Spouses of bipolar sufferers often are the caretakers and caregivers of the relationship. They are expected to hold everything together when emotional hurricanes hit their families. They hang on in spite of everything that is flying around them just waiting for the calm. Many people close to them expect them to be strong and almost heroically brave, when sadly they too have weaknesses and fears. So many people in their community are focused on the well-being of the bipolar person that they forget about the spouse. It can be very difficult to be the other half of a partnership in which someone is chronically ill. The spouse feels like all he/she ever does is put up and put out and that they never get anything back in return. It can be emotionally and physically draining when your spouse is continually the one that is the focus of your combined attention. The spouse often forgets to acknowledge his/her own needs and wants because their attention is so completely funneled to their partner. They may long for someone they can confide in; someone to listen to their concerns. Sometimes, the spouse can become resentful of the bipolar sufferer, and then, unfortunately the relationship hits the rocks.
Not all relationships involving bipolar sufferers and their spouses are doomed to fail. In fact I can think of at least three at this moment that are flourishing. These relationships survive because the two people involved are fully aware of the illness they share. That is right; share; they see their situation as a team effort. They make every effort to learn about and understand this disease together. They have established limitations and boundaries that must be respected in order for the relationship to exist and prosper. Honesty and a willingness to be open about the issues involved with manic depression is vital. And, most of all, they focus on the fact that they loved each other enough to commit to the relationship in the first place. Why should that change now? Keep that love in the forefront of your mind.
As the spouse of a bipolar sufferer you may be be called on to do things you never thought you would ever have to do. You feel the ups and downs almost as painfully as they do. You are the one expected to be strong, take care of matters at hand, and then desperately try to steer your household back from the brink. You are someone to be admired; you deserve admiration. My husband is my hero. Not just because he does heroic deeds once in awhile, but because he also shows me his tears. We cry together sometimes. He shares his fears with me and tells me his weaknesses. It always amazes me that after all the Hell we may go through, he can still muster a smile and hold me tight in his big manly arms. It feels good. It also feels good to know that we are one in this big old mess of mental illness; not two alone in this freaky universe.