Bipolar Husband – Bipolar Wife – Help with Bipolar Marriage

Why My Marriage To a Bipolar Husband
Qualified Me To Write a Best-Seller
on Being “Married To Mania”

…And Why the Bipolar Support Groups
Don’t Want You To Read My True Story

After 15 years of marriage to a bipolar husband, I wanted to help other spouses who were married to bipolar husbands and wives get answers they’d never hear from the professional mental health community. So I wrote a book that became a best-seller among spouses married to a bipolar husband or bipolar wife.

In doing so, I drew criticism from the “experts” because I was honest and realistic about bipolar marriage. As of now, my bipolar marriage book, “Married To Mania,” has sold in more than 38 countries and I continue to get positive feedback, like this note from Lynn in Michigan:

“I received the book yesterday, and have read it through twice already. There are no words for me to describe the level of emotions evoked through reading this information…sadness, awareness, shock, disbelief (are those all denial?) just an over-all unsettling feeling at the enormity of the situation I am in being ‘married to mania,’ and also the relief that there is someone else out there that “gets it”.

I have been married for almost 20 years, and all those ‘personality quirks’ and challenging times that we’ve had–well, I was clueless…..substance abuse has always been there, and my husband went to treatment 2 1/2 years ago, and was, for the first time, diagnosed as bipolar. We had a great two years, until (I didn’t realize he had quit taking medication) and he went into the first several day, non-alcohol induced manic phase that nearly did blow the roof off of our home, and we have 4 beautiful children!
What a relief to know I’m not alone. But now that denial is creeping away, I am in the grieving process, and stunned to the point of caution and apprehension for the next move. Thank you for writing “Married to Mania” and for providing this tool.”

This Is How My Book About Bipolar Husbands and Bipolar Wives Came To Be

I didn’t have medical credentials to write “Married To Mania.” But after 15 years of marriage to a man who was the most important person in my life, I was motivated to stay married, and was looking for all the answers I could find to do so. In my darkest, most hopeless hours of coping with my husband’s bipolar disorder, when I tried to reach out for information and help, I didn’t find many options. Most bipolar support groups are created for parents. Or they are for adults coping with a parent’s or a sibling’s illness. In the many support groups I attended over the years, I rarely met spouses.

Spouses are overlooked and under served in the bipolar treatment world. We’re continually uncertaint about whether our emotional needs are more or less important the needs of our bipolar spouse. If we choose our own emotional needs first (how selfish!), we often punish ourselves with guilt, then anger toward our spouse. Inevitably, that creates new problems for the marriage. But if we choose to put our spouse’s emotional, physical and mental health needs ahead of ours-—after all, they’re the sick one—who we get to be in life is a little more diminished. The choices are hard and always agonizing. A spouse is alone in coping with her bipolar husband or his bipolar wife.

Besides managing doctor visits, medications, decisions on whether to hospitalize or not, a spouse also has to fight to have a tenable relationship, which has turned out to be so very different than we originally expected. The line between partner and caregiver is thin and often non-existent. It can make for a lonely, if not devastating life.

You cannot share your feelings with your spouse; he’s the sick one and the cause of your distress! Your parents are empty nesters; you don’t want to burden them with your problems. And siblings have their own families to worry about. Unless your friends have mental illness in their families, they’re not going to understand what you are going through, and your spouse may not want you violating his privacy to share the details anyway. The pressures on us from friends, family and professionals can be unrelenting as well. It’s not supportive or even sensitive to be asked why you stay in your marriage or have it implied that it’s your duty to do so.

Bipolar spouses run roughshod over relationships. The divorce rate with bipolar disorder is two to three times higher than in the general population. When I did find a “spouse’s support group,” there was one man (divorced) and 16 women. A third of the women had husbands living in their basements as recluses, incapable of holding a job or contributing financially or emotionally to their family life; a third were divorced from violent men who beat them or were unstable and emotionally abusive to them or to their children; and a third were widows—their husbands had committed suicide. (The suicide rate for Bi Polars is 12 times higher than the “normal” population.)

Everyone in this support group thought I was in denial for having a goal to stay married. So I didn’t go back. Some help isn’t help. But I felt more isolated than ever. I just knew there had to be a “happy medium” somewhere that would allow me to “live life on purpose,” despite the unfair hand I was dealt in love and marriage. I knew there had to be better choices than living with bipolar chaos and avoiding emotional mine fields everyday.

So I set my sights on finding out my own answers, constructing a plan to take charge of my life, to retain control of my life’s goals and to discover concrete ideas for handling unexpected mood swings, uncontrollable outbursts of anger, inevitable guilt and remorse (mine and his!), and the emotions accompanying the realization that my life partner was no longer the one I married anymore.

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What To Do When Your Bipolar Husband Won’t Get Help

Sobering Advice for You
When Your Bipolar Husband or Wife
Resists Getting Help

It's frustrating and at times frightening, but, nonetheless, it's true. If your husband or wife is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, he or she may resist getting professional help. When they're depressed, they don't believe help is possible. And when they're in a manic state, they often get irritated or offended when you suggest it. It's not easy being in a bipolar relationship, so here's some information for you to think about.

Some bipolar people refuse treatment their entire lives. Others resist at first, but ultimately acknowledge that they cannot control this illness by themselves. The reasons they most often cite are fear, mistrust and denial. But as a caring spouse, for you it boils down to this:

If your spouse doesn't want treatment, there are only two circumstances in which help can be forced upon him. First, if your bipolar husband or wife presents an imminent health and safety danger to himself or, second, to others. Otherwise, he or she cannot be forced into treatment or "committed" to mental hospital.

This is the bitter medicine that you, as the well wife or husband, must take when you watch someone you love self-destruct. The hard truth is, you can't override your bipolar spouse's decisions for himself–as much as you might want to. And your spouse doesn't have to listen to you, as much as you may think that what you're telling him is for his own good.

The vast majority of bipolar people who pursue conventional psychotherapy have case outcomes that are generally much more positive than if the illness is left untreated. Most of the time, but not always.

Often your bipolar husband may decide to pursue alternative therapies and treatments–either after traditional medical treatment fails or because he distrusts doctors and drugs. These therapies may range from outright quackery to therapies for which some interesting and promising anecdotal evidence exists. The outcomes in these cases vary widely, but, often, if you *believe* that something will help you, it does: the power of positive thinking.

Sometimes those with bipolar disorder put their faith in spirituality to "heal" them or help them cope. As misguided as some treatments may sound to you, you cannot live your bipolar husband's life for him. Instead, turn it around and be glad that your bipolar spouse or bipolar partner is trying to take responsibility for his own care.

When you're in a bipolar relationship or you're married to someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder, remember to look out for yourself. As much as you want to help and protect this person, you can't let yourself become a financial or emotional victim. Join a family support group and take advantage of other resources available to you. You are not alone in dealing with this terrible illness.

Elizabeth Atlas is the author of "Married To Mania," a book that helps spouses and partners be in relationships with someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Her book teaches how to "live life on purpose," despite the unfair hand you were dealt in love and marriage and despite the chaos and emotional mine field you must avoid everyday in a marriage to someone with manic depression (another name for bipolar disorder). Elizabeth shows how to construct a plan to take charge of your life and to retain control of your life's goals, without getting caught up in the bipolar drama-no matter how much you love your bipolar spouse.