Marriage can be challenging enough as it is, but it can be more difficult if one of the spouses has bipolar disorder. While getting a diagnosis, appropriate treatment, and access to the right medications is now easier than ever, the day-to-day struggles of living with a bipolar person can push any relationship to the breaking point. However, it is not impossible to succeed, especially if you follow our tips below.
Coping With Bipolar Spouse Mood Swings
Here are some of our tips for surviving your relationship:
Breathe. If things get too intense, just remember that you are dealing with a disease, not the person.
Build support. Your spouse needs help, which he is getting through treatment. But keep in mind that you need assistance as well. You can work with your therapist and find a support group for families with bipolar members. It is also a good idea to lean on good friends to help you through the awkward moments. Nikki Martinez, Psy.D. LCPC used to say, “We only have control of ourselves and our own desire for growth and change. Part of that growth and change is deciding the type of person we allow in our lives, and the positive impact they can have on us.”
Get away. Needing your own space from time to time is okay. Find activities for you to enjoy on your own, such as travel. When your spouse is at a low ebb, it may be best to back off.
Laugh. Sometimes, there’s nothing better to do than to just laugh it off, for both you and your spouse. Even in the darkest of days, if you can find ways to lighten the mood, it’s worth the effort. “It is not suggested that laughter take the place of medical interventions and scientifically proven treatments for illness. However, laughter produces health benefits that we can use to our advantage.” Karen Doll, Psy.D., L.P. said.
Enforce meds. If there is one thing that you need to push, it’s medication. This is especially important when your spouse is manic and thinks he doesn’t need them. When this happens, pick a fight if you must — this should be non-negotiable. “Bipolar disorder is probably the main psychiatric disorder where medication is absolutely essential.” says John Preston, PsyD.
Recall your love. Remember that at the end of the day, if you love each other, you can get through anything. Bear in mind that when he does something hurtful, it’s because of the disease. Underneath all the moods and triggers is still the person that you fell in love with many years ago.
Know (or grow) your philosophy of marriage. You made your vows to be together “for better or for worse.” The disease is the “for worse” part, so as long as you still believe the core of it, you will be okay.
Look for triggers. As with any mental disorders, a good strategy is to know what triggers certain moods or responses. With bipolar disorders, there are two things to look out for: triggers for depressive periods and triggers for manic periods.
Ask. If you have any concerns, it’s always ok to ask. Your spouse will be able to tell you what he needs in certain situations, so be open and listen.
Keep talking. Communication is key, even if your spouse may not always understand what is going on with him. The important thing is that you make him feel that you are there and willing to adjust to his needs.
Being married to someone with bipolar disorder is not always easy, but if you manage it well, it can be gratifying. Not only will you be able to have a fruitful marriage, but you will also gain more understanding of the disease itself.