Initially I was going to write a post about how my own BP has affected my marriage, but I think I’ll save that for a later date. Hearing about me can get rather boring, so I thought I’d offer something a little different.
Bipolar and Divorce:
In marriages where one spouse is diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, about 90% of the time, those marriages end in divorce. Both partners are to blame for this, as no marriage ends because of just one person. Both partners must do their part in order for a marriage to succeed. It’s hard work, no one tells you that when you get married. What happens when Bipolar is thrown into the mix, or any MI for that matter, the job becomes almost impossible.
So what is a couple to do when they find themselves in this unique situation. First off, hold on to hope. Without hope, all else will fail. When you have nothing to hang on to…..there is truly nothing left and that even applies to marriage. Sure, you may be able to start over, but will you be able to do that without wondering if you could have helped the one you loved, much more than you had. Or if you are the BP spouse, will may always wonder what you had done wrong, or how you could have changed in order to save your marriage.
BP diagnoses aren’t just for the individual spouse, but for the couple as a whole. For there is no pebble thrown into a pond that doesn’t cause a ripple effect. There is no doubt that your spouse’s diagnosis will affect you and it is your responsibility as a couple to learn how to manage this disorder together. Therefore, I suggest individual and couples’ therapy. This will provide you a safe haven to get off your chest what you need to about each other and will also give you both a oppurtunity to learn how to manage this illness together. There are many reasons Bipolar marriages end in divorce.
Just to name a few:
- Reckless Behavior – spending sprees, infidelity, driving while intoxicated or on drugs, partying
- Substance Abuse
- Financial Burden
- Inability to remain gainfully employed
But all of those things can be managed with the proper treatment from his/her pdoc or treatment team. Along with the willingness of the BP spouse to do everything in his or her power to get better. And especially from the help of his/or spouse or partner.
So how does a partner help with BP spouse……it’s not simple, it’s not easy and it’s not for the cowardly.
Understanding is a key component. Someone suffering with MI can not just snap out of it and telling one to do so is both ignorant and condescending. BP’s have a very hard time controlling their emotions and during episodes, their actions. They need to know that they can count on you when things have gone funky in their brains. A casual comment or joke that when under stable circumstances would seem okay, can cause a very much undesired reaction from your BP spouse. You may find them elated, depressed or agitated because of something that appeared to you as innocent.
Mild criticisms can bring on thoughts of suicide. If there is something your BP spouse has done to bother you or upset you, you need to choose your words carefully and approach the situation with sensitivity and compassion.
A BP marriage is stressful to say the least, full of misunderstandings and conflicts. That’s why I stress couples therapy so much. Having an objective point of view from an experienced counselor can help both partners learn how to team together instead of raging a war against one another.
The healthy spouse plays the ultimate role in the BP marriage. This is because if treatment and management of your spouse is not under control, it’s going to be up to you to make sure things are running smoothly, especially if you have children. During an episode, the last thing you want to do is add-on stress by criticizing your spouse for not getting out of bed and sleeping all day or for going on a manic spending spree and depleting the savings you had to move into a new home. Those things are fixable. Guilt and shame are the last things a depressed or manic person should have to feel as we sometimes tend to act impulsive. It may be up to you to reach out to others’ to find the help your spouse needs so you can go to work and continue bringing home an income. Knowing the house is clean and your children are being cared for can take a lot of stress off each other during episodes.
The most important thing a spouse can do for their BP partner is to offer them understanding and support. One must be the patient with their BP spouse and not expect them to recover quickly from any episode, whether it be depression, manic or mixed. Recovery takes a long time and sometimes it can stretch into months or possibly years if treatment isn’t quite right yet. It may be a long time before your spouse is able to function at a level you are used to or one you think of as normal.
A spouse can help their BP partner by making sure they are seeking out proper treatment and are taking their medications like they should be. They can watch for signs indicating that an episode may be on the horizon and can take appropriate steps to try to curb or at the very least lessen the impact for both parties involved. Being prepared is an invaluable tool. The couple should sit down together and discuss possible triggers that can send one either manic or depressed, or both.
Any suicidal thoughts, remarks or actions should be taken seriously and reported to your BP’s spouse immediately. This is not something to take as an idle threat. It is a call for help and it is your job to insure your spouse gets the help she or he needs.
Emotional support, encouragement, reminders of how much your BP spouse is loved and cared for can be tremendously helpful.
What both partners need to understand, is there isn’t just a marriage you are trying to save here, but a person. The person you fell in love with, the person you vowed you could never live without.