Dealing with a spouse who has bipolar disorder can be challenging, as the
condition can significantly impact the dynamics of a relationship.
It's important to approach the situation with empathy, understanding,
and a focus on seeking appropriate professional help.
As a mental health professional, divorce attorney, and mediator, I can
offer you some targeted guidance, psychologically and legally, to prepare
you to safely walk this divorce path.
This is how I handled the couple below.
A handsome couple met with me virtually last year. The husband was angry
all the time, drinking a lot and impossible to live with. He constantly
yelled at the children. The family walked on eggshells everyday wondering
what he would do. The wife, a political campaign manager, had decided
she wanted a divorce, wanted to try mediation, told him, and then called me.
He was a violinist and music teacher. They had adorable triplets, 5 years
old, and they had been married 9 years.
Whenever we had a meeting, the husband controlled the meeting. He talked
over his wife and even talked over me. He would start raging and interrupt
the flow of our discussions.
His erratic behavior dominated our session. As a psychologically trained
divorce attorney and mediator, I recognized this behavior and decided
to pay close attention in order to diagnose what might be going on with
The husband was unreasonably insistent on getting his way. The wife was
tired, somewhat passive, and he really overpowered her. I was surprised
and happy she had found the strength to take a stand and try my divorce
After observing all these behaviors (since in addition to being an attorney
I am a physician assistant with medical training) it struck me that this
husband’s behavior was indicative of a bipolar disorder.
I told them I thought there might be some other issues that needed to be
addressed by a therapist before mediation could successfully continue.
I offered them the names of a few psychologists/psychiatrists who are part
of my team of experts and suggested they take this route as a first step
toward their divorce journey.
Two weeks later I contacted them, as I usually do to follow up on how they
were doing. They told me they had been working with one of the doctors
I recommended and that the husband had been diagnosed with bipolar II
disorder and the doctor had prescribed medication.
A few weeks later the couple made another appointment with me. The husband
seemed a lot calmer and focused. He shared with me how much better he
was feeling and how things seemed so much clearer.
Clearly the diagnosis and treatment were making a huge difference for him
and the marriage. Although the husband was feeling better, they agreed
too much damage had been done and they were going to move forward with
We continued the divorce process and had productive meetings addressing
the children, visitation, support, and making really important decisions
regarding their triplets and custody.
The mediation process successfully continued and culminated in a fair separation
The husband has continued treatment and is living a much healthier life!
If this sounds like what might be happening in your marriage, I can help you!
But first, it is important to understand bipolarity.
TRAITS OF A BIPOLAR SPOUSE
Bipolar disorder is characterized by episodes of extreme mood swings, including
manic episodes (elevated mood, increased energy) and depressive episodes
(low mood, lack of interest). These mood swings can be unpredictable and
disruptive to the relationship.
Impulsivity and Risky Behavior
During manic episodes, individuals with bipolar disorder may engage in
impulsive behavior, such as excessive spending, substance abuse, or reckless
activities. These actions can strain the relationship and create financial
and emotional challenges.
Bipolar disorder can affect communication patterns, making it challenging
for the spouse to express their needs or emotions clearly. During depressive
episodes, they may withdraw and have difficulty engaging in conversations.
During manic episodes, they might talk excessively or rapidly.
The unpredictable nature of bipolar disorder can lead to relationship instability.
The shifting moods and behaviors may strain the spouse's ability to
maintain a stable emotional connection.
Medication and Treatment Challenges
Consistent treatment, including medication and therapy, is crucial for
managing bipolar disorder. However, some individuals may resist treatment,
leading to difficulties in stabilizing their mood and behavior.
Approaching a bipolar spouse about divorce is an important and a delicate
decision and requires special navigation.
With more than 35 years of experience guiding clients married to spouses
with mental health issues, I have developed a road map to guide this process.
NAVIGATING THE DIVORCE
Seek Professional Guidance
Consult with a therapist or counselor experienced in dealing with mental
health issues and relationship dynamics. They can help you explore your
options, provide support, and assist in developing coping strategies.
Explore Couples Therapy
If both you and your spouse are willing, consider seeking couples therapy.
A skilled therapist can help you navigate the challenges and provide strategies
for effective communication and conflict resolution.
Consult an Attorney/Mediator
Divorcing a spouse with bipolar disorder may require additional considerations.
Consult with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through
the legal aspects and ensure that your rights and interests are protected.
Unlike other divorce attorneys, I have a medical degree and specialty
in psychiatry. This combination really makes a difference when working
with spouses dealing with mental illness.
Develop a Support Network
Surround yourself with a support network of trusted friends, family, or
support groups. Sharing your experiences and seeking advice from others
who have been through the same can really help.
It is truly sad when mental illness infiltrates a family. It destroys families
and can affect the dissolution of a marriage. Helping the family I mentioned
above identify there was a mental health issue and providing the access
to medical professionals to address this issue allowed them to move forward
towards a healthy, happier life.
I can do the same for you too!
If you are in a marriage that looks similar to the story I just shared
I can help you and your family.
My combination of legal and psychological strategies is unique and effective
when it comes to divorce. The understanding and proper guidance for this
complicated mental health issue is important for a successful outcome.
For more than 35 years as a divorce attorney and mediator, I have been
happily guiding spouses to find the right path to divorce.
I have the unique ability to provide a compassionate and productive process
to see you through your divorce.
I look forward to helping you and your family.
If mental illness is a third party in your marriage and you are considering
divorce, call New York Divorce Attorney Lois Brenner now to schedule your
We still have a few openings available this week! Call right now!
Remember, each situation is unique, and it's important to tailor your
approach to your specific circumstances. Seeking professional advice and
support is crucial to ensure that you navigate the divorce process safely