Marriage is a difficult proposition. You both have to learn how to communicate effectively. You have to meet each other’s needs, intimately and otherwise. However, when one of you has bipolar disorder, you’re climbing up a large mountain – one that may seem insurmountable at times. Is it possible to survive in a marriage when one of the people has bipolar disorder? I believe so, but it will take work on both sides.
Just like in a “regular” marriage, communication is the key. You must be able to share your thoughts and feelings with each other. If you have started off as friends, talking over endless cups of coffee in cheap restaurants, then this will benefit you now. Stay friends first. This will help you to communicate openly and honestly with each other. Don’t just stuff those important feelings – share them with each other.
Supporter, don’t try to “fix” your spouse. They may have a “broken brain,” but they are not a broken person. Although they may be moody at times, your unconditional love and understanding is what they need – much more than another therapist, psychiatrist, or mother. Just be a supportive spouse, and you will be meeting your loved one’s fundamental needs.
Allow your loved one the freedom to be themselves. They may have to deal with the “outside world” during the day (at a job or volunteer work), but when they get home, you will see the real person behind the masks they sometimes have to wear. Just be aware that someone with bipolar disorder may take things out on the person closest to them, and you may have to bear the brunt of your spouse’s frustration and anger. Please don’t take this personally. If you are aware of it ahead of time, you won’t experience your own frustration, anger, and other negative feelings, and you will be able to be more supportive.
Since you are the person closest to them, you will be the first to notice triggers, signs and symptoms, and any other behavior out of the ordinary for your spouse that might indicate an oncoming bipolar episode. You may want to talk to them if this happens and point out these things, hoping that they would agree to call one of the professionals on their treatment team.
Should your spouse, indeed, go into a bipolar episode, be as supportive as possible, showing your unconditional love and reassuring them that you will be waiting for them. Being hospitalized can be a very frightening experience for anyone with bipolar disorder, and they can feel very much alone. In the case of a married couple, many times the couple has not been separated much, so the person with bipolar disorder may feel lonely and isolated. You may be able to combat this with encouraging letters and visits to your spouse.
Above all else, be honest, open, and loving with your spouse. Remember why you fell in love with them in the first place. Try to separate them from their bipolar disorder. They are not their disorder, and it is not their fault that they have it. If you can remember this, and remember your wedding vows, then during the “…or for worse” part of the marriage, you will be able to love and support your spouse unconditionally. Is a bipolar marriage possible? Absolutely!