June 28, 2008 

I too am a husband with a bipolar wife. We’ve been married 2 1/2 years, together for 7 years with no kids, and I’ve been thinking about divorce. I’ve been reading some of the other stories on this site, and I can see that my situation could be much worse, but still, it’s no walk in the park.

I’m one of those people who is a problem solver. I’m passive aggressive, avoid conflict and drama, and try my best to appease people. I had a crappy childhood with parents constantly arguing and verbally abusing one another, while at the same time putting me in the middle and making me pick a side in every fight. I’m also chronically depressed, currently on an anti-depressant.

My wife was diagnosed with BP in high school, her sister has it along with her father. She comes from a loving family, though the stress of having so many bipolar folks under one roof for such a long time has taken its toll on them. She also has anxieties and constantly has panic attacks over the littlest things.

The first few years we were together were great. We talked, had fun together, went to movies, whatever. We shared interests, and we were both interested in each other. Then about three or four years ago, she hit a real low. Her meds were switched around, she had to take some time off from college, she was a basket case. This went on for almost a year while she was away at school.

When she got into her last semester of school, things started to get better. There was an end in sight, and we were getting a house and getting married just after her graduation. Finally, things were starting to settle down, but here we are, 2 years later, and after a few brief periods of good times, things just seems to get worse.

See, my wife also has this problem where she can’t relax. No one in her family can relax. By that I mean, there always has to be something to stress about or worry about, from whether or not she would find a job to filling out a tax form to ordering a pizza. She graduated with flying colors, we got a house, we’re pretty well-off, even just on my salary, so she should have very little to freak out about at this point.

Anyway, I guess I didn’t realize how bad this constant state of worry was until we shared the same roof. I’m pretty laid-back, though I like to stay busy with something – a book, fixing up the house, yard work, etc. – but she’s almost the complete opposite. She wants to stay busy – it helps her with her BP disorder – but she doesn’t know what to do with herself, so I have to sit there and try and come up with something to do all the time. If I can’t come up with something of interest, she just goes to sleep. Part of that is depression, but in the back of my mind, and due to my nature, it just seems lazy.

We both work, but I do just about everything around the house, with her occasional help with cooking. I clean, I do all the maintenance, I even pick up after her. Did I mention I’m obsessive compulsive? Well, again, she’s the opposite here. It’s hard working all day, then coming home and cleaning up after someone.

I’ve asked her to help out more, but usually she ends up mired in her own depression and forgets about it. I’ve asked her to stop smoking – my dad smoked and it helped kill him, so she knows how it bothers me – but any time she gets stressed, I find a pack of smokes in her purse or ashes in the car or just the smell of it. She also had a few instances where I came home to her drunk, the worst of which ended with me cleaning up vomit twice in one night. She doesn’t take care of herself. She’s overweight and gaining, while I’ve made a concerted, and successful, effort over the last six months to get in better shape.

We’ve discussed these issues, and she said she would try and make this work, I just haven’t seen much effort. I have to tip-toe around her, being careful of the things I say or do, along with how I say or do them, for fear of setting her off or making her snap at me. I’m afraid to say or do much of anything in an effort to not make things worse than they are.

She has this constant indifference towards everything these days, including me. I try to figure out things for us to do, but she rarely has interest in them, and even when we do go out, she’s never really into it. Even something as simple as “what’s for dinner” is an uphill struggle. I ask her how she’s doing, how her day has been, show interest and concern, but it’s rarely if ever reciprocated. Our sex life is pretty much dead. Things get good for a month or two, and then nothing for 6 months.

I guess my point with all of this is that it makes me worry about what the future holds. We both want children, but if she’s like this now, how will she be with a child? My parents screwed me up a bit, so I don’t want to bring another messed up person into this world. I know how stressful and time-consuming parenthood can be, so how will she be able to handle it? How will I? She’s supposed to be my partner, but I’ll have to take care of everyone and everything. As hard as it is now, I just don’t think I have it in me.

My wife is not a bad person. Underneath it all, she can be beautiful and intelligent and strong and loving, but that person rarely appears, and when she does, it’s usually because a huge depression is about to set in. She’s not abusive or hateful or argumentative. She takes her meds diligently. Again, like I said, I think I have one of the better bipolar marriages in comparison to other stories I’ve read here, but it’s still hard.

And just to note, I’m not Mr. Perfection. I know I have my quirks and moods and annoyances. Maybe I expect too much? Maybe I’m as messed up as she is? Maybe I’m just a trivial, selfish s.o.b.?

I guess I’m torn – if I end things, I’m worried about how she’ll take it. I don’t want her to try and hurt herself, and I also don’t want to destroy her already fragile self-esteem. The last thing in the world that I want is to hurt her. But then what about me? Should I just buckle up and accept that this is my future and make the best of it? I’m not happy. I feel alone and tired all the time. Should I risk bringing a child into this world that may be scarred for life by the both of us? Considering her disorder seems to have worsened over the past few years, how will it be ten years from now? I try to be optimistic in my life, but I’m also a realist. I’m at a fork in the road and I just don’t know which way to go.

If any of you have advice or insight, I could use it right now. Thanks for listening to me ramble.


  1. Hi, Trevor–

    I don’t think that you’re a “trivial, selfish s.o.b.” You seem like a very intelligent person, and you demonstrate some sincere concern for your wife’s well-being. You have a right to be happy just like everyone else.

