Yesterday, my article was about whether it was reasonable to remain with a bipolar spouse. It was from my perspective, and in my case I believed the marriage should have been saved. This is my perspective from my particular circumstances. In all fairness, I want to present the other side of the issue. Since it’s not something I relate to, I will draw from others who had a different experience.
I’ll start with an acquaintance I got to know several years ago. He met a lady at a social group, and after about a year of dating they decided to get married. I attended the wedding, and it was obvious that something was wrong. The bride was extremely agitated, and kept making statements that were completely out of context and made no sense at all. We all assumed that it was just a case of wedding jitters and a bridezilla complex. It wasn’t until after they returned from their honeymoon that she disclosed to her new husband that she was bipolar. He was perturbed about all the multitude of medications she was taking (That he hadn’t known about before) but accepted her situation as best he could. She did admit she was bipolar, but she was being treated by her General Practitioner just to get medications and not a Psychiatrist. Her mania grew, and before long she was in a full episode. She was blowing up over the least little thing (or nothing at all), stopped sleeping, and put close to $10,000 on his charge card in less than a week. The husband had very little knowledge about this disease, and was completely at a loss. But he stuck it out, and did all he could to learn about what she was going through and what he could do to help. He begged her to see a Psychiatrist, but she insisted she was fine and even quit taking her medications. By then she was completely out of control. He canceled his credit cards to stop the spending and moved into a spare bedroom so he could get some sleep. The final straw came when, in a manic rage, she attacked his son, yanking on his shirt so hard it tore into shreds. He had to protect his children, and kicked her out, sending her home to her mothers’. The marriage lasted three months.
I have another friend who is also married to a woman whom I believe is bipolar. The difference her is, she absolutely refuses to accept that diagnoses, and is only treated for depression and anxiety. Whenever her Psychiatrist would suggest she was bipolar (which was often) she would lie about what was going on and insist that it was just a panic attack or depression that caused her behavior. But living with her was horrible. She was either lost in a deep depression or running wide open, constantly in a rage directed at him about some imagined slight, or getting caught up in all kinds of drama over the smallest of issues. They separated for about a year, and she ran up over $100,000 in debt. But for the sake of the children he eventually went back to her. He educated himself about the illness, and tried to cope with her behavior the best he could. They are still together, but his life remains a living hell. Her husband also believes she is bipolar, but he feels like he would be abandoning her and his children if he left.
In both these examples there is a crucial missing piece. The bipolar spouse isn’t taking responsibility for their own health, and refuses to do anything to maintain their illness. So at what point does it become too much? There is a time where the spouse has to protect themselves and their families, and there are times when they stay even when they would be better off leaving. This is a decision that everyone has to make for themselves. In my case I believe that there was enough reason for both of us to fight for the marriage. But that’s not always the case, and sometimes it just comes down to self-preservation. Every situation is different, and the level of tolerance and patience is unique to each individual.
In my opinion both spouses have to take a level of personal responsibility and patience to maintain a healthy relationship. There has to be an acceptance of the illness and active participation in a workable treatment plan by both. There should be patience and understanding of the symptoms of one, and what has to be dealt with by the other. One spouse cannot sustain a relationship alone; it takes both, even without the added difficulty of dealing with this disease.
I believe that marriages can survive and flourish under almost any circumstance, including bipolar disorder. Almost anything can work if there is a desire to succeed by both. But there’s never one absolute answer; each situation is different. No one should be judged for doing what’s right for themselves. Sometimes it just isn’t going to work.