After we got married I learned that my wife had bipolar disorder. I know you’re probably thinking “Well, isn’t that something you should let your spouse know before you get married?” Well, oddly enough, she didn’t. She had it, she knew something was different, but she never said anything to me because she thought that I might want to leave her because of her “dark side.”
Somehow, I never noticed it—and now that I am aware of it, I don’t know how I didn’t. She would be happy one second and sad the next. Sometimes she would start crying and I would ask her what was wrong, and she would say that she didn’t know. Of course, I found this a little odd, but never thought much of it. After we got married, it just kept getting worse. She eventually went to a therapist to see what was going on, and that’s when we found out she had bipolar.
Some people might find it hard to live with someone who has constant mood swings and gets upset over what seems like nothing. On top of that, my wife and I share no common interest in anything—and I mean nothing. Throw in my anger problems that I talked about in my last piece, and you’re probably wondering, “So how does your relationship work?”
Here are three things I’ve learned about living with someone with bipolar disorder—or for that matter, someone who is different than you.
1. I have learned that part of marriage is accepting the other person for their downfalls as much as the good.
I think all married people can say that their spouses have changed in some way, good or bad, since they have been married. She was very different before we got married, and I’m sure I was too. But I think one of the great things about marriage is that because you completely trust each other, over time you show parts of yourself to the other person that you wouldn’t have the trust to show anyone else. And I think that because we completely trust each other, I enabled her, in a sense, to figure out something about herself that she didn’t completely know before (her bipolar).
But it hasn’t always been easy. Her bipolar is like gasoline, and my anger problems are like flame. And you know what you get if you put them together? Boom! Like I said before, my wife and I are complete opposites. I have no interest in what she likes and she has no interest in what I like. But that’s okay, because we bring different things to the table, and that keeps things interesting. Besides, when we got married, I promised to love her in good times and in bad times. And I meant that.
2. I’m learning to be more sensitive.
A lot of our fights happen because I’m not sensitive to her bipolar. For instance, I’m not proud of this at all, but once we were arguing and I called her a crazy bitch. She stopped instantly and gave me a look I have never seen before; let’s just say if looks could kill, I’d be dead. (Along those lines, I’m trying to stop using the word “bitch” altogether—it’s not a good word in any sense.)
3. Try to never get upset about the other person getting upset.
It helps nothing. Plus, as I have said before, I have my own issues to deal with. Sometimes when she starts to get upset at something I will get mad at her for getting mad. I’ve learned that sometimes it’s better to walk away in the heat of the moment and suggest talking about it later.
I am madly in love with my wife. Actually, I’ve found that it’s not that hard to have a great relationship with someone who struggles with bipolar, or even someone completely different than you. Yes, there are real challenges that come with bipolar disorder, and that’s why I’m glad my wife was brave enough to seek help from a counselor. But I’ve also learned that just accepting my wife for who she is and looking past her downfalls goes a long way. Because if you really love someone you have to take the bad with the good. Love can overcome anything thing if you put in the work.
So, please, if you’re in a relationship with someone who struggles with bipolar, don’t do what I have done and get mad at them. Love them for who they are—and not just during the good times. If you’re in a new relationship or marriage and the other person has changed, or that person is just plain different, give it some time; you’ll get there. Your love for each other can last. My wife and I have been together for eleven years and we’ve had three beautiful children together and we love each other very much. And I’m happier than ever.
Flickr/ Mike Monaghan