    Sounds as though you and your wife could benefit from some relationship counseling. You seem to both have feelings that need to be expressed and needs that aren’t being communicated. An unbiased third party may be able to help sort out all that stuff. Remember – some of this may be related to bipolar and some may not. It’s important to treat the disorder first and then deal with any remaining issues. It’s really tough (I’d say darned near impossible) to rationally deal with emotional issues during a major manic or depressive episode.

    Have you ever read The Five Love Languages? Our marriage counselor recommended it to us a while back. I found it interesting and helpful. Reason I recommend it is that you sound like you’re trying to show your love to your wife in your “love language” and seem frustrated that she’s not really “feeling the love.” (Of course, I might be out in left field trying to interpret your situation.)

    It’s good to see that you’re getting help for your depression. I wish you and your family the best.

  2. Trevor,

    You probably know this, but almost everything you said about your wife sounds like the symptoms of depression. The fact that she isn’t motivated, doesn’t care about her environment, doesn’t want sex etc. etc. makes me think she needs to talk to her doc about some new or additional treatment for the depression. As for children with her, I suggest you both think about the strong hereditary factor for BP in her family and realize your children may have Bipolar. Trust me, if you think you are stressed now, just add some BP kids to the mix. You are both mentally fragile and I think adding the stress of even healthy children might be too much. Plus, it is hard to have depressed/bipolar parents. I was a severely depressed mom for a year and I saw how difficult it was for my kids. It also teaches them very bad ways of coping with life. I see the lessons they learned from me acted out quite often. I would like to offer you something positive on the Bipolar, but I haven’t seen or heard much positive. I’ve been married 31 years to my husband. It’s always been rough, but I didn’t know why. Nine months ago he was diagnosed BP I. It has been bad and he still isn’t stable on meds. He is going to the docs and therapy and doing everything they say. At this point, I’m pretty discouraged and I tend to think I should have left years ago. However, I love him, as I’m sure you love your wife. We took vows, for better or worse. It is really hard to know what to do. I hope you find the right answer for the two of you. Good luck.

  3. Trevor, your story sounds just like mine. I can relate because part of the difficulty that is that my personality finds it hard to accept and deal with this illness.

    My wife is a wonderful person; she is considerate, nurturing & supportive. We’ve been married for 3 years. Diagnosed 6 months ago although it was clear we suffered the symptoms for 2 years.

    Just like in your story, I could have been dealt with a far worse situation. She is a “good” bipolar sufferer: she takes her meds, she listens to her psychologist and psychiatrist, she practices her mental homework and keeps a mood diary. She tries hard at work despite the illness giving her, basically, a disability. She has faced a very scary condition with grace and determination.

    However, when she’s in the high phase, I just can’t tolerate it. She’s obnoxious, stressful, proud, craves attention and praise, hypersensitive to minor comments/criticisms and talks bravdo nonsense. She talks at me, not to me and then expects me to be in awe and wonder at her (rather) mild achievements or moments of inspiration. Of course, as any partner of BP knows, they very seldomly follow through with their grandiosity. This makes me skeptical of her hopes of the future.

    When she’s depressed, I feel helpless and frusrated. Just like you, I can’t help feel she’s lazy (just the way I’ve been brought-up to see the world). She wants sympthathy but not pity; she wants support but not judgement. She wants you to listen to how she’ll get herself out of the black hole but then spends the next week doing none of those things she said.

    Anyway, it was in her last manic episode that she decided to move out. Over the following months, she’s been telling me it’s over and that for her health, it’s better that we separated. After I have worked so hard to emotionally accept this, she nows says that may be it was her moods talking. I can’t begin to say how this has affected me!

    In thinking of our time during courtship and marriage, I can now see that her moods changed with the seasons. Her last manic episodes have all started in February and peak in July. Her depressive state starts in August and bottoms in November.

    Because of the stress I’ve been under, I’m seeing a psychologist myself to talk and unload. I feel guilty (my psych says you should never feel guilty only remorse), hurt, resentful, angry, sad, depressed, loss of my identity (I never thought I was a quitter and certainly not in a marriage). I’ve grieved, I’ve cried..

    I’ve been writing pages and pages of my feelings, weighing up pros and cons of staying or leaving, writing what I like about her and what I dislike about her. Writing about what the future would be with her and without her. I wrote a goodbye letter to our relationship. I just checked-in to a hotel last night to have a place to go through the decision in detail. In the end, I’ve decided to leave. It’s the hardest decision of my life. These last 6 months has been the most painful period of my life.

    Reading Dr Bruce Fisher’s book, “Rebuilding: When your relationship ends”, has shown me that I can grow from this and that I can and need to love myself again (I’d never thought I’d ever say something so sissy). I’ve grown as a person and learnt so much about myself.

    I also think of how I could possibly start a family. She can’t take meds during conception/pregnancy (risk of birth defects). Post-natal will be crazy. And then, BP tends to be passed on genetically so there is a chance of our children having it (wondeful!). I’ve always thought her sister and mother were stressers, always creating some crises in their lives. I would put bets that they have undiagnosed (but milder) BP.

    Trevor, I sympathasise with you. Always, do what’s best for you, says my psych. I guess it’s good advice – just hard to follow when you’re in a bad situation. Life is about choices – we choose the life we’ll have. The key is to recognise we have them, to make them wisely and never look back.

  4. Max, This is in response to your reply. I am going through a similar situation with my boyfriend leaving very suddenly and I believe that he is BP. He seems to be BP II and like you, I believe that at least one other person in his family has it as well. Please read my post “Bipolar Boyfriend-Help!” Any advice for me?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *