Why Is Bipolar Marriage Help Always About the Bipolar Husband or Wife?

I guess my article for today is more like a rant.

Why is it whenever you see an article or video for help with your bipolar marriage, the help is always about supporting your bipolar husband or bipolar wife? When do you get help for the marital challenges you’re facing?

PLEASE! Don’t everyone reading this rant leave me a comment on this blog post telling me how insensitive I am, how uncaring, how I don’t know what I’m talking about.

I absolutely do know what I’m talking about, and I commend Dr. Art Bowler on his fine advice in this video. Keeping a diary of your bipolar husband’s or bipolar wife’s mood swings is an excellent way to provide factual (as opposed to emotional) feedback to your spouse’s psychiatrist.

After all, you are living with your spouse everyday, while your spouse’s p-doc sees him in person only 50 minutes maybe–what?–twice a year (barring any emergencies, God forbid).

In a bipolar marriage, someone has to be the detail-oriented or focused person to keep track of important medical information. Typically, this falls into the pile of responsibilities the well spouse takes on. No problem.

But for those of us who have a bipolar husband or bipolar wife, doing all the “shoulds” recommended by doctors, psychologists, self-help books, friends and family, can result in a full-time job caring for your sick spouse. (Actually, some months it’s even more than a full-time job.)

My rant is not about whether you should be a caregiver for your bipolar spouse. Of course you should! That’s what marriage is all about, taking care of one another.

My rant is that no one ever gives any bipolar marital advice on how to help the well spouse in a bipolar marriage (only how to help the sick spouse!) With all the bipolar marriages out there, there must be a lot of proven tips that could really help couples trying to make a bipolar marriage work.

Let’s think past all the bipolar marriage barriers.

First of all, the psychiatrist is bound by doctor-patient confidentiality not to disclose any information to you without your bipolar spouse’s permission. That permission may or may not be forthcoming. So already, you’re operating half in the dark when you must make caregiver decisions that affect your entire family.

When things are as bad as they can be, and you have no spouse to discuss a problem with (because the spouse IS the problem), how can you be sure your decision making is as good as it can be? Where do you go for help?

Of course, getting your own counselor is not a bad idea. At least a professional will have some idea of the responsibilities you have and the multiple layers of consideration you face.

And sometimes a bipolar spousal support group can be helpful. You can find excellent bipolar support groups through NAMI. Unfortunately, many times they only have “general” bipolar support groups, so you end up meeting with those who have bipolar parents, siblings and children. Their life experiences are very different than getting support from another spouse of a bipolar husbands or bipolar wife.

Do you have any tips, forums or websites where you’ve found help for you to make your bipolar marriage run more smoothly? Please leave me a comment below with your advice.

How to Help Your Bipolar Spouse — powered by eHow.com


  1. Bill

    First, thank you for taking the time to write and share your experiences and for all the good people with big hearts helping those of us who need it during trying times.

    What I’ve come to realize is, there is little or no responsibility put on the caregiver/family/friend to assess themselves. Do they recognize their own “symptoms” shortcomings, or personal issues? I believe the truth from all parties involved in the healing process of a mental illness is crucial!

    It appears as though in most cases, a spouse makes claim, therefore it must be true.

    Just something to consider…


  2. Elizabeth Atlas

    Bill, I agree with you!! And I think most spouses of bipolar husbands or bipolar wives would welcome objective feedback on their decisionmaking regarding their sick spouse. But who is this objective third party? If your spouse is sick, it can’t be him or her. Most of the time, we don’t want to share these challenges with family and friends–so those truth-tellers are out. The medical establishment can’t talk to us because it’s a conflict of interest…we’re not the patient. So…who should hold us accountable? Unless you’re married to a manipulative person, most spouses (well or sick) *want* to do the right thing. It’s just hard to know what that is sometimes. Thanks for sharing your perspective on this tricky situation.

  3. Shara

    i just found out that my husband is bipolar and i really do believe that i am the one that really sees his mood swings change and all that. I really would like to have some people to talk to dealing with it and help me to understand it and have ideas to help him.

  4. Katrine

    Changing your point of view can alter the way you approach a situation completely. It’s your ideas that trigger your feelings which drive your actions. You cannot control what goes on for you, but you can control how you respond to it!

    • Elizabeth Atlas

      Well said, Katrine. I think sometimes we get so caught up in the bipolar spouse’s dramas and actions that we forget we do have the power to take control of our own thoughts and actions.

  5. Harrison Gregory

    That’s why you need support as much as your loved one. You need to talk to people who have lived with a manic-depressive, and be validated by their experiences. Spouses and family members of bipolar persons should consider therapy for themselves, as a way of processing all the stress. You may also benefit from checking out support programs for spouses and loved ones of the mentally ill, like National Alliance for Mental Illness , that are available today.

    • Elizabeth Atlas

      Amen, brother. Thanks for your insight, HG.

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