Do You Leave a Bipolar Partner if They Refuse to Get Help?

July 9, 2013 Natasha Tracy

It's sad when a person with bipolar disorder refuses help and that decision can harm all those around him, but do you leave a bipolar spouse that refuses treatment?

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.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2013, July 9). Do You Leave a Bipolar Partner if They Refuse to Get Help?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

August, 22 2015 at 5:03 am

I am in the same boat as all of you. My gf and I had been separated for a week or two. After she finally reached out to me because she had a breakdown, she told me she went to therapy and what the doctor told her. I was on board wth her every step of of the way. I wasn't gonna give up on her. She recently stopped going to therapy and is refusing to take meds or going back. She knows I was willing to stand by her side no matter what. The verbal abide has gotten worse, her temper has gotten uncontrollable. Last night we had a big argument over everything. I really just want to be able to move past Everythjng start fresh. But how I can help her if she refuses to get help? My only fear is that she is gonna get worse, and it worries me.

June, 29 2015 at 8:56 pm

Hi everyone, I've read all of your stories and it brings me heartache. Heartache for us and for our partners that have Bipolar Disorder. I don't know what to do anymore and need advice. I started dating my bf 5 years ago and at first things were pretty good, yet he always acted like he didn't have much responsibilities and had a short fuse. At first I thought he was depressed because I met his family and understood why it may be so; they all had anger issues, isolated him from things, they'd reject decisions he made, etc. So I thought his anger outbursts and depression were due to his family, and so I wanted to take care of him and be there for him cause I always saw a lot of potential in him. However, as soon as we got engaged he acted for months like he didn't care about me, the wedding planning, or anything else except himself. He became very manipulative. He had all the symptoms of BPI disorder and then I just knew he was bipolar. I broke off the engagement because he was verbally and emotionally abusive on a weekly basis, that soon turned into a daily basis. We were on and off several times. Finally, his lack of motivation, anger, manic episodes, constant substance abuse, money problems, and constantly verbally and emotionally abusing me made me break things off for good. It has been a year and a half since we've seen each other. Just this year we met up again and we had sparks all over again. Things were good for a few months, and he said he was doing therapy for a while because he had a breakdown then told me he wasn't on meds because the doc said he didn't need them. I thought he was still receiving help, but he stopped and now we are back to the same situation of him criticizing me every time I say something that he doesn't care for, or constantly corrects me saying I use the wrong words and don't communicate the right way with him. Yet I have no trouble communicating with others in my life (whether friend or stranger). He makes me feel like I'm always wrong no matter how hard I try, and he's back to using a substance to cope that wreak havoc with his symptoms. I've told him he would benefit going back to therapy, but he makes every excuse and says it doesn't work and he doesn't have the money. Today, I tried to express to him in a calm way that I feel like there's a lot of distance between us and he started blaming me for things because he didn't want to hear it. He told me that "maybe we shouldn't be dating then." Yet he begged me for a year to take him back. I understand his moods shift rapidly, but I feel like we can't have a future if he doesn't seek help. I love him, but I feel emotionally and mentally exhausted and confused, and I don't know how to say anything to him anymore without being afraid to open my mouth or have to walk on eggshells. Any advice?

June, 26 2015 at 3:40 pm

RJC, Are you living my life? That is exactly what is happening in my life. I have 3 young adult children. 2 of them still live at home. My oldest son is married with 3 children and lives an hour away. The relationship between him, his wife, and my husband is very the point where they will no longer come to our house to visit. I haven't seen my grandchildren in almost 1 1/2 months. I still talk to my son on the phone, and we have Skyped with the kids, but that's the extent. He says I can come visit anytime. But how do I do that without isolating my husband. Thankfully, I have a job to go to to get away for awhile. The relationship between my other 2 sons and my husband goes back and forth. They've learned to just lay low and stay in their rooms as much as possible. I've contemplated leaving, but I love my husband, and he would have no income and nowhere to go. We are deep in the process of Disability appeals. I wish the court could see what I live with on a day-to-day basis, and award my husband his disability. At least then he wouldn't feel so worthless...or would he???

