Living With A Bipolar Spouse

Married to Mania

If you have a friend or distant relative with bipolar, dealing with the disorder is often easier because there is distance. The more intimate your relationship, the more difficult it becomes.  Having a spouse with bipolar means you have to deal with it.  You can't just visit them less often or have more casual conversations.  When problems arise, you are stuck in the middle of it. 

Although it shouldn't matter (for better or worse, right?), your perception is likely to be different if you knew your beloved had bipolar before you got married than if you found out later during the marriage.  I was pretty honest with my husband about my bipolar disorder from the beginning, but I doubt he really understood what it all meant.  There was no Internet for him to search for information back then.  He swears that he would still make the same decision, but I sometimes wonder...

No matter how the information was presented to you, the reality of your spouse's bipolar is something you must learn to deal with or you might as well give up on the marriage right now.  Bipolar is a brain disorder, a chemical imbalance.  It isn't anyone's fault that they have bipolar.  Bipolar can't be cured, but it can be managed.  This is a journey the two of you will have to make together, so don't assume you can just let your husband/wife deal with the bipolar stuff alone. 

The Downs

In every marriage there are down days and every bipolar person experiences "down" moods, but the downs I'm talking about are the negatives.  You will face problems and one of the first things you will need to tell yourself is, "they have bipolar."  This is not an excuse.  It's a reminder of what reality is.  You will learn from experience which problems stem from the bipolar and which ones come from somewhere else.  Separating the disorder from the person you married will allow you to evaluate things without getting so upset with her.

Risk-taking behavior.  This can include pretty much any kind of overindulgence. Spending sprees, sexual exploits, drugs and alcohol, and a myriad of other activities that could endanger their lives.  If your spouse is managing their bipolar well, the two of you should be able to discuss the urges as she experiences them.  If not, you may need to alert your spouse when they begin to exhibit risk-taking behavior.  If she refuses to see or admit to the problem, you will need to get help in addressing it before things go too far.  For those who don't manage their bipolar, they see these as urges they must fulfill.  When these urges happen, it can be so overwhelming.  It feels like you won't survive if you don't give in. 

Depression.  This isn't what most people call depression.  This is a deep sorrow, a black hole that sucks all positive feelings away.  Nothing about life gives any pleasure and it can seem impossible to even get out of bed.  Don't tell your spouse to "snap out of it" or "get over it."  This depression comes from the way the brain is working, not from some particular event.  Don't just shrug it off and wait for it to pass, though.  Be supportive and recognize what she is feeling and try to ease her back into regular activities.  If she insists on hiding away in the bedroom and sleeping the time away, try cuddling up to her, laying next to her and holding her.  If she questions you or resists, let her know you just want to be there for her.

Irrational thoughts and feelings.  This is one of the tougher ones.  One of the ways I explain this to other people is that it's like having intense PMS.  Anxiety and paranoia often dominate.  The things she says may sound absolutely absurd to you, but when you question them, she just gets mad.  She doesn't see any of it as irrational or wrong.  It all makes sense to her and she resents you doubting her.  Things can quickly go wrong unless you slow things down and figure them out.  Unless you can help her work through her own feelings, you won't get anywhere.  When I finally started getting treated for my bipolar, my husband and I had some conversations about things I had been paranoid about and so sure that things had happened a certain way.  He told me how he often had to walk on eggshells because it seemed like almost anything would set me off.  I quickly realized that many of the things I had been so sure about had become hazy. 

The Weirdness

People with bipolar, whether they are aware of the disorder or not, often try to self-medicate or take control of what is happening to them. Although what they do often seems weird or crazy to others, it is often a logical attempt to control what seems to be messing with them. You might try seeing if you can be part of the process. Tell the person what you are noticing and ask some questions. "You've been spending a lot of time in your bedroom today. Are you feeling down? Is there something you're trying to get away from?" Acknowledging those feelings could start a great conversation.

The changing moods is as frustrating (or maybe more frustrating) to the person with bipolar as it is to those around them. I would love to be able to choose when to be manic or depressed or somewhere in between. There are things I do to try to influence my moods. I'm pretty good at making myself more depressed, if I want to be, just by playing certain music or watching certain movies. Since we can't truly control those mood swings, it is very tempting to take control wherever else we can in life. Be as supportive as you can, but don't let your frustration make you bitter.

