Secret To A Happy, Healthy Marriage With A Bipolar Spouse

I receive a lot of comments and emails from the spouses of bipolar people on my You Tube Channel The questions vary from how I handle it, to general inquiries about symptoms. Usually when someone seeks out my videos, they are in a time of crisis and are reaching out. They want to know if things can or will get better. They want to know if their marriage will survive. They want to know if their struggle is worth it. Though I can’t foretell what will occur for each individual couple, I hope to show them that you can have a happy, healthy marriage with a bipolar spouse.

In many ways, my marriage is no different from anyone else’s marriage. This is the second marriage for both my husband and I. We both have children from previous marriages. We both have ex-spouses that are still involved in our lives on a daily basis. We have extended families with varied backgrounds, sprinkled all around the world. We have jobs and mortgages and commitments that pull us in all sorts of directions.

Just like any other marriage, there are things that bug me!

My husband leaves the toilet seat up, doesn’t put the cap back on the toothpaste and leaves dishes around the house like he’s expecting the maid to pick up after him. We don’t have one. I guess he thinks that’s me. We have disagreements about finances and children. See, just like the rest, except for one difference: my husband has Bipolar Disorder.

Living with someone who has a mental illness adds another element to the mix of usual. It can be very trying, exhausting and difficult. There are times when my husband is in crisis and very unwell. I have to carry the burden of all the regular daily routines, like cleaning, child-rearing and paying bills, all on my own as well as support him and be actively involved in his treatment. All this has to be done behind the scenes to the center stage of either mania, when he’s aggressive and reckless, or depression, when he looses the happiness, motivation and the will to live.

It would be so much easier if someone could look into a magic ball and tell me how long the crisis will last, that he definitely will come out of it ok and that our marriage will survive. But no one can give me those assurances. And when you begin to count the relapse in terms of months not days, the emotional toll on yourself starts to break you down as well. You begin to question. Are you really helping him? Is he ever coming back(mentally)? What effect has this on the children? Is this the real him or the symptoms of Bipolar? Are we really meant to be together? How much more can I take before I have a breakdown?

I try to hold on to hope.

When it gets really bad, I try to remember that I’m lucky.

  • Lucky that I know what it’s like to have a caring, warm, fun-loving husband.
  • Worse because the crisis makes it that much more evident how twisted and sick our lives have become.
  • Lucky because I know we have survived this before.
  • Worse because I know that treatment does not guarantee success.
  • Lucky because I know that the symptoms are not a reflection of my husband.
  • Worse because as the months go by, it’s hard to recognize that difference.

I know that I play a huge role in my husband’s success battling Bipolar. As a caretaker, even when he is stable, your role can be parental in nature: making sure he’s eating and sleeping right, recognizing triggers, monitoring medication compliance and accompanying him to doctor’s appointments. This is all preventative care and believe me I’ve seen the results of slacking in my duties. Bipolar takes no prisoners and will remind you of its existence when you least expect it if you let your guard down.

 

So how is it that I am in the 10% of marriages that survive when one spouse has bipolar? My answer would be because we have given our marriage a running chance by adhering to the following list.

Some statistics quote that up to 90% of marriages, where one spouse is bipolar, will end in divorce. Does your union have what it takes to be in the 10%

 

Secrets To Having A Happy, Healthy Marriage With A Bipolar Spouse

  1. Accurate diagnosis
  2. Effective treatment plan
  3. Compliance by bipolar spouse to treatment plan
  4. Bipolar spouse invested in own treatment plan
  5. Non-bipolar spouse willing and able to assist with treatment plan
  6. Awareness/Compassion/Patience of non-bipolar spouse
  7. Awareness/Accountability of actions/mood swings of bipolar spouse

 

Of course nothing can ensure the survival of a marriage. Circumstances can change. Outside variables can play a role. But why not give it all you got. My advice to other spouses is to learn all you can about this disease, as well as study and observe your partner’s symptoms. Knowledge is power. The power gives you understanding. Understanding yields proper support. Make no mistake, Bipolar is a war in the mind. It doesn’t play fair. As the caregiver, you don’t have the power to heal but you can facilitate recovery and enable stability. Your bipolar spouse must be just as invested in the process. Only then will you have a chance for a happy, healthy marriage.


Disclaimer: I am not a therapist or a doctor. This post is based solely on my personal experiences and should not be deemed as advice or counsel. Please seek appropriate medical attention from a licensed professional.

Recommended Reading: (affiliate links)
Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder: Understanding and Helping Your Partner
Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder: A 4-Step Plan for You and Your Loved Ones to Manage the Illness and Create Lasting Stability
Bipolar Disorder: A Guide for Patients and Families


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Watch my videos about bipolar on You Tube here.

