications.
    It wasnt until I finally had a breakdown. In 2010 and ended up in a mental hospital where I was finally given a diagnosis. My husband and I were signed up to be divorced immediately. A man that I had coincidentally known prior to being married or knowing my ex husband offered to help me. I was able to move in with him (pay rent as well). Some of my items went to my parents, the home was small. Time went by, feelings between us developed and we became a couple. My children adore him. My daughter almost 18, my son 14. We chose to not marry, but live still as a married couple and have for 8 years.
    He has a bit of an anger problem. I have had my manic and depressive episodes. I also suffer from pseudoseizures when under stress. My psychiatrist, not exactly helpful. Her sessions are long enough to receive RX’s and my therapist, I can’t see her too often due to her fees, but she is extremely helpful….So I try to make it work as well as religiously taking my medications.
    My point is that I am constantly doing research on “how to be better”, the shelves of books, workbooks, journals, etc. Apparently none of these are useful because I am to blame for everything. The fact that I fell in the road a few weeks ago and had a 5th metatarsal fracture and ligaments torn has led to other dr appointments, cast on the foot/leg, no driving, can’t even work! I fell…clearly not just bad luck or accident, but certainly my fault because somehow I did this ALL on purpose. How sad is that? You do everything you can including a specific diet to try to ensure that I can try to keep myself as healthy as I can for my children, my job, my partner, and I suppose myself. My family has kind of decided that I am going to commit suicide, so I don’t hear from them often. At this point, I am insecure feeling and don’t know what I am supposed to do. So I suspect that after all of what I am reading I am going to need to figure out how to go my own way, pray my children forgive and my heart can forget. Because Lord knows I love this man.

  20. Nancy April 8, 2017 at 7:06 pm - Reply

    Hi all….the comments above are eye opening! I feel some dehumanise people living with bipolar which I think is in itself not humane. It breaks my heart to read.

    I met my now boyfriend 2.5 years ago…we decided to start dating about a month ago. I have known all along that he lives with bipolar but have only really seen the manic side until last week when he became withdrawn and depressed. He is a gentle caring person who often goes out of his way to support others in need. Perhaps I will think differently after experiencing the roller coaster of emotions that he tries so hard to manage on a daily basis.

    For now, I will say that I have met people who do not have a bipolar diagnosis but are uncooperative and display characteristics of bullies. Perhaps it is possible that bipolar amplifies a persons natural predisposition…just saying…

    Kind regards y’all

  21. Margaret April 15, 2017 at 12:28 am - Reply

    I think we might be a record, married 40 years. We had no children as I didn’t want kids to have to grow up with all the craziness in the house. I get yelled at a lot for being “annoying”. I kept lists for years to try to identify what irritated him but I finally realized that there is no way to predict. If I ever try to defend myself, I am “being abusive” or “throwing things in his face” The last straw was when I started to say “I don’t think that would work because…” and he said “I know what you are going to say and it’s bullshit” I thought how can I ever get a fair hearing if he can makeup my part of the conversation”. So I told him I thought we should split up (first time ever). He said that he didn’t want to and if I was just patient things might not seem so bad. I’m going to find a physiotherapist to talk to. I think if we spend some months apart, it would help. Also I need to stay busy (we are retired now) and get out of the house as much as possible.Can’t afford it but separate dwellings would be good. We get along very well when he is in a good mood. I am feeling more hopeful having seen that other people experience the same thing. It is not that I am incurably annoying. Thanks everyone for sharing very painful things.