My husband finds one of the weirder parts of my bipolar to be the racing thoughts. I seem to always be thinking something and every thought leads to something else and something else and so on... It's some serious free thinking and it can produce some weird results. As we are driving down the road, I notice a sign in the yard of a house. Michaelson Realty....Kathy's husband is named Michael.....isn't his birthday coming up?, it's in July.....I wonder if our family will visit us for the 4th of July like they did last year.....wait, I need to find that shirt I wore last time they were here....did I remember to switch the laundry over to the dryer this morning?...I think we're almost out of laundry soap... Then, I turn to my husband and say, "We need to stop by Walmart for laundry soap." It was a logical progression for me (in my head), but this is totally out of the blue for my husband. He often asks, "Where did that come from?"

Rapid talking.  I wasn't sure whether to put this in the "down" category or what.  Rapid talking goes with mania and definitely is connected to the racing thoughts.  I can't stand the silence and my husband is probably craving it.  I like him to talk too, but I have a tendency to cut him off and jump into parts of the conversation because I just can't wait until he finishes his thought before I add my own.  Since I don't realize I'm doing it, I have to rely on other people to let me know.  If you end up being overpowered by all the talking, you need to work with your spouse on some solutions.  Key words or signals that will let her know to slow it down are usually the key.

The Ups

There's an "up" side to being married to someone with bipolar?  There can be....

My husband really likes it when I'm manic (most times, anyway).  I'm a lot more adventurous and amorous.  I get very excited about things and love living life. 

Bipolar disorder often goes hand in hand with creativity.  When I was younger, I thought I was the least creative person in the house, but that was probably because my dad was an artist and I was surrounded by creative efforts.  I'm constantly discovering new levels of creativity in myself and that often benefits my husband since I help him with a lot of projects.  I'm also happier when I'm getting to use my creativity, so that is good for everyone.

Life is never dull.  That's my husband's favorite answer to the questions about how he handles my bipolar. You will never have a predictable life and this is something you should embrace.  Choose to see the positive and learn to manage the rest the best you can.

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Comments 18 comments

catbread7 6 years ago

Thank you, this has really made me understand a girl I'm quite close with. Although I realise there's no black and white with understanding bipolar- What you're written here closely represents how this girl acts.

I am curious how your husband has learnt to act in regards to irrational thoughts and feelings, I know you mentioned about slowing down and working through them but it seems a lot more complicated than that.

That easily the hardest issue for me.

But thank you again, very helpful :)

karent profile image

karent 6 years ago Author

Yes, it is more complicated than that. It takes time before I will even listen to him most of the time. I've been told that it's common for people with bipolar to have difficulty believing they could possibly be wrong. This seems to be true with me. Since it all makes sense in my head, I just don't understand why other people don't understand me or believe me. It takes a lot of patience for my husband to not argue with me and try to talk me through it so I can see other possibilities. Unfortunately, arguing is easier and is what usually happens. Only later, when things calm down, do we do a better job of handling the situation. Arguing over right or wrong, true or not true just makes me defensive and unwilling to listen.

aoiffe379 profile image

aoiffe379 6 years ago

Thanks for sharing. While I was reading I was wondering if manic and bipolar go together; but you answered it in passing. Living with a bipolar sibling is a situation I cannot divorce. Right now I am boycotting for a few days or weeks- not eating anything he has prepared.In fact, I may not eat,only drink.This is not about him. He is a great chef but some of the things you have mentioned is him- especially the talking and creativity. I do not know how to live with him even though I love him. He is truly a caring,loving, magnificent person on his good days. Otherwise, shoot me out of a cannon!

karent profile image

karent 6 years ago Author


My sister is also bipolar and she has always pushed her roommates to the limits. I think the only relief is to keep your distance and preserve your own personal space until things calm down. Enjoy the positive aspects as much as you can and find your own activities that make you happy so you can handle the tougher times.

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schoolgirlforreal 6 years ago from USA

This is very well written! Thank you, I'm printing it to show my bf!!!!

Please read my hub "Love Me, I'm Bipolar!"


jay 6 years ago

I am so glad you wrote this. My best friend and ex-gf (broke up over 3 years ago) has this.

When I see her I sometimes get frustrated because she thinks I'm trying to argue with her and she really goes off on one.

She is on meds but I don't think she is taking them and I am afraid to ask, and, like your husband said, I feel like I'm walking on egg shells.

Most of the time though, we get on pretty well.

Does anyone have any advice on asking about her medication?

karent profile image

karent 6 years ago Author

Asking about the medication is a tough one. My youngest sister has bipolar and refuses to do anything about it. She stopped talking to me two years ago because I dared to suggest that she get some help. Things have gotten much worse with her and she has now shunned our other sister and our brother. I have been able to handle the medication questions only because I have a good enough relationship with my husband to be able to handle it. I don't think there is any right answer for this one. You have to be able to convince her that you are coming from a place of concern for her well-being. I wish you well with that one.

J Ruth 6 years ago

Can you give me advice I have a friend we think is bipolar, she is convinced she is having complication with a root canal. She is about to lose her job after being gone for 6 weeks and we can not get her to consider taking meds at least long enough to figure out what is wrong.

dwayne22www 5 years ago

This is so very true of my wife. I tried to show her the symtoms once and she got checked out only to be told that it was severe depression......Unfortunately I was not there to tell them about everything else. How do you get someone help if they refuse to relize they need help? Shrinks, PHD's talk to yo for an hour and think that they can diagnose you. What if they do not see the whole picture and only the happy part? What then do you do asa spouse when they deflect and say its all your fault and you have issues? So you go and talk to a shrink and tell them everything that has happened with your spouse, they are astounded that you love one so much to ignore rational thought. What then....listen to the shrink who says that for your sanity you must make hard decisions about your spouse. Anyone have any help. In desparate need. Also there are kids involved.

Greyking 5 years ago

Honestly as someone married to a bi-polar spouse with four children I would tell you if you can get out of the relationship just go. It is not worth the amount of stress that life brings you. I am currently trying to work things out with my spouse but it has been a really painful process. It has changed me as a person and I feel like I can't be the person I want to be. I am broke financially and now emotionally spent. Anyone in a bi-polar relationship just save yourself the trouble and just get out.

Hera 4 years ago

This bipolar thing is driving me insane!!

Annoymous Coward 4 years ago

I just figured out I am bipolar - I am taking Depakote and it was working ... until I stopped (big mistake) and I am back on.

There are some really unenlightened comments here. I have given so much to my family and this is a treatable condition. Greyking sounds like the relationship is dishonest and that is something that needs to change. This is an illness, nobody chooses this - at some point in your life you will get hit by something, how would you feel is you were just abandoned because you became an inconvenience. I sincerely hope that this callous and selfish mentality is the exception and not the rule - I am struggling right now and if I did not have my wonderful spouse and family I would not have any reason to get better. Kicking someone to the curb for being undesirable is so 1928 Germany.

sophie 4 years ago

thankyou for taking the time to write this to help others. My husband of 18 years was diagnosed a year ago and now everything makes sense. It's great to know from your article that I'm being supportive in the right ways. It's getting family and friends to understand that causes the problems. I often feel that my family just feel pity for me and the kids having to live with him but our teenage sons (14 &15) have a good understanding of the condition and we all love him despite the down sides and I've always sat and talked to the kids when Dad has 'gone off on one'and explained that he was right to tell them off about a certain something but he also over reacted and shouldn't have said this, this and that. When the time's right I will then talk to husband about it but can only do this when the time is right.

fie 4 years ago

im bipolar too...i told my husband bout this before we married. and until now se seem, act, and say things like he dont want to admit he knows bout it.

at first he said he will be understanding, but this disease , he said, has going beyond him.

he keep stand outside my box. now we plan to divorce. im not happy treated as regular-mood person and he's not happy i cant let him be his regular Free-adventerous guy.i always ask for time, attention and understanding but he take it as i want to ruined his dream of going travelling or his nature adventure.

he always upset whenever my mood swing start. start yelling at me too..saying bad things..sometimes pushing me off. when i, myself cant handle my depressing feeling.