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24 thoughts on “Secret To A Happy, Healthy Marriage With A Bipolar Spouse

  1. I am just curious to see what peoples experience is with medication vs. Without medication. My boyfriend is diagnosed bipolar and took medication when he was younger, about 16, and hated it. He said it made him feel like he wasn’t present and didn’t feel emotion. Granted this was 16 years ago because he is now 32. I don’t know if medication has advanced and is better fitting nowadays? He is the kindest, most caring, thoughtful man I have ever been with and we are talking about getting married. For our life right now the mood swings haven’t been that sever. But I am worried that with the added stress of our future they might become worse and unmanageable without medication. So if anyone has any recommendations of treatments or treatment plans that have worked for them that would be fantastic! I have so far not had any difficulty with his bipolar when you realize it is not them and it is the disorder. It’s just heartbreaking to watch him make decisions or feel certain ways and feel guilty afterwards when it is out of his control. I would just love to learn anything I possibly can in order to be the best partner for him and make sure I am supportive and compassionate, but also not smothering him. haha I tend to be too accommodating and too present when he is going through episodes and i don’t know if that is always what is best. I just get worried and want to fix it. So if anyone has any type of advice I am open:) Thank you!

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    1. I can not stress that everyone has to find what works best for them. My husband is on quite a few medications including lithium. It works for him and he does not feel drowsy during the day but he gets a really good night’s sleep. He takes them right before bed. It took almost a year of changing up meds for him to find the right combination for him. He wouldn’t even think of coming off of them.

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  2. I have been married to my bipolar husband for 5+ years. It is a second marriage for both of us. His bipolar is not severe and responds to minimal medication but it becomes severe when he does not take it. I can say that the good times make the tough times worth it. I refuse to give up and he is becoming more accountable for his behavior which also helps. In a world where people feel like they should just quit at the first sign of trouble, I am not willing to do that. I am a nurse and so is he. I think that helps us. I know what this disease does. I understand it more than others so maybe that helps me be more understanding. That does not make it any less tough. It just means I love him and I am in it for the long haul. He is my hero and my best friend. He is there for me as much as I am there for him and I am forever grateful he is my husband.

    Heather

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  3. I have bipolar 1 & have been happily married for 43 years. Do you think it will last? My husband took a class to learn about bipolar & understands the DBT concepts that help me so much, but I handle my illness. He doesn’t come to doc appts w/me, but will talk about them if I choose to. I’ve invited him to therapy twice in 30 or so years when I thought it would be helpful.

    I don’t show him all the meds I take (or my grown children either as they would freak out), but I am able to live a pretty high-quality life–taking care of my illness & actually living so it is no longer the centerpiece of my life.

    I accept my personal limitations (cannot work full-time, but can volunteer leading a support group with NAMI) & get the best quality of life I can pursuing hobbies, friendships, healthy lifestyle, taking intellectually stimulating classes & keeping my relationship with my loving husband vital, loving, & strong.

    He is not my caretaker, but my equal partner & we help each other when in need.

    BTW, I have had some really dire, scary times, but have learned how to avoid “going there.” Hard work (2 YEARS of weekly DBT & individual therapy), but so worth it. My mother was very ill with a SMI & took her life when I was 15.

    I also am a terrible rambler as you can see! I just want to put a face on someone managing her bipolar condition well with medication, therapy, wellness tools & plenty of determination so bipolar is just a facet of my life. I have a weight problem that is harder to address & takes more attention than handling my bipolar condition.

    I’m 63-years-old & have been at this mental illness thing since I was a teenager. I didn’t want to end up like my mother. Also she was an alcoholic so that hampers any life!

    Bipolar is not a life sentence that makes you a lesser person. Take charge of your life; ask for help when needed; but don’t become an invalid that needs a caretaker instead of a partner in life unless you are one of the rare unfortunate cases that cannot yet be treated effectively. Don’t give up hope. Come see us at a NAMI support group & there is a separate one for your spouses & family members.

    OK. Off to yoga class.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This may sound ridiculous that I am reading the secret to a happy marriage when I am under 18 but, I am experiencing my first love it has been going on for around a year, we have dated on and off but have not been able to have a stable relationship because I believe my guy has bi-polar disorder. He has not been diagnosed that I know of but I have been reading a lot about the symptoms and everything about it. From what I have read sounds like what he does have it, his siblings have been diagnosed and I have been told that this illness is hereditary. This breaks my heart because I would love to have a good stable relationship with him because he is my dream guy, I always say if God was to design me the perfect guy it would be him, he plays football and baseball and he is sweet and thoughtful…and then the mood swings come and he is a completely different person. What can I do to help him? When he has his mood swings he says mean things and I get mad and we don’t talk for 2 months then one of us apologizes and we go right back to where we were. This is not the way to live. My mom doesn’t want me around him because he blows up at the most random times about absolutely nothing. I really like him though, and I don’t want to leave him just because of his illness but I don’t know how much more of this I can take. Can you please help me?

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  5. I have been married for 18 years. And I am so lucky that my husband has been able to work for most of that time. He did move from a difficult position to a less stressful one. And he did take a pay cut 3 years ago. At one point 10 years ago, I did mentally make the decision that we would need to be able to stay a float on only my income if that time came. It has not come, but the financial stability gained by making that decision has been worth it. Basically we don’t take on debt that is greater than my income. Right now my honey is on four lithium , 1 ocd pill, And canabis every night at 7 pm. Also 2-3 days a week at the gym. He has had 2 hospital rounds in 18 years. One was at a time when he was drinking heavily. We are happy and lucky that we are doing alright despite the illness.

