According to statistics from the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), bipolar disorder affects up to 5.7 million adults in the United States every year.
On the other hand, the Mental Health Research Association estimates that at least 2 million American adults suffer from bipolar disorder every year. These figures are indicative of the fact that bipolar disorder is quite common in the United States.
There are few statistics available on relationships in which there is a bipolar spouse. However, assuming that at least half of those diagnosed with bipolar disorder are in relationships, it would mean that there are at least 1 million people in bipolar relationships or marriages.
Well, my husband and I fall into the bipolar marriage category with me as the bipolar spouse.
According to research, a majority of bipolar marriages end up in failure or more accurately, divorce or break-ups. Thankfully, my marriage falls in the minority group of success.
Many people ask how my husband and I can cope with each other particularly when I am going through episodes of mania or depression. My typical response to this question normally starts with the admission that neither the bipolar spouse nor the partner has it easy.
The pressure of living in a bipolar marriage is often of multiple degrees and there many a times when our relationship gets stretched to uncertainty.
Nonetheless, there are ways for both the bipolar spouse and the partner to cope with the condition and the pressure it causes. While most of these tips are from my experience, others are from what I have heard from a few of my friends who are also in the same situation.
One of the biggest threats to health bipolar relationships and marriages is denial. Denial is a huge problem, particularly for bipolar spouses.
I cannot recall how many times I kept telling myself that I was normal and that I am not crazy. At some point, I remember telling myself that I did not need medication. More often than not, this would cause uncomfortable tension between my husband and me.
According to experts, denial is an ingredient for conflict, tension, and unhappiness in a bipolar relationship.
Couples should help each other understand the condition by openly talking about it and possibly even doing joint research on the condition and how to cope with it while in a relationship.
2. Make It A Partnership
Over the years, I have come to realize one thing; a bipolar marriage works best as a partnership between the bipolar spouse, the partner, and a third party.
For some people, a third party may refer to a therapist or a mental health profession. For example, my husband and I always go for the doctor’s appointment together.
Furthermore, we have weekly joint therapy sessions where we get to report on the week’s progress and resolve any outstanding issues.
3. Set Rules And Boundaries
I cannot stress on this enough; you need rules and boundaries for your relationship to work. For example, I know for a fact that I have a taste for the finer things in life, especially during my manic episodes.
To prevent overspending and avoid causing the family financial strain, we have a rule that categorically notes that none of us can spend more than $200 without consulting with the other spouse.
I also know of a family where the bipolar spouse, his wife, and his friends agreed on a communication blackout between 10 pm and 8 am to enhance healthy sleeping habits.
My husband and I also agreed that I would inform him every single time I got suicidal; this way, he would stay with me to ensure I am not a danger to myself or others.
I also advise having a rule purposed to make sure that bipolar spouse adheres to the medication guidelines and dosages.
4. Don’t Forget To Breathe
Let’s face it, the pressure of a bipolar marriage is often overpowering. In one study, 86% of respondents noted that the stress they experienced as a result of taking care of the bipolar spouse experience significant stress.
Having a bipolar spouse can also have negative impacts on finances, social circles, and even work/academic commitments. Experts recommend that people in bipolar relationships take time off to breathe and take care of oneself. There are lots of ways to do this.
My husband and I like to spend 30 minutes every night recapping the day’s events and sharing a joke or two. My husband also goes off bowling and fishing to relax and refresh his mental health.
Other ways to do it include both the bipolar spouse and the partner exercising on a frequent basis or even to set time aside for outdoor activities such as hiking.
Having a support network of friends and family is also an important way for the partner of the bipolar spouse to cope and maintain sanity.