When People Ask ‘Why Do You Stay?’ About My Husband Who Has Bipolar Disorder


“I don’t mean to hurt you.”

I immediately began to feel immune to the sting of those words as soon as they fell from his lips. I knew these were the words my husband would eventually say to me after he came down from a manic state.

“I can’t control this.”

I’ve heard this so many times before. I’ve held out hope that he’d stick to his medication so many times in the past. I, admittedly, was tired. Although, I knew much of this was beyond his control because of my profession in working with students who have suffered significant trauma, I often lashed out at him for his reckless and impulsive behavior.

No matter how many times the counselor explained without medication and therapy, this would be my life, I still enabled it. I allowed him to have the option of not following through with his mental health treatment plan. It often wasn’t “worth the fight.” I had become a part of the problem.

Our families do not understand why I have stayed in a relationship with someone who has bipolar disorder, severe anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In fact, they often wonder if it’s some kind of “con,” “act” or “excuse” to engage in irresponsible behavior. More often than not, I can not explain it myself. I’ve come to realize love is not enough, but there are four major reasons I have not left my husband.

1. I love him.

It may sound cliche, but it’s the truth. During moments of normalcy, our life is great. We love each other deeply and it hurts to think of our marriage ending because of the residual effects of his bipolar disorder.

2. There’s our children.

He’s a great dad when he’s following his treatment plan. He loves my children with such intensity and commitment.

3. He’s ill.

If he had cancer, would I think of leaving? Absolutely not. Is this any different?

4. He’s my best friend.

We have been friends for nearly 20 years. We’ve watched each other grow up.

I don’t know whether or not we’ll make it. I certainly hope we do. My hope is he will recommit himself to treatment so he can be a more fully engaged spouse, friend and father.
I do hope that day comes soon.
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