It is an unfortunate reality that some people with bipolar disorder refuse help. And it is an unfortunate reality that this deleteriously affects those in their lives. And it is unfortunate that some people are tied to those that refuse help, such as in the case of a marriage or partnership. So the question is, if you are married to a person with bipolar who refuses to get help for their illness, should you leave them?
Concerns Before Leaving a Bipolar Partner Who Refuses Treatment
It’s a really difficult and personal decision as to whether to leave a spouse and I certainly couldn’t definitely say to someone that it was or wasn’t the right choice for him or her. But I do think there are things to take into consideration like,
- Are there children involved? What effect does the bipolar partner have on these children?
- What is the effect the bipolar partner is having on the other partner?
- What effect is the bipolar partner having on the family’s welfare (such as financial stability)?
What Kind of Negative Effects is the Bipolar Partner Having on the Children?
My personal opinion is that if there are children involved and the bipolar partner is harming those children in any way, it’s the responsibility of the other parent to remove those children from the situation. I don’t believe that children should be harmed by a parent for any reason – mental illness or not. However, my black-and-white thinking on the subject may not be shared by others. People may find a certain level of emotional harm, for example, to be acceptable. I don’t. No one has the right to harm a child even if it is driven by illness. Period.
What Kind of Negative Effects is the Bipolar Partner Having on the other Adult?
When it comes to harming another adult, the line is more blurry. Adults can take more harm than children can and have the right to choose to do so. So if the partner can stand the effects of the bipolar spouse/partner, then it’s certainly his or her right to stay in the home and the relationship. There still is a line, though, when the damage is too much and once that line is crossed, action needs to be taken. No one deserves to live in hell and make no mistake about it, living with a person with bipolar who refuses treatment can, indeed, be hell. And no one deserves to be abused, and it’s certainly the case that a person with uncontrolled bipolar can be abusive.
What Kind of Negative Effects is the Bipolar Partner Having on the Family’s Welfare?
Again, when it comes to adults dealing with other adults, a certain level of harm may be deemed acceptable. If the bipolar spouse, for example, is responsible for supporting the family financially and they can no longer do so because of their illness, this may be okay for a while. If the person with bipolar destroys the family’s relationships with outside individuals that, too, may be acceptable for a while. But at some point, these too may cross a line.
Can You Withstand the Harm Your Bipolar Partner May Inflict?
Other than in the case of children, when it comes to an adult harming another adult, the question really is, can you withstand the harm? Can you withstand being yelled at or frozen out every day? Can you withstand walking on eggshells and never knowing what will happen next? Can you withstand affairs and gambling habits? Can you withstand whatever your untreated bipolar partner puts you through?
And that is a personal question. When you marry you agree to stand by a person, no matter what and that means different things to different people. In my opinion (as an unmarried person) everyone has the right to happiness and a marriage should facilitate that, not stand in the way of it. I don’t believe you should withstand daily harm from the person you love. I understand standing by someone, but I also understand personal freedom, choice, autonomy, and happiness. And sometimes achieving those things means leaving someone who refuses to help him or herself.
This is an extremely unpleasant reality, but remember, a great of this choice lies with the person who has bipolar disorder. They have chosen not to get help which has created a reality such that the other party may have no choice but to leave. So try not to beat yourself up if you have to make that choice. It takes two to make a relationship work and you can’t help it if one of you gives up by refusing help.