I feel abused eventhough i know he didn't mean to abuse me. but his abandon for my situation has got my mood swing even crazier. i cant work or live well.

i think divorce is what he need and what can makes my life calmer too. objectively, my husband is not Caring-Type. he's an alpha, like to travel around and full of life idealism,not to mention big ego and self proud.

i haven't found a decent psychiatry.i think is very hard to found a compassionate one in here indonesia. either of them are too conservative or driving me mad. because she always pull my bad trigger (my childhood is bad, and she once or twice calling his children during the session having sweet talk which enraged me so much.

I hope i can find better life ahead.

always_trying 4 years ago

I have rapid cycling bipolar and it took me years of sorrow and heartache. The never ending fighting with my spouse drove us both insane. I wanted him to see the world the way I do and he couldn't understand why I'm so different from other people. In the early days of our relationship he found me to be a very interesting girl full of extremes of fun, but when I hit a down, he thought it was PMS! I know that I'm hard work to be in a relationship with and believe that my man deserves a medal for putting up with me. He keeps on telling me that I'm the only woman for him and that he loves me. This pulls me through. It keeps me faithful when I want more. He could have walked out a long time ago and could have had an easier live but he never gave up on me. When I was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar he just said that at least we can put a name to my mood swings and learn how to deal with it. He is an amazing man and I would not have been walking this earth if it wasn't for him being there for me.

When I have manic days I am the best person to be around with. I love life, colours and art. I sleep little and believe that I can achieve anything. I read, study, laugh, spend money and love sex. I love the thrill of speeding and work long hours with thoughts racing through my head all the time. When I dip to the other side I become irritable, depressed, aggressive, irrational ,the worst worker and cannot concentrate on anything. I feel sad and it's like a blackness has come over my life that doesn't want to lift. I just want to be left alone and wonder if life is worth living.

The thing I have learned is to stay on my meds,to forgive and not to dwell to long on what has happened. Yesterday is over. I see my psychiatric every three weeks and involve my family with decision making now.

Have a rescue plan. Write it big on a paper and keep it on the fridge. Choose what work for you and then what works for the family. My ones are:

I must not look for arguments,

I must not sit to long in the room,

I must take my meds and let the doc know if I sink to deep or if I'm to manic.

I must not/never take alcohol

I must not take my frustrations out on the family, they do not deserve it.

I must remember that this will pass, the sun always comes up even if the sky is covered with clouds.

Well, for my family, they have a list too.

For all the people who have posted here, good luck and know that you are entitled to a second opinion if you feel your doctor is not getting you anywhere. Medicine also does not work first time round for most people. You must go back and report if you feel the meds are messing you up. Don't give up as episodes only tends to get worse!! You and your loved ones deserve to have a better life :)

John 4 years ago

My wife is bi-polar and I am at my wits end. She just went off on me and said she had to get away. She packed her bags, not sure if I will see her again or what. I just don't know how to deal with it. The stress level has gone off the chart because I've been laid off of work after 28 years. By gosh I need some emotional support, feel like I'm going to crack any moment!!!!

Ehiawe 3 years ago

I'm Ehiawe Diamanti from Cyprus, i want to use this medium to testify of how i got back my ex boyfriend. After 4 years in relationship with my husband with 3 kids, he suddenly started going out with other ladies and coming home late, most atimes drunk and each time i confront him about this it turns out to be fight, he even threatened to divorce me severally, I was emotionally devastated because i wasn't sure of what to do to make him love me again, I tried all i could to make him love me again but all proved abortive until i saw a post on the internet on how a spell caster Dr. Serina helps people restore back their broken relationship/marriage at first i doubted this but decided to give it a try, when i contacted this spell caster via email he helped me cast a re-union spell and within 5hours my husband came to me apologising and today we are happily together again. Contact this great spell caster on your marriage and relationship problems at Goodluck

Kevin Goodwin 15 months ago

Thank-you for sharing your story. I have bipolar and I totally understand what you are going through. It for me was trouble staying in a relationship so I have pretty much given up on that part so I do not have to put somebody else with my disease.

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