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Secret To A Happy, Healthy Marriage With A Bipolar Spouse

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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.

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.

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Wednesday 4th of December 2019

Thank you for this . I recently got divorced bc my husband could understand my mood swings, even tought I was really tryin. We only lasted 4 months. I went every week to therapy, I was on my meds. Im 30 yr old bipolar woman and sometimes I wonder if Ill ever be able to have a healthy relationship. Its good to know there is smart loving people like you out there, willing to give it all for the marriage. And it is true. We struggle so much and crisis does not define who we are.


Monday 4th of January 2016

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.


Monday 11th of January 2016

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!


Saturday 12th of December 2015

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.


Friday 18th of December 2015

Thank you so much for sharing your personal story with me. There is tremendous value in others reading it and knowing they are not alone. I wish you all the best.


Friday 20th of November 2015

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?


Saturday 21st of November 2015

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.


Thursday 22nd of October 2015

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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