Bipolar Husband? Bipolar Wife? Should You Stay Married?

Should You Stay Married To Your Bipolar Husband or Wife?

By Elizabeth Atlas

Husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends of partners with Bipolar Disorder are the overlooked and underserved mental illness support network of the Bipolar treatment world.

First, we are never secure about our own emotional needs. Are they more or less important the needs of our mentally ill spouse? If we choose to take care of our own needs first, we often suffer, then punish ourselves with guilt, then get angry toward our sick partner that he or she has caused us such misery.

But if we choose to put our partner’s emotional, physical and mental health needs ahead of ours-after all, he’s the sick one-our quality of life diminishes. Our choices are never easy and always agonizing.

True Marriage Partner or Bipolar Caregiver?

Second, husbands and wives are alone in coping with our spouses’ Bipolar Disorder (also known as Manic Depression). Besides managing doctor visits, medications, decisions on whether to hospitalize or not, “well” partners must fight for our relationships. The line between partner and caregiver is thin and often non-existent. It can make for a lonely and often devastating life.

You cannot share your feelings with your bipolar partner; he’s the sick one and the cause of your distress! Your parents are empty nesters; you can’t burden them with your problems. Your siblings have their own families to worry about. Unless mental illness runs in your friends’ families, they won’t understand what you cope with. Plus your bipolar husband or wife may not want you violating their privacy rights.

Why Do You Stay in Your Bipolar Relationship?

The pressure on us from friends, family and professionals is unrelenting. Those who ask, “Why do you stay in your relationship?” are not supportive. And neither are the ones that imply that it’s your duty to stay married to your bipolar husband or wife. Bipolar disorder runs roughshod over relationships. The divorce rate is three times higher in these marriages than in the general population.

Bipolar Suicide Rate

In my personal story, when I did find a “spousal support group,” there was one man (divorced) and 16 women. A third of the women’s husbands lived in their basements, couldn’t hold jobs and couldn’t contribute financially or emotionally to their family life. One third of the women were divorced from violent men who beat them or were emotionally abusive to them or their children (a common side effect of problems with bipolar medication).

The last third were widows-their bipolar husbands had committed suicide. (The suicide rate for bipolar disorder is 12 times higher than the “normal” population.) Everyone in the support group thought I was in denial for having a goal to stay married.

Why do you stay married to or in a relationship with a bipolar husband or bipolar wife?

Elizabeth Atlas is the author of “Married To Mania,” a book that helps spouses and partners be in relationships with someone 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.