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How to Care For and Cope With a Bipolar Spouse

living with a bipolar spouse

Marriage is hard. Period. Even when everything is going well, an exceptional amount of effort needs to be put into marriage in order for it to work. But when something like a mental health condition is present in the marriage, things can become even more complex and challenging to handle. Living with a bipolar spouse, in particular, can easily make a relationship feel strained. 

What is Bipolar Disorder? 

Generally speaking, bipolar disorder is a form of depression that is characterized by severe mood swings that range from epic emotional lows to extreme manic highs. There are three types of bipolar disorder, all of which share some similarities in symptoms:

  • Bipolar I – Bipolar I presents with manic episodes with or without symptoms of depression. The manic episodes are usually more intense than in other types of bipolar disorders.
  • Bipolar II – Someone with bipolar II will experience both manic and depressive episodes, but not usually as severe as in bipolar I. Episodes of depression occur either before or after a manic episode. 
  • Cyclothymic disorder – Both manic and depressive episodes occur, but they last for up to two years. During this time, there may be periods of normalcy. 
  • Other types – This type of bipolar disorder is defined by having symptoms that do not fit into any other type of bipolar disorder. Other types of bipolar disorder can also be influenced by physical health problems, substance abuse, or other variable factors.

The type of bipolar disorder that your spouse has can impact your everyday life as well as theirs. Knowing which kind of bipolar disorder your spouse has can help you care for them better.

How to Care for a Bipolar Spouse

When living with a bipolar spouse, it is important that you make an effort to appropriately care for them. Bipolar disorder is an extremely difficult mental health condition to live with, never mind have. By employing a few tactics to your everyday life, you can help care for your bipolar spouse in a productive way. 

Get Educated

The absolute best way to care for your bipolar spouse is by educating yourself on this particular mental health condition. Spend time learning why your spouse is experiencing certain symptoms, what makes a person develop bipolar disorder, and what things trigger different episodes. You can do this by simply going online and gathering information, or you can call your mental healthcare provider to learn more. When you understand bipolar disorder, you better understand your spouse. This can alleviate frustrations and misunderstandings. 

Cheer Them On

Living with your bipolar spouse gives you an up close and personal view of what bipolar disorder is really all about. If your spouse is actively doing things to help improve their bipolar disorder, be sure to cheer them on. Tell them that you see their efforts and acknowledge those efforts. Make your bipolar spouse aware that you are not only seeing their efforts, but that you are there to cheer them on as they continue to make more. It is not always possible to commend someone on every single thing that they do, but making an effort to acknowledge the big stuff (and the little stuff, too!) can make a huge difference in the life of your spouse. 

Include Yourself in Treatment

As mentioned before, bipolar disorder is a very hard mental health condition to live with, whether you are the one with it or not. Resentments and anger can quickly build up and boil over when bipolar disorder is occurring in a marriage. One of the best ways to continue living with your bipolar spouse in a functional way is to involve yourself in their treatment. Ask them what they are working on in therapy. Initiate discussions about how they are feeling. And most importantly — go to therapy sessions with them. Therapists often recommend that spouses do couples therapy when something as profound as bipolar disorder is occurring.

Coping with a Bipolar Spouse

Living with a bipolar spouse is one thing, but coping with a bipolar spouse is another. It can be very hard to see past the frustrations that can accompany this type of disorder, but by utilizing the appropriate skills, you can better cope with your bipolar spouse. Consider doing the following:

  • Take care of yourself by practicing good self-care (eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, participating in things that bring you joy)
  • Go to individual therapy for yourself
  • Join a support group in your community
  • Share with some friends or family what you are experiencing so that they can be there to support you
  • Be honest with your spouse as often as you can with your feelings (while also considering theirs)

In order to take care of someone else, you have to ensure that you are caring for yourself, first. By implementing some of these strategies, you can care for and cope with your bipolar spouse effectively. 

Bipolar Treatment in West Palm Beach

If you or your spouse are struggling with bipolar disorder, know that you are not alone. This mental health condition is not an easy one to manage and it can easily create friction in a marriage. Thankfully, you do not need to go through this alone. At Neuroscience Research Institute, we can help you and your spouse get the support needed so that you can get back to living the life you have dreamed of.