FAQ

Find answers to some of the more frequently asked questions on the Forums.

Forums guidelines

Our guidelines keep the Forums a safe place for people to share and learn information.

Announcement Icon
You can win one of three $200 gift cards. Complete our survey by 5pm, 30 June 2024 AEST to enter the draw. Your response will be anonymous so you can't be identified.

My bipolar wife wants a divorce

Lost_husband
Community Member
I’ve been married for almost 10 years now and my wife who suffers from bipolar disorder is on the verge of leaving me. Despite having had all that time to research and educate myself on all things bipolar, I stupidly enough cruised along thinking everything would be fine, that we’d somehow manage to work through her ups and downs because we were madly in love. But of course times change, children come along, work stresses mount up and more importantly, my inability to step up when times got tough have led us to where we are now. Despite her giving me multiple opportunities to make amends and me saying all the right things, about how things will change, I tend to be good for short periods then slip into old cruise control habits. And now she’s had enough, we’re on the brink of separating and the reality is finally starting to sink in that I might be in the verge of losing my best friend and the one woman I’ve ever truly loved. She is barely acknowledging my existence at the moment and I don’t know what to do/how to make things right. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to save our marriage, but I think I may have used up all my chances (who could blame her really after the multiple times I’ve told her I’ll change?!) Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
19 Replies 19

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi LH, welcome

A huge question that often cant be answered is "is it our mental illness or our personality"?

Those blurred lines can bring confusion. IMO most relationship break ups involving one person with bipolar are normal breakups with the added annoyan c e factor of bipolar.

Eg. My last partner (I'm bipolar) when we argued and I left home in a rage, would ring my psych, psych rings me tells me to take more meds. My problem was, my partner was an alcoholic. But there was no suggestion of her reducing her consumption or seeking help.

So, I'd be cautious of blaming her bipolar on your possible split. Some behaviors like moods, anxiety, etc could be extreme and associated with the illness but it would be unfair to say the illness was caused by bipolar. We dont know.

What I also believe is that you are feeling guilty for saying the "wrong thing" which is demoralizing. This shows there is, for some reason, lack of respect for you and damage between you both has evolved. This needs professional counseling to hopefully bring out inner live to repair it.

Here are a few threads you can google (just read the first post in each)

Topic: who cares for the carer?- beyondblue

Topic: relationship strife? The peace pipe- beyondblue

Topic: the best praise you'll ever get- beyondblue

Topic: the balance of your life- beyondblue

Tony WK

Quercus
Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello Lost Husband and welcome.

I'm glad you've reached out for support.

I had to think for a while before being able to reply (sorry for the wait) because your situation is difficult.

At least you have realised before she has left, if she's still holding on maybe there is a chance.

My feeling is that whatever you say or do... It needs to be genuine. Sit down and think it through. Be brutally honest with yourself. There is no point promising changes if they aren't realistic and you don't mean it. She wilk see right through your promises.

Personally I would start with a list (because that's my thing I suppose). Three headings.

1. What does she need me to do?

2. Is it realistic/achievable?

3. What action do I need to take?

Then sit your wife down and show her. Ask her to add to it. To make changes. And to set time frames. What needs to change immediately so she will give you time and what can wait for now? For example if she has been asking you to come to marriage counselling for years now is the time to commit to it and book an appointment. However if you had an issue with alcohol for example that needs time. Attending a AA meeting is a good way to show you mean what you say though.

And most importantly... If she is your best friend and you love her make sure she knows it. Not just a please stay because I love you. Tell her the truth. Why do you love her? What makes her irreplaceable to you?

I hope you get another chance. Whichever outcome we are here for you and I hope you can come back and talk more.

Nat

bindi-QLD
Community Member

Hi Lost husband,

I'm sorry to hear about your relationship stress, I really hope you will be able to get through this together 😞 I think Nat's excellent advice really nailed it, especially the part about writing down an action plan, and starting to do some of those things immediately. You'll find that it will build your confidence up too, as you start ticking things off the list. I also agree with Nats suggestion to show your wife the list or write it together. Actions will speak much louder than words at this point, I feel.

To give you a little credit, its very likely that your calm personality may be exactly what your wife needs and loves as a balance for her moods. Please don't feel that in order to be loved, you need to be a stressed out super driven guy. Whatever you decide to change, do it out of fairness to your relationship, and to build your self confidence. Hold onto being you; being a calm relaxed person is a wonderful personality trait , and a valuable one to people who are very volatile IMO.