April, 6 2015 at 3:12 pm

I have been married to someone suffering from Bipolar Disorder and Anxiety, for over 20 years. I didn't realize what we were dealing with until roughly 8 years ago. He went on and off meds, so they never really helped (when he was on a "high", he said he didn't need them and when he was on a "low", he would get very angry about having to take them.) I've tried to encourage him to eat better and exercise (I do both on a regular basis) but he will only try to change for a short time and then he gets discouraged and quits! Of course, I'm always getting the rath of his "failures" and every time he sees me continue to go to the gym, or only eat things that I know I should, he acts like I'm insulting his inability to stay on track. He gets extremely anxious around holidays and special occasions, so these times end up being very stressful for myself (and the length of time that he is like this is increasing from several days, to several weeks. I know this is the problem, because the second the event is over, he starts to calm down, every time! My children are now young adults, and each of them have handled their father in different ways. For the most part, they have dealt with him fairly well, but it is very hard for them to not take his behavior personally-as it still is for myself! They've never had a true father figure, someone they know that will love them unconditionally, and it breaks my heart to see them dealing with this realization as young adults. I've suggested that we attend counseling (we've done this before, but the psychologist wanted him to go to a psychiatrist and get his meds regulated, so he just stopped going to our sessions.) I'm currently researching therapeutic oils, to see if I can find something that will help with his anxiety...not sure if this will help, but I'm to the point now that I feel anything is worth a go...anything that will bring some peace into our lives!

December, 9 2014 at 4:49 am

Seventeen years ago at age 27, I dated a 32 man I met in college. We had so much fun just going out to dinners
and visiting new places. I was fallen in love with him and I noticed he was too. Then I began to notice that he was angry about things he could not change and that anger, revolt was beyond his control. At one point I noticed a little road rage and felt unsafe with him in the car as passager. Days later his mother's best friend told me that he was Maniac
Depressive, that he isolated himself from his friends and family, whom he called "
animals" at that time. And the Bipolar he apparently heredited from his grandmother, who died with mental illness. We talked about it, and he said he would not take meds
Conclusion at age 51 and him 56 we are still single without children. And I have been
thinking about contacting him a give him a second chance. What chance? If he does not takes meds? But my heart is saying maybe he is better this time around, is he?
I am lonely, cause the Bipolar has stolen my love and future husband from me. It stoled a future from us. :( thanks for sharing you all. Blessings!

October, 20 2014 at 6:17 pm

I've lived with a bipolar husband for 20 years now. He's been hospitalized at least 10 times or more. He refuses to take his meds. He self medicates just about every 3-6 months now. I never know who will be my husband tomorrow. For this reason I have decided that there are 2 very important days in which we live, the day you were born and the day you find out why. And I have finally found out why i was born. And i don't think i was born to receive abuse emotionally and physically. I'm tired of feeling sorry for someone that refuses to help himself at 53 years of age. It's time to move on!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

December, 10 2018 at 1:51 pm

Wow, same situation. Also 53, enough is enough. Living the rest of my life stress free. He doesn't know what he's losing, because he won't get help.

Dorothy Lantis
March, 11 2019 at 3:33 pm

Same here only mine happened at 66 after 20 years. He swindled my home, locked me out. I lived homeless 9 months, resurrected myself after losing my company, 70lbs, home of 33 years, friends, dogs, doctor, bank etc. He lost nothing. I'm in therapy and he continues to be unmedicated, he, schizo affective bipolar. He will be homeless within a year, thereby losing MY home and making us both homeless. He will be an old man wondering the streets. Revenge digs two graves. Its been a year and I'm still as stunned as the day he locked me out of my home. Hopefully therapy will put humpty dumpty back together again.

