Bipolar: Fighting at Night


Somebody made this post on my blog, and I wanted to respond to it to see what you think:

“It is so hard to be positive when my husband begins to show signs of depression. He does not
recognize it is happening and when I point it out he gets upset. Then he will begin to say bad things about my son, his stepson. I try and not answer him, I try and say we need to stop this conversation. He usually does this just at bedtime so it is not a time I can get in a car and leave. I am also exhausted and he pushes me over the edge. It is just so exhausting. He will say things that reflect what he is not accomplishing and place the fault on my children. Then he will sulk
for awhile and then apologize.. same old pattern. So very exhausting.”


There are several things going on in this woman’s life all at once, so I’ll take it one issue at a time.

First, she says: “It is so hard to be positive when my husband begins to show signs of depression.” I’ve heard that before. In fact, I’ve experienced it myself when I was trying to deal with my mom and her bipolar disorder. But what I had to do was keep my own self and my mood separate from hers. No matter what was going on with her, I had to not let it touch what was happening with me.

Now, I’m not saying that’s easy. It’s not. But in general I’m a positive person. And I had to try to stay positive and not let what was happening with my mom bring me down. So that’s what you have to do. Even though it’s hard, you need to try to stay positive even when your loved one gets depressed. Don’t let their bad mood influence your good one. Keep a good attitude even if theirs is bad. It will help if you maintain a positive outlook on things, no matter what your loved one’s outlook is, especially if they have a negative one.

Then this woman goes on to say that it’s hard because “He does not recognize it is happening
and when I point it out he gets upset.” That’s common with a loved one with bipolar disorder.
One of the things you need to do in your role as a bipolar supporter is to point out bipolar behavior in your loved one, such as depression. You need to do this so they can avoid a full-blown bipolar episode. In this way you can work as a team to help manage their bipolar disorder, and that’s an important aspect.

But that doesn’t mean that they’re always going to like it when you point these things out.
Sometimes they may even be in denial. Sometimes they may even want to blame someone
else for their behavior, as this man does. This is common.

She says: “I try and not answer him, I try and say we need to stop this conversation.” These are both good approaches when your loved one is exhibiting inappropriate behavior. But look at WHEN he does it: At bedtime. When she is exhausted. This can almost be seen as manipulative.
Which is one of the biggest problems that supporters have with loved ones who have bipolar disorder. He picks a time when she almost can’t “fight back.” A time when she can’t get in the car and leave. A time when she has to listen to what he has to say. This is NOT working as a team.

So what can she do? I think she needs to call him on this behavior, and tell him that from now on she will not discuss issues with him at bedtime, and that she will NOT listen to him if he chooses to talk to her then, but she will listen to him at another time. Then she needs to stick to this limit.

Well, I have to go!

Your Friend,



  1. Oh, I see so much of my relationship with my husband in this letter! My husband has bipolar and borderline personality disorder. Walking that line between telling him when I see he is “off” and just letting things go is tough. I do feel I need to let him know I see changes to avoid a full-blown episode, but the discussion can turn nasty pretty quickly. Although easier said than done, I agree that there needs to be an agreement not to talk after a certain time of night. I know that loved ones will try to push this because they are sometimes looking for that fight. Hopefully someone can share some good ideas for how to hold that boundary.

  2. I really have appreciated all I have learned from these weekly emails. But I couldn’t take any more of the abuse. After 17 years of marriage, I have decided to stop the fight. The only way it stops is if I move the target. I left my husband in March. It is a struggle with 3 young kids, but every day no matter how hard is easier not living with the incredibly moody and difficult man I married and never wanted to leave. All the tips are wonderful and absolutely necessary if you are going to stay. If you have the strength to apply them and keep yourself from losing yourself on the crazy roller coaster ride that is being married to a bi polar borderline person — God bless you. I couldn’t do it any more.

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