Wishing you two the best!

Lost_husband
Community Member
Thankyou all for your wonderful words of advice. My wife is currently going through a manic phase, might even be a mixed episode as she can be all over the place, up one minute, down the next, she was hearing voices the other week telling her to cut her hair (which she did)...she doesn’t seem to be blowing our finances which happened last time she was manic, so that’s at least a positive and her gp has adjusted her meds so she’s not up till all hours of the night with racing thoughts...the irritability of the mania is what has me most concerned at the moment, she gets cranky at the drop of a hat and I’m wondering if anyone has any suggestions about how best to try and communicate with her (or if staying silent is the best)...surely not saying anything and feeling like I’m walking round on eggshells all the time isn’t helpful though...I just feel like whatever I do I can’t win, if I approach her about it I worry it will just start a fight...any tips/suggestions?

Hi again LH 😊

I'm glad you came back to talk more.

Far out I see my symptoms mirrored in your wife's behaviour. I wonder if my husband is as lost dealing with my mood swings and erratic behaviour as you feel?

What works for us...

  • Leaving me alone to wait out the racing thoughts. No point in reminding me our son will wake me at dawn and I'll be exhausted. Just makes me worry more. Leave me be.
  • Giving me space to do things I enjoy. If I am irritable giving me quiet helps. Hubby knows on days like those to just let me run or read and to go do his own thing. Better yet take the kids with him.
  • On that note... Having his own interests and routines that don't need me. I get very irritable if we do a family outings, put the kids to bed, have time for intimacy and he wants my company all day. I need time out.
  • I have routines that keep me stable. When he makes plans to keep me busy I might be ok for one day even two but then it goes downhill. I know my body. If I need to write here to vent or run or talk to a friend... Then I need the space to do it.
  • Ignore my mood. When hubby ignores my slump and just goes on with his day I'll pull myself up when I can. But when he gets angry I feel like running away. Because I can't just switch it off to make him happy.
  • Support things that help me help myself. Sometimes I will write on the forums and hubby says I'm "messing about on my phone". It makes me feel crap and angry and resentful. This helps me. So belittling helpful things for me says to me what I do is worthless. I'm worthless.
  • Treat me as an adult and an equal. When I'm moody hubby has this habit of lecturing me or just taking over and telling me what to do. It feels crap. Yes ok your wife randomly cut her hair off (hmm curiously I did that too arrgh) but that doesn't make her irrational or need to be babied in case she does something out there again.
  • Hubby reminds me I am safe. Reassures me he's not going anywhere. But also sets his limits and boundaries clearly. For example told me if I self harm he is taking the kids and leaving. I agree with this. He says it once and then leaves it up to me. Because I am capable of keeping myself safe and protecting myself from losing what I love most of all.

Maybe this just seems like waffle but hopefully somewhere in there you find a point of view that helps.

Nat

Lost husband,

I have just found this post and read it.

Tony, Nat and bindi have given you very helpful and detailed advice and suggestions.

I am not sure what I can add, but I have been living with a diagnosis of bipolar for over 40 years and am on my third partner. That is meant to show experience and not to worry you.

I am not sure whether your wife is seeing a doctor or has tried medication.

When I was manic I was out of control with over spending the least of my behaviours.

To be honest when I was really impossible to talk to when manic , irritable or depressed and because I was so far out of reality nothing anyone said would make sense or I would not remember.

You seem like a really caring husband and you need to look after yourself.

When I was not up or down, that was the time, to talk and reason with me and make plans.

It is exhausting having bipolar and is exhausting living with someone wth bipolar.

Nat has written lots of suggestions that work for her and hopefully some or Alan will work for you.

All I know is that everyone who has bipolar reacts differently in a different way.

When I was manic with my first husband , I threatened to leave him and did eventually for 6 months only to come crashing don eventually and get sick and run back to him.

I am not being very helpful but I feel when one is not thinking rationally it is hard to help that person unless you have a plan that was agreed on in the calm times.

Have you ever spoken to a counsellor or to their people in a similar situation.

Thanks for sharing your story, I am sure you will help others who are reading this.

Quirky

Hey Nat,

Thankyou so much for taking the time to respond again, it’s pretty amazing when you’ve seemingly got enough on your plate yet you’re willing to give of your time for others.

