A BPSO discussion on the subject of separation

The original question:

So now I'm hoping a million of you can tell me you separated for awhile and your bp hubbies or wives got better and now you're living happily ever after.

Any stories like that out there? If so please tell me how it happened.

I paid down the deposit and first month's rent on a place, got divorce papers to fill out, and then agreed to spend the weekend discussing it before I actually moved out on Monday. We talked ALL weekend, barely slept, and it came down to him agreeing to go to the pdoc [psychiatrist or psychopharmacologist], get diagnosed, and start treatment and stick with it. I agreed to wait and see. I kept the apartment for the month, though never moved in.

It was a while before I was sure if I was going to be able to stay, but he wooed me and romanced me, kept his part of the bargain, and won me back. Now he is pretty much stable (except for a recent hypomania that we upped his meds to combat), taking his meds, going to therapy every week. We spend most of our time together, read to each other, go do things together, have fallen in love all over again. We just celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary, and are looking forward to many, many more.

It can happen, it does happen, it did happen for me. Happily Ever After is too far in the future to be sure about, but Happier than we've ever been is pretty good :-)

I left him for a month this past summer. Things had gotten really horrible for us. The funny thing is, though, that the month I was gone was even more horrible. At least for me it was. I felt as if I had lost my best friend and was miserable for the entire month. He seemed to do okay (at least he appeared that way to me) and actually managed to take care of himself... cooking and keeping the house clean. His friends have told me, though, that he was pretty bummed about the whole thing and slept most of the month away. (He also lost his job two days after I left because he had been missing so much work.) We saw and talked to each other several times over the weeks we were apart and finally realized that neither of us wanted a life away from the other. Fortunately, however, this is when he realized that a change needed to be made on his part, and he suggested we see a therapist. This is when he was referred to a pdoc and began taking meds.

During the time we were seeing the therapist and with the help of the wonderful people on this mailing list, I have realized that there are things that I need to do differently. Mainly, that I can't accept the resposibility or blame for everything that goes wrong in our relationship and that I am not the cause of his disease nor can I cure it by letting him continue to behave poorly. I have begun to set boundaries and let him know when his behavior is inappropriate. He knows that I will not leave the next time things get rough, but he also knows that he will not be allowed to stay with me and will have to leave if he is not willing to work towards his stability. It is a long and extremely bumpy road but one I am willing to ride as long as stability is the common goal we work towards.

Things have been better for us, but not perfect. We are still trying to solve some of the same old issues but I am happier that I am with him.

Don't know if this is apropos to your situation as my SO [significant other] is my daughter, *but* she only stabilized on medication when we made it absolutely, crystal clear we could not, and would not, live any longer with the chaos brought into our home by the bipolar disorder. When she was last released from the hospital, she was allowed to return home only with a written behavioral contract. Even after that, however, she began to slip back and defy the rules. When, about 3 weeks later, she began the screaming and raving behavior, we told her, in a calm manner and with a calm demeanor, that we weren't going to be screamed it in our own home, and though we weren't going to throw her into the street, if it continued we'd have to give her a deadline by which to move out. And we had reached our limit and were absolutely prepared to follow through. It was the very last time she screamed and raved at us, and the remainder of the time she lived with us was relatively harmonious, and we have a pretty good parent/child relationship now.

However, as a caution: don't proceed with anything at all like this in an attempt to manipulate the situation and make someone "wake up and smell the coffee." It can't be a bluff, to try and get them to change their ways; you've got to be doing it for yourself, because you've reached a limit and believe it's the best thing for YOU.

Just my $.02.

It has been six months since my undiagnosed husband left our home (fourth time in 10 years). I have to admit that the first 4-5 months were emotional hell for me. I felt abandoned, called him all the time, begged him to come home, etc. The more that he felt that I needed him, the more he called me names, told me that this was all my fault, that I treated him so badly that he had to leave, etc. I have always suspected that he was bipolar, but some part of me (because he said so) began to think that maybe it really was me that was the problem. This time, instead of letting him control our lives, I took control. I filed for court ordered support, visitation, home, car, etc. Because he abandoned us (i.e., left and did not first consult an attorney, or give us an address where he was), the courts were quite generous. Of course, this only made him more irate.