  22. Ash April 23, 2017 at 2:23 am - Reply

    I like most of you thought I had a loving, caring partner of 25 years. She was diagnosed with Bipolar 6 years ago after a car crash but they suspected it was underlying and this was the trigger. 5 years of back and forth, hospitals, fights, police called, children scared confused our relationship was described as toxic? I hadn’t a clue what that meant after she was the most important part of my life. I took on more of the house duties as things were just not happening or shown the care she used to do it. Then the last year she got a job found a great new companion at work and started seeing him without telling me anything. He sent his usual texts sexual in nature she thought he was a humble, caring generous man who she could connect with, far more intellectual than me and to top it she wished she never had children with me. I couldn’t take anymore being dragged through Police stations accused of assault, abuse, narssisict personality, gaslighting, controlling and all I had done was try to be a supporting partner. I can’t give any advice or guidance but if you look back would you have gone through this and made that first date? I doubt it but I have two beautiful children and I miss my wife as she’s with this new man and I’m trying to look after our children and get my job back flying which was my second love.

  23. Jackie April 23, 2017 at 10:09 am - Reply

    HI,

    I have been with my partner 4 years now we are engaged happy, saving for a house, planning our wedding which I had to cancel because well we had to. My partner was recently diagnosed for bipolarity. He probably has had it most his life. he is now 30. He is addicted to weed and is also self medicating with street drugs and going through a manic episode the past month. I keep looking back at the person I loved, he litrally would do anything for me, was the nicest guy you would ever meet and handsome and caring. now I see a stranger. When he is depressed i just want to do everything in my power to help him. I just cant I am now sinking into depression, everyone who knows me can see a huge difference in the way I am. I guess I want to leave him but part of me just wants to wake up beside him and him to wake up to the man I love. I guess I wanted to type all this down and hope I can be strong to leave cause I know I am triggering our fights and his manic episodes because i am not being the calm person I usually am.

  24. Sam April 23, 2017 at 11:49 am - Reply

    All of these comments have made me feel like I’m not going crazy. I’m a teacher who specializes in behaviour students (accompanying with mental health issues) so I’m pretty familiar with helping my students deal. However, living with a bipolar partner is becoming so overwhelming-I’ve never cried so much! I love him and feel that I’ve been so supportive in all aspects of life-but like many above it takes a tole on you. This is my second relationship having two kids with my ex, and one with my current partner (who was diagnosed with bipolar split personality disorder a year ago). He captured my heart but these past two years have been hell-the blaming, explosive behaviours, yelling, swearing etc-I feel or he makes me feel that I’m the trigger. He is seeing a psychologist but is unmedicated. There are days that are wonderful but also horrible days. Things that come out of his mouth and how he talks to me are so hurtful-yet it’s usually my fault. Having a background in human behaviour and a specialist in special education with mental health-even I wonder why I’m still here. I have guilt that leaving him when he is at his low’s would somehow be selfish on my part-but at the same time not doing his part by taking medication I feel he is the one who is selfish. These are the thoughts I battle with constantly and the stress it has on me is unreal. Just when I think things are getting better something I say triggers a mood change and usually is accompanied by horrible comments the spirals into a blame-how I speak or my tone etc. Our daughter is almost 2-and having a professional background in this field sometimes hinders me or gets used against me. I almost feel as if I’m loosing myself-and jeopardizing my children’s stability. I hate that I feel this way-because he is a wonderful man when he’s not having an episode-hence why I stay. This being said there is so much information for people battling bipolar and not enough for spouses of bipolar-
    I just wanted to say thank you for all the honest comments. It’s refreshing to know I’m not crazy or possibly making someone else crazy-
    I especially loved the comment about how the people with bipolar don’t take accountability for their actions-which is most cases is true like I’ve previously stated in my experience. I’ve battled through the thoughts of leaving because it’s very difficult being told that I’m the reason or it’s only me that they have this problem with-when in reality I know otherwise ( job issues, fights with their close friends etc)
    Sorry for the long vent but again it feels good knowing I’m not the only one-especially when you’re the only person that has the balls to call them out on their behaviour.

