Q: How do you support your partner when, in the midst of a hypomanic episode, they tell you that they want to end the relationship and move out on their own? How can you tell if that’s what they’re truly feeling, or if it’s a result of their episode?
Beka: From a bipolar perspective, he probably feels lost and confused. For me, I’d appreciate someone being supportive as much as they feel comfortable, but don’t forget to take your own feelings into account. If you can’t handle it, then I would recommend letting him know and he can decide to move on or move back in. You cannot control him, nor should you try to. You may feel he is making a mistake, but it is ultimately his decision. I recommend listening to your heart and making a decision that is best for YOU.
Ron: I wish I could give you an answer that would solve your problem or let you know that everything will work out. I have been in your position and I understand the frustration you must be feeling. My wife has had a few manic episodes where she has wanted to leave. She was convinced that happiness was somewhere out there for her, just not here with me. It hurts to hear something like that from someone you love.
Part of it I think is the mania talking. She is convinced she is right, convinced she knows something the rest of us don’t, convinced that the high that she is feeling will last. She doesn’t want to hear about the pain she is causing, she doesn’t want to think about consequences, and she doesn’t want to hear about being manic.
But I think there is another part to it as well. I think she tries to distance herself from me when she is manic because she is trying to shield me and herself from the pain. If she leaves before things go badly, it will prevent me from being hurt by it. If she leaves before things go badly it will hurt less than if I left her as a result of an episode.
The first time it happened, I was angry and hurt, and I said horrible things to her. As you might expect, it didn’t make anything better (and probably extended the mania). The next time I told her to do what she needed to do and when it was over we would figure out where we stood. I don’t think she believed me at first. She continued to lie to me and do things she shouldn’t. It was hard to watch her like that, and every day I struggled with what was happening to the life we had built together, but I refused to lose hope. When it was over, we picked up the pieces and worked to build our relationship up again. That has been the approach I’ve used every time since.
You need to figure out what the best decision for you is right now. There is no guarantee that he is coming back, or that things will go back to the way they were in your relationship. If you love him, then let him know how you feel. If you are willing to wait it out, let him know that too. In my experience, ultimatums don’t make things better, and neither does endlessly waiting for something that may or may not happen – so be aware of your feelings. Try to take care of yourself. In the end, you need to do what is best for you.
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Want to hear more from the Owens? Check out Part 1 of this series, as well as their Love, Marriage, and Bipolar Disorder webinar. You can also read more blog posts from both Beka and Ron.