Our 10 year old son has had problems in school for the last 3 years. My SO always blamed me for these problems, said I wasn't a good enough mother, etc. Two weeks ago, my son was diagnosed ADHD and possible mild bipolar. Being that bipolar disorder is hereditary, I found renewed strength in vindication. Last night, for the first time in 3 years, my son sat and did his homework by himself with no rage, name calling, stress, etc. At this time, he does not want to see his father because he sees in him the same behaviors as his father and it scares him. I told my husband on Wednesday, that our son is making miraculous progress and is participating in his treatment and will be the first to tell you how different he feels. My attitude now is that I will save my son, be very truthful with my stepsons (who freely admit some of the same symptoms), so that they can be educated and aware of the existence of this hereditary beast in my two beautiful granddaughters.

I have and will continue to hang up on my husband when he calls to verbally abuse me or call me names. Amazingly, he has phoned me more in the last week than in the entire time he has been gone. He said that he would make an appointment with the doctor our son is seeing for an evaluation, but at this point I will not help him do it or ask him again. We have excellent insurance that he can take advantage of if he so chooses. If he does decide to seek help, and wants his family back, and I see him actively participate and admit that this beast lives inside of him, I absolutely would stand beside him and help my entire family break this vicious cycle. If not, I will rest easy knowing that I advocated for the most important thing in my life, my wonderful son and I will never regret making this decision. Six months later, life is getting easier and more normal than I remember. I can NEVER go back to the way life was.

And you have to be 100% willing to follow it through with actions. And, you have to be willing to face the possibility that it may not do what you would want it to, and you may face losing that person.

> You cannot change someone who does not want to change.

Sad but oh so true. If they're not willing to make the effort to get diagnosed, comply with treatment, and work towards stability, then it won't work. If they are, and you love them greatly, then it can, but it still won't be easy. But who said relationships were supposed to be easy, anyway? This can be a great opportunity for self growth for both partners, if they're both willing to commit themselves to each other and treatment.

Separation is important in a relationship that is disturbed by the swings and emotional storms of undiagnosed, untreated, or inadequately treated bipolar disorder. Each partner needs some space to call his or her own. We SOs need a calm refuge where we can interact on our own with other people or pursue some personal dream, ambition or hobby. Our bipolar SOs need the same space for the same reason, and additionally they need to experience their mood swings and impulses outside the context of their relationship with us.

There is a tendency in relationships affected by bipolar disorder for the illness to express and define itself in terms of problems with the relationship, when the problems actually arise in the illness and in the attempt the relationship makes to control, conceal or repair the damage done by extreme behavior. Bipolar relationships often resemble abusive ones. It is important for us SOs to have independent lives of our own, and to learn to distinguish behaviors that arise out of the illness from those that are part of our SO's character.

My wife and I suffered a difficult time several years ago, a culmination of several years of inadequately treated bipolar disorder. After being released from the hospital, she refused to come home and we began living apart. She had been extremely hostile toward me during the episode, and I was deeply and personally injured by her accusations and manic actions. I filed for divorce. I was angry and I fully intended to end our marriage.

I was astonished at her response to my filing. Although she remained angry at me, she immediately got serious about her illness. She began to see a different doctor (fortunately a better one), got better meds, agreed to see a couples counselor with me, started trying to understand bipolar disorder (instead of steadfastly ignoring it), and she began to study her own moods and impulses. It took a few years to reach stability, but this separation was a turning point in our relationship and enabled it to survive. I had drawn my line in the sand and she considered her options and decided to live within it.

Since then she has had a couple of minor swings, and one that required hospitalization. Sometimes she begins to get uncomfortable in my presence. In the past I would argue with her and try to persuade her that her fears or hostility were groundless. This only made things worse as she would see this as an attempt to control her. Now I try to help her find a place to stay and I help her pack and move.

Separation helps me keep my perspective and avoid getting drawn into over-emotional situations. Separation is as important to her as it is to me. If she can find a safe haven early enough in an episode, the episode seems to be less serious. We are able to communicate more positively and more effectively, and I can sometimes be more helpful to her as an advisor and advocate for her care.

Needless to say, your mileage may vary...

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