When a mental illness suddenly appears in a relationship, it can shake the foundation of a marriage. While dealing with the erratic behavior of a spouse in mania or depression is difficult, through counseling, love and acceptance of the illness, partners can grow even stronger as a couple.
It’s stressful for a spouse to deal with the confusion of ever-changing moods from his bipolar partner. It helps for this spouse to view his continued support of his partner as an investment in something worthwhile.
Confusion and chaos
When symptoms of bipolar first begin to surface, most spouses aren’t sure what to think—they’re confused. Amid the chaos of behaviors they fear they’ll never see the person they’d fallen in love with.
When sympathy isn’t enough
When a spouse is first diagnosed, the initial response from the partner is usually sympathy, until down the road they could feel anger, frustration and even hate, says sociology professor and author David A. Karp, Ph.D. “Indeed, caring for someone who has a mental illness can be more draining than caring for someone with cancer.” In that case the spouse is usually met with gratitude and not anger if the partner is denying the diagnosis and treating her like the enemy.
If a spouse can move through these times, he or she will reach a place of acceptance, says Karp. “Those difficult emotions will then be replaced with softer feelings of love and compassion.” By accepting that life looks different than originally one imagined doesn’t mean you can’t still have a good life.
Redefining spousal expectations
Transformation means redrawing the picture of what a couple once thought life would look like. For some, that may mean having to rely on only one income, going without certain luxuries or even choosing not to start a family. For others, it may mean that many of the responsibilities of daily life fall on the well partner.
Couples who seem to have the most success share the belief that the partner with bipolar shares an equal responsibility within the relationship. If bipolar is biological then the mate does have some control over his behavior and should shoulder some responsibility to help themselves, unless they are extremely manic or depressed are temporarily unable to.
Self-sufficiency during periods of wellness
In cases where one partner has bipolar and the marriage ends, it’s usually because the healthy spouse feels he or she has done everything they can to help the other person become well, but nothing has made the situation better. During periods of wellness, the partner owes it to their spouse to work diligently to stay well.
In periods of wellness, successful couples will prepare for episodes that may lie ahead. That may mean realigning chequing accounts or giving power of attorney as a means of limiting control to the ill spouse during manic episodes. Some couples will have a list of symptoms the bipolar spouse exhibits when on the brink of a manic or depressive episode and agree at what point to seek help, thus removing the emotions from such a decision.
Carrying the burden
Following a diagnosis many spouses are left with most of the responsibilities of their life together—from caring for the children to working to pay the bills to caring for their ill partner. It’s a heavy burden for many.
Drawing boundary lines
Many spouses struggle with how to help the person they love without becoming engulfed in the spouse’s misery or mania. They may even feel their own identifies are being buried—they are losing themselves or jeopardizing their own health. Spouses must learn to draw a boundary line, or risk losing themselves, Dr. Karp says.
Many couples attribute their successful marriages to a commitment to mutual and personal wellness. This could mean daily exercise, eating well, good sleep habits and focusing on the wonderful things shared by both. Both partners need to decide to want their relationships to work and they will start looking for ways to make it work.
Dr. David A. Karp argues that sometimes the well spouse has to withdraw. It may sound harsh, but it’s health. He says spouses must learn to take care of themselves before they can take care of others. It’s important for the well spouse to fulfill her own goals, and continue to move forward, even when her partner is struggling.
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community