  25. Carey April 26, 2017 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    I’m 44 yrs. Married 10 yrs. Diagnosed 8 yrs. No kids. Reading these makes me want to ask my husband how my bipolar has and is affecting him/us.
    I’m often afraid to reach out for new friendships knowing that I’m “toxic” “not normal” and undependable. Sometimes I’ll just be very upfront with new acquaintances to let them know “not to get too excited, I’ll probably let you down”. I say it with a laugh but it makes me very sad to know that I alienate ppl and hurt friendships. I love my husband so much. Diagnosis has gone a long way in helping us to cope. I am one of “those bipolar that don’t believe that the meds are the right course for me” but I have my doctors support. I live a very quiet, boring life and im convinced that this helps stabilize me and insulates me from serious consequences when I am sick and making poor decisions. Marriage has been a protection for me in this way. When my life does get at all busy (I have a home based business that let’s me have time off when necessary) our marriage suffers the consequences. Many weeks I don’t cook, clean, bathe. It’s a source of shame and guilt for me but I knew long before I ever met my husband that I would never inflict me on children and fortunately he also felt that fatherhood was not for him.
    My biggest issue now is day drinking. I started using drugs before I was a teen and am pretty sure I was bipolar from a tender age. I’ve fought drug addiction and haven’t used in 20 years but sometimes I’ll describe my drinking as self-medicating. My drinking is really bothering me and I want help but feel quite trapped and isolated all day while my husband is at work. My husband also drinks and it bothers him as well that we both drink this much. We are not violent or abusive to one another. Just enablers but I feel we’re drowning and I feel if he never married me would he have a better life?

  26. S April 26, 2017 at 10:14 pm - Reply

    I was diagnosed with bipolar when I was 10 years old. I just started seeing my new psychiatrist and she thinks I may not have it that I may have ADHD.
    I see these posts and feel sad. I will not give up. I am a newly wed just married my husband close to a year ago. We have had issues but I have to count my blessings. Can anybody explain to me what manic feels like ? My dr is concerned bc it doesn’t seem I have had manic episodes that she is concerned I don’t have it possibly.

  27. Kim May 8, 2017 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    My nam is Kim,
    I been with my boyfriend for 3 years almost 4. Last year he had a big down fall and began to use Meth. He choose to be on the street and use from May- August. He went to a treatment center at the end of August and was done with treatment in October. He choose to leave the program. He hasn’t touched meth since he got help. But he doesn’t want to take his Meds. He only gets a mood stabalizer shot. Which I swear doesn’t do a thing. He is always upset about something. I’m always trying to help him how ever I can. Since I’m all he has in San Diego. When he is happy it’s a great time. But when he’s upset everything is negative. I love him very much, but it’s really draining. I’m 28 and he’s 23 turning 24. I need advice?

  28. Rosebud May 9, 2017 at 6:31 pm - Reply

    I’ve been with my bi-polar hubby for 5 years and we have a happy marriage, although times do get a little tough when he’s suffering with an episode. Thankfully, they don’t occur too often. I was raised by a severely mentally ill mother so I probably have a high tolerance for being able to deal with the more difficult times.

    We both don’t want children – if I do ever change my mind by some miracle, I’d have to divorce him as he wouldn’t be able to cope. He’s been diagnosed with bi-polar and a thyroid problem for around 10 years or so. He was originally prescribed lithium for bi-polar but this is what damaged his thyroid.

    He had a manic episode about a year into our relationship. It was triggered by a stressful situation at work which lead to insomnia, which then lead to a break in his reality and although he wasn’t hospitalised the option was there. He was put on emergency anti-psychotic meds and it was during this time that we found out he wasn’t on the recommended therapeutic dose of his regular meds. His mood swings improved after a few weeks of being on a higher dosage.

    Stress is a MAJOR trigger and so is drinking alcohol and not getting enough rest. He’s recently changed jobs to reduce his stress levels and he hardly drinks now compared to when we first met. He still has mood swings but they aren’t as extreme and are more manageable.

    I hope that our marriage will go the distance. I have regular therapy for my own mental health issues and I don’t doubt that it helps when we’re going through a funny patch.

