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Could your Spouse be Bipolar?


A divorcing couple came to see me for mediation. The husband had significant outstanding credit card bills. He also drank quite a bit. The wife wanted a divorce and they had one child.

Whenever we had a meeting, the husband dominated the meeting, talking over his wife and barely letting her get in a word edgewise. He had an intense, aggressive speech pattern that caught my attention. He was unreasonably insistent on getting his way. The wife sat meekly in a corner of the couch, afraid to interrupt his ranting.

During our second meeting as we started discussing finances, property and child custody, it became clear to me that the husband’s ability to focus, listen to reason or communicate with his wife in a rational way was not possible. After observing these behaviors (since in addition to being an attorney I have a medical background) it struck me that this husband’s behavior was indicative of a bipolar disorder.

I told them towards the end of the meeting it was clear to me they were having difficulty negotiating and I thought there may be some other issues that needed to be addressed by a therapist before mediation could be effective. I offered them a few names of doctors who are part of my team of experts and suggested they take this first step toward their divorce journey.

A few weeks later I contacted them, as I usually do to follow-up on how they were doing and 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.

Two weeks later they made another appointment and came to see me. The husband shared with me how much better he was feeling and how things seemed so much clearer. He felt more focused, less stressed, and calmer. His mind was no longer racing. He had also found some answers as to why holding on to a job had been so difficult in his life. Cleary the diagnosis and treatment was making a huge difference for him and the marriage.

The couple was then able to proceed with their divorce. We continued to have productive meetings addressing support, finding creative ways to locate streams of income for the family to survive divorce financially, and making important decisions regarding their 2-year-old daughter. The mediation process successfully continued culminating in a separation agreement they could both live with and they obtained their divorce within 3 months.

Here is what to look for if Bipolar Disorder is the “third party” in your marriage:

  • Quickly moving suddenly from one idea to the next (super mania)
  • Having exaggerated self confidence
  • Rapid, "pressured" (uninterruptable) and loud speech
  • Increased energy, with hyperactivity and a decreased need for sleep
  • Difficultly maintaining a schedule, sometimes resulting in having trouble keeping a job
  • Living beyond one’s dreams

It is sad and fascinating to see how much personality affects settlement of matrimonial cases. Especially when one or both partners have a mood or character disorder.

If you are in a marriage that looks similar to the couple’s story I just shared with you, I can help you.

My combination of legal and medical strategies is unusual and effective when it comes to divorce. The understanding and proper guidance for this complicated aspect is important for a psychologically safe and legally successful outcome. I have the unique ability to provide a compassionate and productive process to see you through your divorce. I understand that the underlying problem is often a psychological diagnosis with which couples need help.

Call me if you have any questions or would like more information about personality disorders and their affect on marriages and family. 212.734.1551.

Warm wishes,