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    1. Yay! I am so happy to hear positive stories. It’s not all doom and gloom. My husband has adjusted his work schedule too and he knows when he gets manic that I take away the credit cards. He is still pretty good at doing some damage at the dollar store but we can always use more pens and paper. I am so happy for both you!

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  6. Hi. I’m bipolar and just now getting well since I’ve been diagnosed. I didn’t find out that I was bipolar until after my husband and I were married. When I started treatment about six years ago, things only got worse. I was on an ever ending Rollercoaster ride that never seemed to end. The medications I was put on either didn’t work or I had severe side effects. My husband stayed as supportive as he could. And I can’t even begin to explain all of the horrible things I’ve done during our marriage. My husband is a truck driver and gone most of the time. I had hidden from him how bad things were. I would put on a good face on the weekends when he was home. Recently, I couldn’t hide it anymore. One night while he was home I had a panic attack so bad that I couldn’t breathe. Once it was over, my husband looked at me like he didn’t know me. I had only been trying to protect him while he was away so he wouldn’t worry. A month later, I found myself fantasizing about dying. I prayed for God to take me to heaven. I felt everyone would be so much better off without me. The thoughts inside my head were so loud. They were telling me that I wasn’t worthy to live. So, somehow I found the strength to admit myself to a mental hospital. The first two and half days in there I did nothing but cry, sleep, and beg my husband to get me out of there. He told me that he didn’t know what else to do for me, and that he loved me too much to let me come home. I don’t think that I knew how much my husband really loved me until I went to that hospital. I’ve been home about two months now. I made major improvement in that hospital on a very short amount of time. I couldn’t have done it without the love and support from my husband. It’s still a day by day process and I’m sure it always will be. As long as I have my husband to by my side I think I will be OK. I’m happier than I’ve been in years and so is my husband. Our life together is just now really beginning again. Thanks for your article. I will share it with my husband.

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  7. My husband was diagnosed 18 years ago. He has manic then depressed eposodes every few years. He’s been hospitalized about 4 times and seems to bounce back. This last episode started when he went off his meds in January with a manic episode then the depression hit in July. During this time he lost his job and hasn’t worked since Feb. He’s on all sorts of meds and nothing is helping. I am at a loss. We see doctors, therapist, support groups…nothing. He says he can’t work, can’t leave the house. Our finances are dwindling down as we are living only my salary. We have 2 teenage boys and they don’t want to even be around him. Some days he’ll get up and go for a walk and do a load of laundry. That’s a good day. Other days, nothing. Bed most of the day or just sitting. We are starting to argue because I know he just can’t sit here all day. He has to get a job. He complains about how broke we are, but, can’t work. It’s just a vicious cycle. It’s wearing me out and I am just as tired as he is. I don’t understand why he can’t get even a part time job just to help out. I suggested stocking shelves somewhere just to be busy. BTW, he used to be an executive before he lost his job. I know he has to do something, but, he won’t. I am trying to be patient, but, finding it more difficult everyday. I would love suggestions as how to deal with this. I ask him to exercise, vacuum, clean the house while I’m gone, etc but he might do one thing. He just wonders around the house. I know you can’t snap out of it and I’m not asking that, but, can’t he try?

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    1. I think that there are little windows that come up where that is possible but once in the deep throes of it, it is quite impossible. Keep looking for that opportunity. It may just be a minute where he is able to process information. I hope things get better for both of you. I know it can be a long, difficult journey.

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  8. My husband has no issue with being called a bipolar spouse and identifies very closely with his disorder. It has helped him greatly but I understand that for some that is not the case.

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  9. I’m in that 10% and have been married to him for 30 years! My husband is very invested in his health and even started a support group for others dealing w bipolar last year though that in itself gets him a little manic! I go through seasons myself of being compassionate then not…thinking we are doing well as a couple and then feeling hopeless…it’s a daily ride! We both give each other a lot of grace and I take a lot of breaks to be with my best friend or hang out with family for a few hours or days!

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    1. It sounds like you have worked out a great system that works for both of you. Of course there will always be times that things get out of hand but giving each other grace will help you both move past that. Thank you so much for reading.

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  10. I’m not married, my boyfriend was told by his pastor to “take a break” with me, and I wouldn’t let him. He thinks that after a “break” he can get his head straight. I love him too much to give up on any of his battles. He told me to never take things personally, if he comes off a certain way, he’s so focused on keeping things under control that I know its wearing him thin. It sucks knowing you can’t make someone happy due on their mental disease. I don’t want to break up with him, however sometimes I feel like I have to convince him of that. Any suggestions as to what to say? (I see him once a week, anything more than that his overwhelming for him. :/

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    1. It is really tough for me to advise you on what to say to him. Just make sure that you look deep inside yourself and evaluate whether this relationship is what you truly want. Relationships with anyone that has an illness and very hard on both partners.

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  11. Marry me please. I’m the bipolar spouse and my husband does not have an ounce of compassion. I’m not saying this to be mean. He just doesn’t get it until I’m literally on the floor at his feet sobbing. Your husband is a lucky man, and I know you would reply that you are just as lucky to have him.

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