Bit of an update for you, so the wife and I had a really good talk Friday night, stayed up till like 2.30 which is pretty big for us (we’ll not so much her when she has racing thoughts, but I’m normally out like a light while she’s still up). She actually instigated the chat (I’m terrible at starting these conversations, really something I need to work on, particularly when she bottles up all her thoughts - she’s undoubtedly right that I really need to work in my avoidance of issues). Anyways, I’d been planning on clearing the house of our 4 kids for the weekend at the recommendation of her gp, just to give her some total space, plus she’s in the process of changing meds so she’ll be headachey all weekend) and she told me I needed to take all the bank cards, just to leave her a bit of cash and to take the car keys as she’s been having thoughts of running away by herself. She’s even gone as far to type up a list of all the things she’ll need, bit mind blowing when I saw the list, the reality of it and all. But on the positive side at least she found it in herself to tell me which can only be a good thing right?

Anyways, so a bit later in the night she says can we gave a talk about some stuff without me getting offended (I tend to have a bit of a thin skin when it comes to criticism), And while everything’s finally started to get to me of late and I’ve been getting a bit down and demoralised (it kind of sucks, a lot, when your wife and best friend gets cranky at you for every little thing you do, right or wrong) I knew I needed to man up and cop my serve, because if it means she’s talking to me about her feelings that’s great and can only serve to get the ball rolling.

Seeing as I’m running out of words, for now I’ll limit this to one thing she spoke about, how we’d had a conversation (when she was in a better place about 18 months ago) and I said I didn’t like the way she could be snippy at me at times, kind of like the way her mother belittled her father) and she’d realised she did do that and worked on it for a couple of months and she made plans for a camping trip for us to get away from everyone, things went awry on the way there and I got the shits, didn’t enjoy the weekend and after going to all this effort she felt like why bother...there’s more to it but yeah

Losthusband,

I am glad you had a long talk to your wife and managed to get some things sorted out.

AS you realise things will take a wile to change but you are taking small steps opening up and being honest with each other.

She seems to be in control if she asks to have the credit cards taken away, I would hever have had the insight to do that.

It sounds like you discussed many issues from the past. How I'd you feel about that?

Are you pleasedwith the talk with your wife or are you a bit frustrated about some of the discussions.

It sounds as if the camping weekend has some unresolved issues for her. Did it make sense how she felt or were you surprised.

Thanks again for updating us and when you want to post again.

Quirky

Hi LH (and hi Quirky!),

Ooh LH you're in luck... Quirky will know the name of the good bipolar thread! I've been trying to remember it thinking maybe reading it will help you figure out some of your wife's patterns? Help me out Quirky?? 😊.

Well that is great news about your big conversation! So hard to begin but so very worthwhile! Have you thought about seeing if your wife is willing to do a weekly chat? Put the kids to bed and have a cuppa and a talk for half an hour or so (always helps if you plan something nice to do afterwards together). It gets you into the routine of talking about issues as they come up.

I figured maybe that would help with avoiding hashing out issues from 18months ago (necessary but no wonder you were up till 230 if all the issues have been bottled up).

It must have been a shock seeing that she planned to leave but please keep in mind it doesn't have to mean she doesnt love you and the kids.... Just that she is so beyond overwhelmed and possibly doesn't know where to start to address issues (or whether you are willing to listen). I could be wrong but that's my reasoning when I want to run.

Quirky made a very good point about you needing to care for yourself. When we are unwell one of the things the doctors and psychs seem to all say is it is ok to be selfish. What they really mean to a mum like your wife (four kids! she is a super mum!) is that it is not right that you put your needs last. Which we do tend to do.

Kids needs, hubby's needs... Nothing left for me. So we try to change this because we need to. But the downside to making our needs an equal priority means everyone else has to give a little. Kids. Partner. Friends. Work. We need to take back a bit of our time and effort to care for ourselves.

What that means for you... You don't need to "man up" you're already a man. It is simply a matter of finding little things that give her a little more time daily and regularly so she has a time and energy to care for herself. This can be very small things. For example...

  • Four kids means major chores. Give each child one task they need to do to help mum daily.
  • Care for yourself. You sound run down. Be proactive. See your GP. Take a sick day. Exercise.
  • Intimacy! Enough said.
  • If it is financially possible look at a cleaner or gardener or anything that makes life easier for both of you.
  • See if other family members are willing to take the kids to their afterschool activities

Take care of yourself please. 😊