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.
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.
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?...no, 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.
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.
Other Sources of Help and Advice
- Bipolar Marriage: What to Expect When One Spouse is Bipolar, Bipolar Husband, Bipolar Wife Bipolar
Being involved in a bipolar marriage can be one of the toughest marriage challenges. With some tough work surviving a bipolar marriage can be done.
- Spouses of Bipolar Sufferers ...The Other Half
- How to survive in a marriage when your spouse is Bipolar. | eHow.com
How to survive in a marriage when your spouse is Bipolar.. You can survive in a Marriage when one of you has Bipolar. You just have to be willing to work through the issues, together.
- Marriage & Manic Depression: Making It Work
When a married person is diagnosed with bipolar disorder (manic depression), it is really a diagnosis for the couple. Unfortunately, this disorder so often wreaks havoc in marriages.
- Partners for life. Beating the marriage odds
- Bipolar Romantic Relationships: Dating and Marriage
WebMD provides advice on bipolar disorder in romantic relationships, from dating to marriage. Whether you or your loved one has bipolar disorder, here is information you can use to make the relationship work.
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