I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the midst of getting married to my husband. It has been a long, challenging, emotional journey for us. I have read about other people’s experiences with bipolar disorder and marriage.. I look at the statistics that an estimated 90% of marriages involving a person who has bipolar disorder end in divorce.. And I know firsthand that caring for someone who has a mental illness can be more draining than caring for someone with cancer… These marriages usually end because the healthy spouse feels he or she has done everything they can to help the other person become well, but nothing made the situation any better. After 3 hospitalizations within the first 5 months of my marriage, my husband began to lose hope and I came extremely close to falling into that 90% of marriages. That being said, even though things between him and I got horrifying, I am truly thankful that I still have him by my side today. It has been one hell of a way to start a marriage, but nonetheless we are making it work. I am eternally grateful for his love and dedication to me.
“Your partner can become a pillar of strength when you work together as a couple.”
My husband intermittently comes to therapy with me. The more that he and I learn about symptoms, treatments, and coping strategies, the easier it gets for us to work together towards recovery. He has had so much experience with me and learned so much about bipolar disorder that he has mastered the skill of spotting my subtle signs of mood swings before I even do… Which honestly drives me crazy sometimes 🙂
Recovery is a lengthy, strenuous journey on it’s own but I am learning that communication is key.
“Regular, positive communication is really important. When I talk about how I feel it provides him with a context for any irritability or sadness that I show. And sometimes it gives him the opportunity to give me the reality check that I need.”
I thought it would be valuable to share our “communication guide” for those of you that may benefit from it in your relationships as well. It focuses on replacing negative communication with positive communication. We are learning that reflective listening is extremely helpful- asking clarifying questions and listening to understand the other, not just to respond, helps you better understand your partner’s perspective.
- Instead of calling each other names, try expressing anger without hurt
- Instead of putting each other down, try “I am angry that you…”
- Instead of interrupting each other, try taking turns and keeping it short
- Instead of criticizes, trying pointing out the bad and the good
- Instead of getting defensive, try listening and calmly disagreeing
- Instead of thinking the worse, try not to jump to conclusions
- Instead of dredging up the past, try sticking to the present
- Instead of attempting to reach others minds, try asking their opinion
- Instead of giving the silent treatment, try saying what’s bothering you
- Instead of nagging about tiny mistakes, try admitting no one is perfect and overlook it
“You choose to spend the rest of your lives together. You are socially, physically, financially and emotionally bound together. Remember you are emotionally linked. If one of you isn’t happy, neither of you are going to be happy.”
As always, feel free to share some of your own views or tips!