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
- Accurate diagnosis
- Effective treatment plan
- Compliance by bipolar spouse to treatment plan
- Bipolar spouse invested in own treatment plan
- Non-bipolar spouse willing and able to assist with treatment plan
- Awareness/Compassion/Patience of non-bipolar spouse
- 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: (The following are 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