How Much Abuse Should a Friend or Spouse Take?
Recently there’s been a discussion on the message boards about abusive bipolar spouses. A couple of people have been way more than "patient and understanding" of their spouses’ illnesses. It’s one thing to be tolerant when your spouse is doing everything they can to stay healthy. Most of us who have bipolar disorder tend to go up and down in spite of our efforts, and it’s great to have a supportive spouse or friend who understands.
But when bipolar spouses and friends do not take responsibility for their actions and refuse to get help, then hanging around and putting up with their abuse only enables them to continue being sick. It is similar to enabling other addictive behaviors like alcoholism and drug addictions. As long as you make excuses for these people and accept their actions, you add to the problem instead of helping.
If you find yourself dealing with a bipolar person who refuses to get help or take responsibility for their actions, the best path is probably therapy for yourself. This is especially true if a long-term relationship has ended up eroding your own self-confidence and sense of well-being. You need to understand why you have remained in such a relationship, and to learn how to take steps to put your own life back together.
Another place to get help is from local bipolar support groups. At my group, we often have family members come to meetings to find out more about the disease and to learn how to be helpful to their loved one. Couples sometimes come together and share their experience. It often helps the non-bipolar spouse to be able to communicate their pain and frustration. And by talking to others with bipolar, they get a broader perspective on the disease and its treatment possibilities.
I suppose in any marriage or friendship, people pick each other for a reason. But if you find yourself continually taking abuse from a bipolar spouse or friend who refuses to get help, then you should question your reason for staying in this relationship. You may be stuck in a delusion of loyalty when you are actually enabling the sickness to continue.
Lynne is an abstract painter and writer from Ithaca, New York. She wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Anxiety and Bipolar Disorder.