Being Married To A Person With Mental Illness

Marriage life in itself is hard work. The fact that two individuals with different backgrounds, gender, interests, dislikes, point of views and opinions come together to build a life for themselves and possibly for their children. Imagine, the degree of difficulty living with a spouse with bipolar disorder. By definition, bipolar disorder also known as manic depression is a mental illness. It is categorized by periods of depression and periods of elevated mood. It causes shifts in an individual’s mood, energy, activity levels and ability to carry out day to day tasks. Mood range from episodes of elation and energized behavior to depressive and hopelessness periods.

The idea is that judging yourself for having negative emotions or trying to suppress them can backfire and actually intensify or prolong the negative mood. — Melanie Greenberg Ph.D.



If you are married to someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder, be prepared for the rough times ahead. Mood swings can sometimes be refreshing and new at first, but it can be frustrating and tiresome as well. According to statistics, 40 percent of all marriage fail in the United States and Canada however when it comes to marriages involving individuals with bipolar disorder. Studies show that estimation of 90 percent of these marriages ends in divorce, thus; basically, the chances of a successful marriage are slim, but it can be done with dedication, commitment, and extreme patience.

Accepting others, including their flaws, and being content with the present may fuel feelings of happiness and prosperity in relationships, making them stronger. It can enrich relationships with trust and appreciation as well as promote healing and growth. — Jacqueline Pearce, MSEd, LMHC

 Sympathy is not sufficient

Upon the diagnosis, the default response from the other spouse is often sympathy, but along the way, the spouse may encounter feelings that they believe they shouldn’t be having. Examples are anger, frustration and even to the point of hate. It is a general idea that caring for someone with mental illness is not easy. Some caregivers say that it is much harder than caring for someone with cancer.  What happens typically with a physical disease is that the ill person receives the care and support with gratitude and love. Persons with bipolar disorder, on the other hand, usually deny the diagnosis, aversive in complying with the medications and worst of all at times treats his/her spouse as the enemy. If the other half can pass these trying times, he/she will reach the stage of acceptance, and complicated emotions will be substituted with feelings of love and compassion. The transformation will require a redefinition of spousal expectations and previous conception of marriage. At times, the redrawing of your life upon the diagnosis of bipolar disorder will probably mean that only one income will sustain the household, deciding not to start a family, no more annual vacations or merely taking over the responsibilities of your partner.



Try to prioritize spending time primarily with those who you enjoy spending time with, not those you feel obligated to spend time with. When you do spend time with others, practice being present and eliminate distractions whenever possible. — Roxy Zarrabi, PsyD

Thinking ahead

Rather than living in fear about the future, successful couples with bipolar spouse shared that they utilize the periods of wellness to prepare for incidence that may happen in the future. In manic episodes, people with bipolar disorder might easily spend money from savings and joint accounts without second thoughts. Experts suggest opening accounts under the name of the healthy spouse or consensually decide to give power of attorney or extend the control to the excellent spouse during instances of manic episodes. Another thing to prepare is to list down in advance a list of signs and symptoms that the person with bipolar exhibits which will prompt seeking of medical assistance. This way there will no blame, and emotions are removed from the equation since both of you decided upon it.