Bipolar and Marriage

Can you suggest any books or other sources for information on how to help/cope/live/love a partner that is living with bipolar?  It has been about 7 months since my wife was told she is bipolar and our marriage has been on a downward spiral ever since.  A lot of thoughts and feelings come to mind, but mostly, I’m scared and for the first time in our being together, 16 yrs, I feel as though I am failing to help her (help us) and I’m going to lose the best thing that ever happened to me. She has become cold and hollow, a shell of the warm, loving affectionate person she used to be.

Wow, are you sure you’re not my husband circa 2007? Because I’m pretty sure I was a carbon copy of your wife at that year. Cold, distant … yep. Along with unapproachable, touchy, moody, angry, lost … I think you get the picture. After I was diagnosed in late 2006, my marriage was in shambles. It took many years to work through it, but here we are … going on 11 years of marriage!

The best way I can explain this is by writing a letter from the view point of your wife, except it will be based upon my own thoughts and experiences while in your situation (AKA what I was thinking after my diagnosis).

Dear Husband,

7 months ago, my world was turned upside down and I can’t seem to get my feet off the ceiling. I thought I had myself figured out and then they went and gave me this “label.” I hate the label. I hate that the label fits perfectly with my symptoms. I hate having to tell friends and family about this label. And I hate what this new found label is doing to us.

7 months ago, I was labeled as bipolar. The doctors called it a diagnosis … felt more like they branded me with a cattle prod. Once you go bipolar, you can never back ya know. I can’t take an eraser to the label and write in a new one like sane, perfect, stable or happy. I hate that too.

7 months ago, I lost my identity. What I thought was just a mild case (okay maybe a severe case) of depression turned out to be this whole serious condition that can only put my symptoms at bay … not actually take them away. How can I be okay with that? How do I accept this difficult road ahead while keeping my head up and remaining positive?

7 months ago, our marriage became my last priority. If I could have it my way, this would all be your fault. When I look at you … I blame you. I know you didn’t do this to me. I know it’s not your fault. I know it’s a medical condition that cannot be passed on like a cold or the flu. Still, it would be so much easier if it was. And I love you, I really do … but for absolutely NO rational reason whatsoever … I just don’t like you right now. So when I pick at you and say, “You never take out the garbage!” or “You don’t even care about me!” or “Why don’t you just leave? I know you hate me anyways!” what I really mean is “You do so much, but it doesn’t make my illness go away and I feel bad that you feel bad about it.” and “I know you care about me, but I’m too busy trying to figure out how I feel about me that I don’t even know how to show you that I care for you too.” as well as “Please don’t ever go! Please just give me time! Please keep loving me even if you hate me right now!”

7 months ago, my life ended. I don’t know where to begin again. I don’t know how to feel. I don’t know how to even put my thoughts in order. It’s just so much easier to NOT feel … to NOT care … to NOT start over. But the truth is I want to feel and care and start fresh. Why can’t I do those things? What’s wrong with me?

Desperately Confused and Lost but Still with Love,

Your Wife

That may possibly make no sense what so ever, and maybe she doesn’t feel those things … but in my experience it made all the sense. It embodied my every emotion. I hated my husband … but I loved him. And I can bet your wife loves you as well. The best advice I can give is to seek out a therapist who can help you work through these things.

I can honestly say you are off to a great start by educating yourself about this illness. The more you know the easier it will be to handle things as they come. And I’m more than sure that you ARE helping your wife, even if it seems you are not. Just by caring enough to learn more, you’re offering her so much more than you can ever imagine.

Hang in there, it will get easier over time.

Until then …

Here is a Bipolar Spouses Online Support Group

Also here are a  couple books I found online

Loving Someone with Bipolar

The Bipolar Relationship: How to understand, help and love your partner

And here is an article I wrote about our journey through a bipolar marriage.

I hope this was helpful, but if you have any other questions do NOT hesitate to email us!

2 thoughts on “Bipolar and Marriage

  1. That is probably the best letter that I’ve ever read to describe the feelings related to a new diagnosis. Right on point! The only thing that I would add is that the medications that are prescribed for bipolar disorder can very often cause noticeable changes in the personality. If a spouse is used to a partner with an energetic and/or happy disposition who now seems remote or quiet, it can be confusing. Many family members take these changes too personally, or they discount the effect of the meds. It has taken me a long time to not follow my daughter around asking her if everything is “ok.” I now realize that her medications do affect her personality. I have to get used to the changes because I know that the medications are key to her stability.

  2. All I want to tell you is don’t ever stop loving her. It might be very difficult at times , but her illness is no fault of hers. For whatever reason God has wished it that way. She needs your support more than anything in the world. You have been married for 16 years , so I’m sure you guys care a lot for each other. So show her the same love and affection , maybe more. The first couple of years might be the toughest while she adjusts to the medications. But please be there for her. However cold she might seem towards you, remember that if it weren’t for her illness she wouldn’t be that way. Your love and support will go a long way in helping her be normal. ( I have bipolar person in my family)

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