What is this incessant need you have to prove to yourself and others that you’re sexy and desirable? It’s not good enough that you go out and flirt with other women or engage with them on social media, you have to tell me about it too. Is this a male thing? A bipolar thing? Or are you just an asshole?” Diary, Mrs.Bipolar.
One of the most difficult symptoms of mania for spouses/partners is the hypersexuality in bipolar disorder. Even amongst all the chaos, hostility and upheaval that can occur during a manic episode, I can remain calm, cool and collected most of the time but cheating…that would bring all of my understanding and sympathy to a screeching halt. I don’t think I’m alone here.
Every new manic episode seems to bring something new to the table. Yay!
Just when I thought I knew what to expect, my husband’s last relapse had feelings and urges that both myself and my husband didn’t know how to handle or how to address. He thought everyone wanted him and he revelled in the thought. It consumed his every waking moment and believe me, he didn’t sleep much. Absolutely every person he came in contact with was seen as a sexual object or conquest, even his psychiatrist. Yes, apparently she was flirting with him too. She wasn’t. Trust me, I was at every appointment.
He wanted sex. All. The Time. That is all he thought about. While I was trying to keep to our children and families shielded from his mania and a semblance of normalcy in our day-to-day lives, he carried on with his own thoughts and agenda. It is important to understand how strong and uncontrollable these feelings are to the person with bipolar disorder. For a glimpse into the mind of what it is truly like, I love this article by Gabe Howard, Hypersexuality in Bipolar Disorder . He equates the deep urges to a drug addiction.
Luckily, my husband, his pdoc and myself stayed on top of it, no pun intended. My husband was very open and honest with his psychiatrist and she was able help us both understand and deal with my husband’s feelings, emotions and needs.
Here are a few of the things we implemented:
- Set clear and firm boundaries. My husband knew that if he crossed the line of infidelity, there would be no turning back. Even if, to quote Ross, “we were on a break”.
- Limit time out of the house and/or unsupervised. This one was easy. My husband’s pdoc had already had his driving license temporarily revoked because of dangerous driving so he couldn’t go anywhere without me driving him anyway.
- Limit interaction on-line. Obviously I can not stop him completely from chatting online, however, I did contact most of his Facebook friends (some had contacted me first) and advised them to ignore or un-friend him temporarily. After the mania subsided and all his friendships resumed, he was thankful that I did this. He has lost many friendships during manias by saying stupid, inappropriate or aggressive things that are not so easy to forgive or forget.
- Talk it out. We had open conversations with each other and with his pdoc. It is so important not to ignore this symptom. Talking it through made it easier for my husband to control. Keeping it as a dirty little secret only makes the need stronger.
- Being physically available. This was very difficult considering the hate and anger my husband spewed at me the rest of the time. But I obliged, often and usually the middle of the night! (Keep in mind, he did not sleep, I tried.) But manic sex is awesome! Yeah I said it.
Though one can never be 100% positive, we dodged a bullet there. Other couples are not so lucky. I know that. I hear the pain in their voices. Not only for the spouse feeling betrayed but for the one with bipolar disorder. I can’t even imagine the shame and embarrassment or having to deal with the grief they feel they have caused their loved ones.
Only the two of you should decide for yourselves how you will move forward, together or apart. Either way, get individual counselling. If you decide to work it out, make sure you set a plan and boundaries for the next time mania rears it’s ugly head. Cause it will, that’s a definite. Talk to each other. Talk to your psychiatrist. Talk when things are stable.
Words can be forgotten, finances can be fixed, but infidelity is a wound that may never close.