  29. Scott May 10, 2017 at 2:14 pm - Reply

    I have read just about every book, blog, treatise, manual, etc. that i can find about bi-polar and still have a question that I haven’t found the answer to. My wife is bipolar and during the first severe manic episode during our marriage she, as many do, had an affair. We moved on and now, five years later, she has been rapid-cycling for several months now. It seems like the meds (as adjusted) are beginning to work and to date she claims that there has not been a second affair (which I doubt but is here nor there). There has been an emotionally intimate relationship with another man during this rapid cycling. And as typical, she was absolutely horrid to me during the first and now the second episode. But my actual question is this:

    Why does my bipolar spouse treat me so poorly during an episode, yet is able to form and sustain new (seemingly fulfilling) relationships with other people (and not just her affair partners, but countless new friends, etc.)? I cannot figure out why I (and our children) get the brunt of her abuse while she is out having the time of her life with a new friend/lover/etc. that she treats like royalty.

    I know I am trying to assign logic to a mental state that doesn’t necessarily operate on logic, but I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts or had ever been given an explanation.

  30. sydney June 26, 2017 at 5:04 am - Reply

    Hi,
    I’ve been with my partner for the past 5 years and been married 1 1/2 years now. The first 3 years were great. couldn’t see any of the signs. He was the perfect man in every way. Ever since we got married and moved abroad everything turned upside down. I would always find an excuse for his outbursts, blame it on his work or the alcohol ( he smokes weed occasionally as well) At first i thought it was depression but now I don’t think it is.
    Recently his outbursts are getting out of control. The verbal abuse is worse than ever! He breaks what ever is around him including smashing up the cars, furniture etc
    he’s recently started threatening to physically abuse me and my family.
    After his episodes he apologises but always puts the blame on me. ‘if you didn’t hang my dirty shirt in the wardrobe i wouldn’t have reacted this way’ its the little things that tick him off. Living under the same roof as him is like walking on eggshells. I never know what to expect in the mornings, will he be happy or will he be moody?
    He had dyslexia and ADD as a child but refuses to see a DR. His mum and I both think he has Bipolar but we cannot be 100% sure until he seeks professional help.
    I’ve packed my bags so many times but every time he finds a way to make me stay.
    I don’t know what to do. I’m still in my 20s and i don’t know if i want to start a family with this man and put up with this for the rest of my life.

  31. Michael Thomas Gallagher II July 11, 2017 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    I just don’t get it. So many perceptions, yet we only have our own. This is hard. Those with psychosocial disabilities truly have no place in the United States. In time perhaps. Things are changing as we all grow and develop. I’m saddened to think that they won’t in the time left in my youth or in children I bear. This is really just sad for anyone involved.

  32. Michael Thomas Gallagher II July 11, 2017 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    I posted earlier with my emotional reaction. I am a PTSD veteran. Psychosocial disabilities are like bells. Some louder than others. Bipolar was a quiet bell for 26 years. This is what I truly believe. No one has a monopoly on pain. We all have burdens inherited or shared voluntarily. Relationships are a series of shared burdens in times of need. Each is solely responsible for their own well-being.

    For my life this means that I am fully responsible for all my actions regardless of the narrative. As an adult who has the resources and will, it is up to me to first get properly medicated then commit to possibly a life time of therapy in all forms. I also have to accept that my wife, though we love each deeply, is allowed to decide what is best for her well-being.

    This diagnosis saved my marriage because I was trying before it. I’m not sure that would be possible if I wasn’t willing to fail everyday while dating greatly. I still don’t know what the future holds. Now, at least, I am at peace with myself even though my heart aches.

    Thank you all for sharing so honestly about your experiences. I believe everyone here has input that helped me. I am saddened by the pain and trauma each of you experienced. Your strength inspires me to keep going at this. I’ll never know know of you, but I want you to know that I am a faceless stranger whom you saved.

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