When Relationships Go Bad

Ask the Expert Patient Health Guide
  • Ever since I first started writing about my illness nearly nine years ago, the most desperate correspondence I have received invariably came from the loved ones of patients. My latest "mailbag" features a stack of plaintive queries from spouses and boyfriends and girlfriends:


    Help writes:


    "My husband has become has become sexually promiscuous, spends a lot of money, has made himself aloof from the family, wont speak to me for more than three months now. I don't know how to deal with the situation and save my family. I am worried about the finances, my physical and emotional safety."


    MarriedToMania writes:

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    "My wife has bipolar I. She's attempted suicide, driven drunk a few times, but herself countless times, become violent in a manic and slept 15 hours in a depression. It's hell. I started having doubts about the marriage but I want to work it out. We're in therapy, she goes to AA and takes her meds. I suppose I need to hear from spouses of biploar people who've left and those who've stayed. I want to make it work but I'm afraid that she won't reciprocate in the long run and that the woman I married will never come back to me."


    Marie writes:


    "Any ideas on how to help my bipolar fiancée control his spending? About 7 months ago, he admitted to me that he had been taking money out of our savings account and using speed."


    And from Polarlight:


    "I just had another rollercoaster ride with my Bipolar boyfriend. He is not on medication, does not want to go on anything, and was really violent with me."


    One is left wondering whether bipolar patients are truly capable of love, or simply prey on the naive. Indeed, OEM brings it right out into the open:


    "I've been looking for a share post by a "living with it" member stating that they really loved someone...anyone. I also noticed that almost all BP people find partners so easily. What's up with that? The so-called sane people must be such easy prey for these (at the moment) predators. The "sane" also seem weak, lonely, soft and desperate compared to people with BP.


    "Perhaps, this illness is something left over, or grew, from the days when daily survival was name of the game. Maybe I'm just over thinking this thing and BP disorder has always been here. These people in the past were just called ********, whores and drunks."


    It's difficult to disagree with OEM when Sheri talks about her ex-husband:


    "He has made threats against me, I have gotten restraining orders. He has driven me crazy with the kids ..."


    And what about Rusty, whose husband "has the pattern of disappearing every 3 months almost like clockwork and coming back in 2 to 4 weeks?"




    As a patient, sometimes I truly wonder what is wrong with us. Are we guilty of using our illness as an excuse to be as self-centered as Paris Hilton, as violent as Mike Tyson, and as fiscally responsible as the federal government? Or is there room for forgiveness?


    And why do spouses and loved ones put up with this kind of abuse? Are they so starved for affection that they are prepared to settle for anything? Are their situations akin to a tortured puppy who against all reason still seeks a reassuring pat in the head?


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    There are no easy answers. Over a three-year period, I was both a patient and a loved one. I was married to a lovely woman, not the type of abuser described in the above relationships. Nevertheless, when a marriage isn't working, the psyche takes a terrible beating. I knew I needed to bail out, but at the same time my mind kept telling me that things weren't as bad as they seemed and would get better. Right to the bitter end, I clung to my impossible dream.


    When it comes to relationships, I completely understand the power of irrational thinking. I've lived through it. It took me forever to come to terms with reality. Moreover, there is the fear factor. Could I afford to leave my marriage? Where would I live? Would I die a lonely man?


    "I want to wake up and have everything be alright," I can imagine these people thinking. Or maybe it's along the lines of, "I want to teach the no-good **** a lesson." In our state of confusion, it may come out like, "I want to wind the clock back to when things were good, but not before I bring down the Wrath of God upon his sorry little head."


    I hear you. I feel your pain. I would never presume to tell someone to leave their loved one. But I strongly urge all of you to take stock. One should not have to endure an abusive relationship. Work out an escape plan, if you haven't already done so. By all means, try to salvage the relationship, but if your best good faith efforts fail, do prepare to take a leap of faith.




    Do you have questions about bipolar disorder? Every two weeks, I'll answer new questions and post the answers here, in our Ask the Expert Patient section.


    If you would like to ask a question about bipolar disorder or living with bipolar disorder, please write a SharePost and be sure to select "a question" in the drop-down menu next to "I want to create a SharePost that is a," which is Step 2 on the SharePost creation screen.

    Please keep in mind that I am not a physician. I cannot diagnose or give medical advice. This section is for sharing information and offering support as a nonphysician "Expert Patient."


Published On: November 15, 2007