The Other 10%

I read an article on Psych Central awhile back that’s been stuck in the back of my mind for some time. It contained a shocking statistic about marriages in which at least one partner has bipolar disorder: 90% of these unions end in divorce. Ninety percent! That means only one marriage out of ten survives the ravages of BP. And I can’t even imagine what the numbers are for those in which both partners have the illness.

I could have gone the rest of my life without knowing that. After all, I managed to blunder through 30+ years of marriage before I even knew I was BP. But it got me to thinking …how did Will and I make it? What gave us the edge over all the couples who split up over bipolar disorder?

Naturally, I have to give Will a huge amount of credit for sticking with me—literally—through thick and thin, good and bad, mania and depression. He’s held me close during the most challenging times of my life, which include the losses of a child and both my parents within a five-year time span. He’s endured my rages and rescued me from countless embarrassing situations when I was still a practicing drunk.  He’s gone without new shoes so I could buy a pair for myself. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have a few quirks that drive ME up the wall, but overall he gives much more than he takes.

Still, we’ve always complemented one another; whatever I can’t handle, he can, and what he can’t handle, I can. I’m the one who deals with the taxes and other paperwork; he answers when the bill collectors call and will sit on the phone with the cable company for as long as it takes to resolve an issue. He did most of the cooking and cleaning when we had our own house; I was the main breadwinner. I filled out the kids’ endless school forms and advocated for them with their teachers and principals; he played with them and took them to the grocery store when I was too worn out from work to shop, let alone chaperone a rowdy bunch like the four of them.

So what happens when bipolar takes its toll on a marriage? I have several online friends who are divorced or are in the process of it, and the illness factors into every one of them. One woman’s husband moved out on her while she was in a psych unit; another left hers in the midst of a wild manic episode that started out with her flying across the country, to a city where she’d never been, and hooking up with a guy she met on the plane! (Thank God she had enough money to get back home when she came down.) Still another split with her spouse when he got arrested—again—following one of his manic rages; seems he mowed down his neighbor’s flowers and chased their cat, who apparently had crapped in his garden one too many times, with his riding lawnmower. Additionally, he has a long history of threatening people and getting into fistfights. He also refuses to take medication and denies he has a problem. I don’t blame her for leaving him. What else can you do?

It’s when I hear stories like these and read about the pitfalls of a relationship with someone who lives with bipolar disorder that I count myself very fortunate indeed that my marriage never became a statistic. We’re going on 36 years, and I don’t foresee anything happening that would land us in divorce court unless I go completely off the rails.

Now I’m curious to see if any of my readers are in the 10% of couples who stay together in spite (or maybe even because) of bipolar. If you are, would you mind sharing your success story?



Published by bpnurse

I'm a retired registered nurse and writer who also happens to be street-rat crazy, if the DSM-IV.....oops, 5---is to be believed. I was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder at the age of 55, and am still sorting through the ashes of the flaming garbage pile that my life had become. Here, I'll share the lumps and bumps of a late-life journey toward sanity.... along with some rants, gripes, sour grapes and good old-fashioned whining from time to time. It's not easy being bipolar in a unipolar world; let's figure it out together.

12 thoughts on “The Other 10%

  1. I wish i could say I’m in the 10% in my first marriage. Alas, I am not. I was diagnosed before we were married so he knew. We had been together 6 years by the time we did marry. I’m in the midst of what may turn into a NASTY custody battle, knowing he will try to use my mental health in court which he can’t do. (plus he kicked us out and only does his 4 days a month) Anyway. In my current relationship my bf knows and tries his best which is a FAR greater cry than what I had. I feel this relationship is healthier in that we communicate because we HAVE to die to distance and we really are forced to listen to each other. Plus, there’s mutual redirect which I never had before. I have everything and got very little is anything back. I feel like this one will last until we both leave this early world.
    You are so very very very luck to have Will. Hope he is feeling a little better this week 💖

    Liked by 3 people

  2. My wife and I both have bipolar and are at 10 years and counting! We both knew we had bipolar going in, and I think that helps a lot. We are both mental health advocates who believe in taking good care of our mental health. That doesn’t mean it’s always smooth sailing, but it helps.

    I did not know I had bipolar going into my first marriage, and it did not end so well. We made it 16 years, but the last 4 or 5 or so were pretty rough. I think she had undiagnosed borderline, she did have several diagnosed anxiety disorders.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. My husband and I started dating when I was recovering from a breakdown 22 years ago. He saw past my mental illness and life circumstances (I had moved back in with my parents and went from working as a psychotherapist to working as a temp file clerk). On one of our first dates, he told me that I was the most independent woman he had ever met. I laughed. He stood by his assessment. He saw me for who I truly was. We’ve been together ever since. Married 19 years. Together 22. Plan to stay together as long as we live. We complement each other, help each other, and divid responsibilities.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I know about that statistic, which is shocking. I am in the 10% with my wife but admittedly there were a few times where we almost called it quits. It can and is tough, it takes a lot of work and empathy.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Wow, that is a dire figure. Husband and I celebrate our 9th anniversary next month, and neither of us have wanted to call it quits yet. And yeah, I’ve put him through the wringer, and at points been flat-out abusive. But his constant gentle presence in my life has encouraged me to keep working on myself to be a better partner and mother, so. It’s good. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow that figure is shocking. Hubby and I have been together for 8 1/2 years (9 in September). I was not diagnosed when we married. Therapist and I think that I was in a prolonged manic state at the time. Thankfully, my mania usually resulted in working too much, too long…although there were some other issues. Since we’ve been married I have plummeted into a long period of, as I like to call it, Bipolar despair. I can no longer work and have been waiting for 2 years so far to be approved for disability. Things were definitely getting a little rough after my second hospitalization, but now hubby comes to therapy with me every month or so. He gets his answers to questions he has and we are able to work through any issues that may have cropped up. Best decision we ever made.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve been married to my wife since 1993, diagnosed with bipolar in 2004. There are times when it’s difficult, but we are committed to each other. She is extremely supportive, even driving me two hours to ECT treatments on occasion. It is possible to reach that 10%; avail yourselves of resources, recognise there will be challenges; agree to communicate with and depend upon each other.

    Liked by 1 person

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