Bipolar Disorder and Marriage
Any number of things, from work stress to money issues, can lead to arguments and put strain on a marriage. But when one partner has bipolar disorder, simple stressors can reach epic proportions. That may be why as many as 90% of marriages involving someone with bipolar disorder reportedly fail.
McNulty watched not only his own marriage fall apart, but the marriages of others with bipolar disorder as well. "We’ve been running a support group for almost 19 years," he says. "We’ve seen dozens of couples come through the door with their marriage in tatters." Bipolar disorder "puts a huge additional strain on a relationship, particularly when you don't have a diagnosis."
Healing a Troubled Relationship
Having a relationship when you live with bipolar disorder is difficult. But it's not impossible. It takes work on the part of both partners to make sure the marriage survives.
The first step is to get diagnosed and treated for your condition. Your doctor can prescribe mood-stabilizing medications, such as Lithium, with antidepressant to help control your symptoms. Therapy with a trained psychologist or social worker is also important. With therapy you can learn to control the behaviors that are putting stress on your relationship. Having your spouse go through therapy with you can help him or her understand why you act the way you do and learn better ways to react.
"I think the more a partner can learn about these things, the better role he or she can play. "Being involved in treatment can really help make the treatment for bipolar disorder a collaborative effort. And it will actually increase the sense of bonding."
Though you may want to crawl into your self-imposed cocoon when you're depressed, and feel like you're on top of the world when you're manic, it's important to accept help when it's offered. "I think, "It sometimes helps to have a contract." With this contract, you can decide ahead of time under which circumstances you will agree to let your partner help you.
For the spouse of the bipolar person, knowing when to offer help involves recognizing how your partner is feeling. "You really have to work at it to understand what the other person is going through," McNulty tells "And you have to be alert to their moods." McNulty is now remarried to a woman who also has bipolar disorder. When one of them notices that the other is starting to slide into depression, he or she will ask, "How do you feel?" and "What do you need from me?" This gentle offering helps keep both partners on track.
Here are a few other ways to help relieve some of the stress on your relationship:
- Take your medication as prescribed. And keep all of your appointments with your health care provider.
- Take a marriage education class.
- Manage your stress in whatever way works for you, whether it's writing in a journal, taking long walks, or listening to music. Try to balance work with more enjoyable activities.
- Stick to a regular sleep cycle.
- Eat healthfully and exercise regularly.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
If you ever think about hurting yourself or committing suicide, get help immediately.
References & Source:
- Scott Haltzman, MD.
- Myrna Weissman, PhD.