July, 16 2014 at 10:24 am

FM, my story is exactly like yours. My bf will call me names say I've cheated, I'm a whore, I'm out tricking around, etc. it's my house so he leaves all the time. Then after a few days or a week he will text me like nothing's happened & I'm supposed to have forgotten about. & he's just like hey, what you up to? If I mention anything about how it hurt me when he did that then it's well you do this. And we have long disagreements about what was said that day him admitting nothing & never apologizing. Then on opposite times, after these episodes he texts me how sorry he is. & feels horrible for treating me like that & he truly loves me so much & he only wants to be with me. This happens all year round but the huge fights where we break up are always like around October, February & June for some reason every year & get worse & last longer each time. I've been with him for 3 1/2 years & from the beginning have told him the things he does & says aren't normal & to talk to his doctor. He's always refused or to get me back tells me he will. & will say he'll go to counseling with me but when it's time there's always an excuse not to go. This time, just last week he finally after a huge fight again finally went to the doctor and talked to him. The night before he kept saying no one else but you says that I'm like that. I told him that's because I'm the only one willing to tell him the truth. His whole immediate family is like this too so why would they notice? Any way that night he said he took an online test about Bipolar disorder & it scared him how he scored. He made the appointment the next day & is now on Lexapro 10mg. It's not been long enough for him to get it in his system yet to see if it's working. I know it's not fully because he's still having severe mood swings & always always negative thoughts about himself, his life, can't let the past go, etc then it's him telling me he loves me & only wants me & he's so happy. & I tell him right now him & I need to work on ourselves & get better so for now we need to be friends. When I say that he lashes out at me again. Then it's ok ok tell me what you want me to do. & I'll do it. All I want him to do is stay on his meds, write down his feelings & talk to his doctor. His dr isn't very informative. Tested him for thyroid disorder & that came back normal. I firmly believe he has Bipolar disorder II with hypomania. & depression. I have family with it & 1 with Schizophrenia so I do understand the signs. It's so hard to know what to do. Very difficult to deal with. Makes me sad & feel unloved by how he is at times. It's so stressful! I said I was done this time before he went to the dr. I don't know. Part of me feels bad because I know he's not well & maybe we could work if he gets his meds regulated. I feel like this is a crucial time in his recovery & now is not the time to leave right when he just accepted he needs help. I know if I left now he would quit the meds. I do love him. & want him to get better. It's just do hard. Suggestions?

June, 20 2014 at 5:35 am

It's such a tough question. I love my partner to bits - we are not married. But he gets it in his head that I have done this or that, and it gets very distorted in his mind and I have noticed that past situations seem to get amplified in his mind over time. He is open to getting help & I am getting training in mental health to try and understand the issues. But he threw me out of his flat at 6 in the morning today because all of a sudden he got it into his head that I had told him a lie about something, which I never said at all but there was no reasoning with him. This was even though just a couple of minutes before we were laughing together and cuddling up. Since then he has been texting me a lot of abuse, calling me a lot of horrible names like whore and slut. I know it isn't personal but it is very hard, he has pushed me away for the second time in 2 weeks. I don't know how to help him and I don't know if I can trust him either as he has hinted to me during an episode that he is looking for other women, but then he relents and gets very tearful and tells me how much he loves me and how sorry he is that I have to put up with him. I don't see it that way, I am not "putting up" with him the person, I see that it isn't him acting that way but he gets taken over by the illness. I wish I could do more to help him, it is so hard to see the person I love going through this. But I have to protect myself too, I can't stay with him I have decided, until he goes back to the doctor, and I don't mind going with him, and explaining what is going on and what is happening. And try and get him either on some medication, or get him some therapy. I don't know if our relationship will withstand all of this trauma but I do know that I am willing to stand by him if he does get some help. I can't do it all on my own, I am not a professional. My little bit of training helps, but it isn't enough.

July, 13 2013 at 10:30 am

How long can you support someone who won't manage themselves? If they won't make the effort themselves, they are letting everyone pay the price except them. Everyone's time of support will vary: a little, none, a lot then be exhausted. People have to protect themselves too; some have nothing of offer and some don't want to. If people will not seek treatment and will not manage it themselves, then what other people don't do is not nearly as important anyway. It's their responsibility to manage their illness.

July, 10 2013 at 10:53 pm

Since childhood I've always had the view that people shouldn't be excluded. I've always hated the bullying, the shunning of vulnerable people, even if they are difficult to like. I've always fought against it.
Now, I'm one of those people. And before I got help, I was shunned all round. My ex-friends complained how hard it was for them, and so did my employers at that time.
And I thought "Well boo-hoo, you selfish pricks." I'd been there for those people during their hard times, and I'd been an understanding and flexible employee.
And now I'm better, I refuse to associate with any of those people again.
I understand, in theory if people are overwhelmed and they need space. I understand they may be scared. I understand that some people can be incredibly destructive. It's just hard to forgive.
All round I guess, it's hard. All the more reason why we need to reduce the fear of this disorder and the fear of treatment.

Chrisa Hickey
July, 10 2013 at 6:13 am

My adult son left his live-in girlfriend because she refused to stay with her treatment for Bipolar Disorder. It's different - they weren't married, no kids - but it is still a difficult decision. He cares about her, but he couldn't tolerate the toll it was taking on him, their relationship, and her.

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