Supporting a Bipolar Spouse


I got this email the other day that I wanted to share with you, even though it’s on a sensitive

“Dear Dave:

I love my husband very much, even though he has bipolar disorder. But we have a big problem.
He just isn’t interested in sex any more. I don’t know why. Sometimes I worry that it’s me. But
someone told me it’s probably the bipolar disorder, like maybe it’s because of his medication. Have you run into this problem before? What do you think about it?”


There are many issues that arise in supporting a bipolar spouse that are different than if you
were just supporting a family member; issues such as physical intimacy, like this woman
writes about in this email.

Your spouse may have lost their sex drive due to the medication they are on. They could have lost it due to their bipolar depression. Or they could even have lost it due to self-esteem issues because of weight gain from their medication. These are just some of the reasons why your
loved one could have lost their sex drive.

There may also be reasons why you may have lost sexual desire for your spouse, such as:

• They don’t take care of themselves (i.e., grooming) like they used to.

• They have gained a lot of weight from their medication.

• Their bipolar disorder itself is a turn-off.

• They can’t reach orgasm during sexual intercourse.

• You have trouble seeing them as a mate; they seem more like your child more often than not.

• You have problems because they cheated on you during a manic episode.

• Your sexual advances are always met with rejection, so you’ve given up trying.
These are some of the reasons why you and your spouse may be having intimacy problems.

One of the biggest points I just made is the one about having trouble seeing your spouse as your mate because they seem more like your child more often than not. This could be because you’ve fallen into a caretaking role instead of a supporter role.

Maybe when you married them they didn’t have bipolar disorder, or at least they weren’t diagnosed yet.

You entered into this relationship as most couples do – as partners. However, your roles changed as your spouse became ill, and you became more of a caretaker.

If you find that you’ve become the caretaker, ask yourself the following questions:

• Do you really need to be doing all that you do for your partner? Are there things
that you do that they could do for themselves but you don’t give them a chance
to do?

• Is this a role you tend to assume in relationships? If so, what about the role is
fulfilling for you? Are there other ways that you can meet these needs, ones that might
be better for you and for your relationships?

• What does your partner do that elicits your caregiving behavior? How can you respond
to these signals other than by “taking over?”

• If your partner does require some degree of care, are other resources (individuals,
organizations, facilities, etc.) available, or that could be made available, that could help
out and lighten your load?

• How can you help your partner be more independent? What skills can they develop
that will enable them to do more on their own? How can you support the development of these skills?

• What do you do to take care of your needs?

If your spouse is very ill at times, understandably you will have to take on the role of caretaker
during those periods. Just be sure that you don’t extend this level of assistance beyond what is necessary – in other words, know when to go back to your supporter role.

Well, I have to go!

Your Friend,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *